Saturday, July 18, 2009

'Starting' from scratch.

"If you truly want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." - Carl Sagan
And if want to create a starter from scratch, all you need is some warm water, flour and wild yeast. We get ours off of cabbage leaves. (Thank You, Jim Lahey!)

Take a large leaf and wash it off in 1 cups of warm water (really get in there with clean hands and rub the white film off the leaf) mix in 8 oz (a scant 2 cups) of flour, beat well and let sit covered on your counter, 12 hours.

 Feed again equal weights of flour and water and let sit again 12 hours. You should have a bubbly happy little mess on your hands. if not try feeding it and letting it sit one more night. There are a couple of key points to remember: All utensils, anything that touches your starter must be clean! Starter loves routine, so once your used to using it the same way on a regular basis is when it will be happiest. To keep if you use everyday, it can sit on the counter in a container. Feed and use the starter and clean out container when the sides get yucky. To use weekly from the refrigerator, pull from fridge and let come to room temp. Feed and let activate (8-10 hours) and use, keep a little out (about a cup) and give it a small amount of water and flour, return it to the fridge to chill for the week.

Now THAT is a happy starter!

Time to make bread:

To make a flavorful, slightly dense baguette:
Mix equal weights of water and starter and double that for the weight of flour. salt should be used sparingly but is necessary for a fully flavored loaf... try using 1% of the total dough weight. (i.e. 1#water + 1# starter + 2# flour = 4#  4x16= 64 ounces divided by .01= .64 or a little more than a half an ounce...about 2 teaspoons)
In a large mixing bowl, pour water and starter and stir to blend. add flour a little at a time until a ball of dough begins to form. Saving out about a cup of the flour. Cover the bowl and let this dough sit for 20 minutes. This is called an autolyse. The resting of the dough without the salt added to it allows for maximum absorption of the water into the flour and will make the gluten easier to form. When ready, sprinkle on the salt and about 1/2 of the remaining flour. Pull the dough into the center from the edges all the way around to incorporate the salt.  Dump out onto a well floured surface and knead together into ball. Set a timer and knead for 10 minutes. I know it can seem like a long time, but it is very meditative. put on some good music or that podcast of 'This American Life ' you've been wanting to listen to, time will be up before you know it AND you will have performed your arm workout for the day...bonus!  The dough will become quite silky and smooth, like a baby's bottom. Cover it and let it rest to rise. 1-2 hours, depending on your room temp, starter vigor, etc. If your doing this ahead, this would be the time to put into the  fridge, tightly covered. It can sit in there 12 hours or so. When ready to work, just pull it out, ring to room temp. and portion into loaves. knead into a football shape and let sit, covered for 20 minutes. Starting at the center of each loaf, roll with both hands (a little like when you used to make snakes out of clay) outward until your loaf is the length of your pan. Lay on parchment lined sheet pan to rise. Cover with a cloth if it is cool or drafty. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. if you have a baking stone line them up on the middle rack. Place a shallow pan half filled with water on the bottom of the oven (if your oven is electric, put the pan on top.) This is meant to create steam. Once the loaves have doubled in size (a finger poked in the side should leave a mark that does not bounce back) slash the tops with a razor or very sharp serrated knife place in the oven...on the pan if you don't have a stone. If you do have a stone, slide the loaves off the pan, parchment and all and right on to the stone. You may want to cut the paper so that each loaf is on it's own sheet for this to make for easier transport. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until quite golden. Interior temperature should be 200 degrees.


Ben said...

I saw this on Ruhlman's site and followed the breadcrumb trail past your main blog and here to your recipe blog. I figure this is the best place to post a question about your recipe. When you say "wash it off in 2 cups of warm water" you mean to rinse it off and remove it?

On a comical note, has it ever turned your starter blue? Whenever I use red cabbage in slaw, and place it in a sink full of water to rinse it, it turns the water blue.

I've selected your blog to follow...can't wait to see (and try!) recipes using your starter.

Carri said...

Hi Ben! Thanks for the follow! You sre washing off the white bloom on the can leave them in or not, either works fine! No blue starter (don't chop the cabbage or it will be!), but I have used red cabbage to dye easter eggs!

learp17 said...

I got here via Ruhlman as well and I can't wait to try this. My husband is a San Francisco native and he's been wanting me to make my own starter forever. It's been about a year since I made bread and I'm eager to get back into it. I'm looking forward to seeing more posts about your bread successes - I can always use some inspiration!


chefchipdes said...

So sorry to be stupidly pedantic here but could you clarify your clarification once more, please? My guess is you meant, "wash it off." And then, "In 2 cups warm water (1# by weight), mix in 1# of flour." ? Right?

Marsha said...

Here's my interpretation of the instructions. Using 2 C. warm water, rinse off the cabbage leaf, remove the cabbage leaf and use the 2 C. water, not the leaf, to make the starter.

Carri said...

learp17, you go girl...the best part of this proces is once you get it...if something goes wrong with your starter, you just make some more! Thanks for clarifying, Marsha, it seems to have raised confusion with others as well!

chefchipdes said...

Pfffft....Duh! Makes total sense. Thanks.

Helen said...

I made this sourdough starter, it turned out great. I am making bread tonight, do i need to feed it again after using some to make the bread? If so how long do I let it set out this time before putting into the refrigerator?

Carri said...

Helen, feed it a little once you've used it, but immediately refridgerate in a container with a few air holes to let gasses escape but not enough to let yucky stuff in...let come to room temp and feed it again to get ready to use again, it sometimes takes two feedings to get it all happy again!

Helen said...

Thank you so much,
I took the starter out and fed it, then left it out for 9 hours before I read your reply. I am now ready to make bread. My starter looks ok, not quite as happy as earlier but some bubbles, no discolor that I can tell. Should I make bread or put back in the refrigerator? I did put the main batch of starter back in the refrigerato, Just now.
I know you can't be on this forum all the time but sure do hope this may be one of your times to be.
Thanks again,

Helen said...

I baked my bread, the rise was fair, however, the bread didn't seem to be done so I baked it another 20 minutes. It is still much too, don't know what word to use for this so I will say waxy or gummy.

All my thanks for any help you can give.


Carri said...

Hi Helen! sorry, I was out of touch when you really needed me! I think perhaps the starter had gone a little too long before bread can be finicky that way. Be sure to let rise well after forming and use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness...195-200 is what I go for...are you up for trying again?!

Helen said...

Thank you so much Carri, and yes I will try again as I really want to use a natural yeast like a starter instead of GMO store bought.
I buy organic for better health and want to make a really healthy whole grain bread.
Carri, I really want to thank you for your time and wonderful knowledge, you are doing a beautiful community service.


BlueFrogJ said...

okay, I just want to make sure I understand it before I try it. (And I followed over from Ruhlman's. Thanks so much for sharing your tips).

I'm new to bread baking and so want to try things with a sourdough starter.

I understand how to get it started. But the "leaving out over night part." Is that left out overnight on a countertop or in a fridge? I'm still not sure after reading over at ruhlman's and here. I don't want to mess the starter up before it's even begun.


Carri said...

Leave it out on the counter, BlueFrogJ, room temp.
Good Luck! Let us know how it goes!

BlueFrogJ said...

Hi Carrie!

Thanks for your response. I started this mixture at 10 a.m. Sunday. Feed it at 10 p.m. Sunday. Went to work today, didn't get a chance to feed at 10:00 a.m. again. 2 questions.

1. Just came home 5:30 p.m., it's definitely bubbling away. Nicely started. Do I still need to feed it again? Or can it go into the fridge at this point?

2. I've never done this it natural for it to have a slight smell? I mean sourdough right? It might smell slightly sour? or should I wait before I attempt a loaf to bread to see if the smell worsens. Thank you for being patient with a newbie.

Carri said...

It wants to be fed again now before you use it, since it didn't get it's feeding this morning. The smell might be just that it 'over-ate' and needs to be fed. you can feed it and leave it out to make bread tomorrow or feed and put in fridge to store (only feed 1/2 as much, so you don't end up with too much starter to keep happy)

Carol Peterman/TableFare said...

I read about the red cabbage starter method on Michael Ruhlmans blog and just pulled my first loaf of bread out of the oven! The starter took the first day and seems to still be happily bubbling away. Thanks for sharing this great technique. I am planning pancakes for the morning.

Rachael Hutchings said...

I'm so glad I found your site (through Ruhlman). I've read about other items that are good to use in starters like grapes and cumin. Can you give advise on how to use those 2 items? Do you use the same method? How do you decide how much to use?

Thank you!

Carri said... use the cumin...I've seen about 1/4 of a teaspoon added to 2 cups flour, 2 cups water....grapes, I have not tried...if you have some that are pesticide free, you could wash off a bunch. I usually pick a leaf that's about the size of my hand. Good Luck!

Unknown said...

Yum yum yum yum, I looove homemade bread, but I've never done it with a starter.

Susan said...

Once you've gotten the starter going and used some, does continuing to feed also mean adding the red cabbage each time? Also, does it stay in fridge until you are ready to use again?

Carri said...

Susan, no need to add the cabbage leaf in subsequent feedings. If you use it every day, no need to refrigerate, otherwise, you will want to keep it cold.

Susan said...

I won't be using every day so do I take out what I need and bring to room temp? Can I now just feed once a week? My first attempt at the bread produced an extremely dense loaf - not sure if that was because I used the starter before it was ready. The dough never rose really well but it did rise well in the oven. Thanks for input!

chupacabrita77 said...

Thank you for this! I had taken a hiatus from baking for a number of months. In the meantime, my refrigerated starter was accidentally thrown out by a well meaning family member and my frozen starter didn't spring back to life as simply as I expected it to. I still may give reviving my frozen starter another go at some point. But, inspiration struck me as I was eating my salad tonight. I noticed the red cabbage, fresh picked from my garden, and it struck me that surely that powdery stuff must be wild yeast and couldn't I use it for starter? A quick search brought me to your blog and gave me the confidence to give it a try. My new starter is happily incubating on my counter. I just hope mine is as successful as yours! Thank you!

Faith said...

Well, I also found you from Ruhlman (so very glad too). When he said Cabbage, I thought he meant Red Cabbage! Haaa, wrong! Well, I have Red Cabbage in the frig. So since I didn't have the right stuff I went out to the garden and picked two small Kale leaves, just to try it. IT WORKED!!! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??!!! It took about 24 hours before it got nice a bubbly. But I just fed it again and it seems to be doing awesome! Thanks so much for the tips!! Can't wait to make bread next!! :)

cheryl said...

I'm so glad I found your blog-via Michael Rhulman as well :)
I began my starter according to the new, Tartine Bread book. It's been developing for about a week and doing very well.
A long while ago, I read Tony Bordain's book, Kitchen Confidential. He wrote about Les Halles, "Mad Bread Baker" starting cultures on vegetable matter like cabbage. I was fascinated by the concept but, never tried it.
It took me a while but now I'm trying it. I took some of my developing culture from the Tartine Bread recipe and spread it on a green cabbage leaf. I'm really excited to see how it develops.
My question is, what other kinds of organic vegetable or fruit matter can you grow yeast on? Also, does that culture develop any subtle flavors from the matter it was started on?
Anyone's input on this subject would be highly appreciated.

Carri said...

Cheryl, Tartine is a favorite of ours as well. Chad has been an inspiration as well as a mentor, helping us in the early days of learning to operate our Alan Scott wood oven...their books are so beautiful, too! As for the wild yeast, grapes also tend to harbor it on their skin...I believe it is the white film you see on the outside...I've used kale and broccoli leaves too and both have worked. the best part about this is that if you kill your starter, you can always make more! I have not detected any residual flavors from the things I have used, but I just wash the yeast off...I don't generally leave the cabbage in the starter. Good Luck and Happy Baking!!!!