Sunday, February 27, 2011

WAIT! Don't throw out that sourdough yet! There's hope!

I have a confession to make. I am horribly lax in maintaining and using my sourdough starter! I bought my starter from King Arthur Flour more than a decade ago, and their instructions encourage weekly feeding, though I usually opt for monthly, and that's when I'm on the ball with it! There are times when I've gone a couple of months, forgetting about it in a crock in the back of the fridge, and though the resulting product looked worrisome, I have yet to ruin the starter completely. As insurance, I do have a few bags of dried starter in the freezer, just in case, but so far, I haven't had to resort to using them.

If you have neglected your starter as I often do, you may find it very flat-looking and covered with a thick layer of yellowish or grayish liquid referred to as "the hooch." I pour this off and then rinse off the thick starter below with clean water, then feed it a couple of times until it gets going again. No biggie. But recently when I pulled the crock out of the fridge, there was pinkish, yucky-smelling liquid on top and some mold around the edges. Now, conventional wisdom would tell you to discard, but I don't give up that easily! I am not guaranteeing that all starters in this advanced state of decay can be rescued, but it's certainly worth a try.

I have found this method to be successful. First, I pour off the hooch and rinse the starter below. Then I take a spoon and remove any mold left around the edges. Then I take another clean spoon and scrape off the top layer of starter. Next, I take a third clean spoon and carefully remove about two tablespoons of clean starter from the very middle of the crock, trying not to touch the very bottom layer. Setting the reserved starter aside, I wash the crock very well with hot, soapy water. Then I put the rescued bit of starter back in the crock and stir that together with a cup of flour and enough water to make a thick, pancake-like batter. Sometimes I add a pinch of sugar to give the yeast a quick wake-up meal, too. I leave this mixture to work overnight. The next day, I remove about a half cup of the starter, add another cup of flour and water to make a thick batter and let it work again. You want to keep feeding it in this manner for another day or two until it starts to get really active and doubles between four and eight hours, I'd say. Then you can stash it in the fridge again and ignore it for another month! Tee hee.

In the process of trying to revive your mostly-dead starter, you are going to pitching out a lot of viable starter. Again, as I despise waste, I wanted to do something with some of it. I had an idea inspired by this chocolate walnut loaf that one of my students gave me for Christmas that was very good. I asked for the recipe and was surprised to find that it was cake-mix based. But I am no snob about such things. The problem was, it also called for a box of chocolate pudding, which I did not have on hand. What I did have was that crock of sourdough starter bubbling away on the counter. So I thought I might try throwing some of that in, along with making a few other tweaks. The loaves turned out YUMMY! I will share the original recipe first then my sourdough version. Both are delish.

Heather Kelley's Double Chocolate Walnut Bread

1 (8oz.) box chocolate cake mix
1 package chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix cake mix and pudding mix together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Double Chocolate Sourdough Walnut Loaves

1 box dark chocolate cake mix
1 cup active sourdough starter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups roughly-chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, mix everything except the chocolate chips and walnuts (about 50 strokes, just until it all comes together). Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Spoon evenly into two loaf pans sprayed with flour-added baking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until a tester comes out with just moist crumbs clinging to it.

1 comment:

KAF Customer Service said...

Wow, those chocolate breads look amazing!

We did want to pop in with a comment to be very cautious about foods with molds and off colors. Pink and orange tints in sourdough starter are signs of potentially harmful bacteria and we want our fellow bakers to stay happy and healthy!

~ MaryJane @ King Arthur Flour