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shewhomust

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Elective affinities [May. 7th, 2012|10:24 pm]
shewhomust
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Among the goodies I scored in desperance's grand clearing out sale was a sourdough starter: a jar of sinister, nondescript beige, not exactly liquid, not exactly solid, and a sheet of instructions for the care of same.

It didn't do much. It lurked in its jar, and we peered at it, and it peered back. "What does it want?", asked durham_rambler, who has seen Third Rock from the Sun. I fed it, following the instructions to the best of my ability (with hindsight, I think I know where I ernt wrong, but I won't interrupt the flow of the narrative to go into that now). Nothing happened. it didn't bubble away merrily, it didn't do anything much, and eventually I abandoned it and went off to California.

Where I confessed to desperance that I am a bad mother, and that my shoggoth had failed to thrive. He was surprisingly encouraging: restart it, he said, and it will revive. You'll be surprised, he said - with such conviction that I believed him utterly. I came home, I mixed up a new batch of flour and water, I prepared to seed it with a spoonful of the original starter. And it was only at this point that I realised my starter was not only inactive, it had grown green fur.

I didn't want to stop now; and besides, I had this bowl of flour and water. So I cheated. I took down the Tassajara Bread Book (which was in my mind, since I'd been reading about Tassajara in a foodie magazine I'd picked up in Santa Cruz; the monastery isn't far from there, relatively speaking) and followed its instructions for making a sourdough starter: mix yeast, honey, flour and water and leave for five days, stirring from time to time. This started fizzing almost at once, and kept it up for three or four days, becoming pleasingly elastic to stir.

By the fifth day it had pretty much stopped, and I was afraid I had waited too long. But I referred to my instruction sheet, and followed the recipe for Chaz'z Sourdough Bread - followed it, I admit, at a respectful distance, because it demands that you return to your loaf at half hour intervals for most of a day, and I kept forgetting. Despite which, my lump of dough gradually came to life, and began to swell in a most promising manner. I removed enough dough to make some bread rolls to accompany dinner, put the rest into a little loaf tin with 'LOAF' embossed on the side which I had removed from desperance's house while we were there to retrieve his baking trays, let it rise again and put it in the oven with the roast.

So there is no material connection between my sourdough loaf and the sourdough starter that Chaz gave me: but it was prepared with his encouragement, and a cross between his instructions and those of a book written in the region where he is now living, and baked in his loaf tin. It isn't, of course, as good as Chaz'z Sourdough Bread - it isn't as distinctly sour as I'd like - but the texture is as good as any bread I've ever baked, which is more than satisfactory for a first attempt.

And there's a jar of starter just going off the boil, beginning to clamour for attention.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2012-05-07 09:38 pm (UTC)
According to the guys at "Tartine" in San Francisco, for real sourdough you don't use "proper" bread yeast. Just mix up flour and water into a paste and leave it exposed to the air of your kitchen for about three days, then subculture it by transferring about 20% of the volume into fresh flour and water, and repeat a couple of times. You will get that authentic wild yeast flavour!
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[User Picture]From: fauxklore
2012-05-08 09:41 am (UTC)
You need to have the right sort of yeast in the air to make sourdough starter that way. There is a reason sourdough bread is a West Coast phenomenon.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2012-05-08 09:48 am (UTC)
I've made it work reasonably well in south Oxfordshire!
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2012-05-08 09:58 am (UTC)
Given that left to their own devices, the ambient yeasts in my kitchen managed to generate green fur on the original starter...
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2012-05-08 09:56 am (UTC)
Ah, that makes sense - but I would not have the nerve to try it (as fauxlore says...)
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[User Picture]From: gillpolack
2012-05-07 11:24 pm (UTC)
You...you...*killed* Chaz' shoggoth!!!!

I admit, I especially loved the green fur. I just found white fur on something I had made and forgotten about. We should marry your soursough starter with my Sephardi dessert and create something passing strange.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2012-05-08 10:00 am (UTC)
You...you...*killed* Chaz' shoggoth!!!!

Hush, I am in denial about that bit. I prefer to think of it as reincarnation.

We should marry your soursough starter with my Sephardi dessert and create something passing strange.

That's the spirit that got Doctor Frankenstein into so much trouble.
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[User Picture]From: learnteach
2012-05-11 09:24 pm (UTC)

We will give you more.

But your bread has harmonic, spiritual connection to Chaz' sourdough...what could be better?
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2012-05-12 04:55 pm (UTC)

Re: We will give you more.

What could be better would be getting that authentic sour flavour. But yes, that's the affinity I had in mind, and I'll settle for it until a better one comes along.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2012-06-01 09:34 pm (UTC)

Re: We will give you more.

I still maintain, for the proper sour flavour, leave out the yeast and let what's in the air fall into the starter while you mix it. Then while it is fermenting, cover it with a cloth and maybe the green and white fur will not land.

Trust me, I'm a microbiologist.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2012-06-02 09:09 am (UTC)

Trust me, I'm a microbiologist.

If I have to start again, I'll consider it. For the time being, my starter is self-starting, and I'll stay with it.
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