Presenter: Nick Peters, Chef/GM, Student Organized Services, Inc.
Maintaining your levain (starter)
Maintaining your sourdough starter (levain)
Notes from sourdough meister Phil DeGreen (frequent contributor to the SOS Food Blog).
I usually take it out of the fridge 1-2 days before I’m ready to use it and try to feed it 2-3 times per day. There’s no science to it – all depends on how active the yeasts are. Feeding generally means doubling the volume with equal parts of flour and water only – no salt/sugar. The consistency should be close to pancake batter – though some like to keep it wetter or dryer… If I’m trying to revive it after a couple of months of inactivity, I take it out 2-3 days before I’m ready and try to feed it 3x/day and keep it a little wetter. An active starter will be bubbly within a few minutes to an hour – that’s what you’re going for with bread for sure. Pancakes are much more forgiving.
I try to always keep some in the fridge – just in case I lose steam half way through the feeding process. Also – you’ll get a grey-ish liquid that collects on the top of the starter when it sits in the fridge. Some discard it – I like to add it back in ’cause I think it adds sour flavor.
I *think* that ceramic makes the best starter grower. I also have a set of tea towels that I use to cover the starter and proofing dough that I avoid bleach with. They probably harbor some natural yeast too at this point – literature suggests using the same bowls, towels, etc to establish a yeast colony. I like to think at this point that my whole kitchen has been exposed and harbors the yeast – some bakers swear by the environments.
If you’re on municipal water, watch our for chlorine that’d kill the yeast. Kinda like feeding a fish tank, let it sit for 24hrs if you suspect it’s got chlorine – another good reason to try to keep backup starter in the fridge in case things go wrong!(note from Nick – Hetch Hetchy water (Santa Clara County) does use a low reactive form of chloramine, and so I do tend to air out water for reviving the starter).
I usually start with a large spoonful (~1/4 cup) flour, then the water, then the starter (just so I can use the same spoon without rinsing it) and then eye things up from there.
Finally, don’t worry if something goes wrong – we have a community of backups.
Sourdough Loaves a la John Shelsta a la Julia Child – pastry chef John Shelsta says he got the basics of this from a Julia Child episode. I love the use of the dutch oven for the water/steam stage. See the video on the SOS website for that.
Water 700g and 50g set aside
Bread Flour 1000g
Levain (starter) 200g (in little globs into mixer with BFlour will help spread it)
Salt 26g (held aside with 50 g water above for after first mix)
- In a mixer with J hook put 1000g bread flour in, spread in globs of levain (200g total), 700g water in, and mix until you have a dough ball.
- Replenish your starter with 100g water, 100g flour at this time. This is called a 100% hydration starter.
- Let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Now mix in extra water 50g and salt 26g by hand until combined.
- Fold loaf 4x, 3 times every 30 minutes and keep in fridge except last fold.
- Again, make sure loaves temper to room temp 30 minutes before baking.
- Preheat oven to 450 F. Preheat dutch oven in there too. Using a dutch oven if you can (dusted with a little flour), place loaves in, score with razor, and add a light mist of water. Put in oven, turn it down to 375 F. Bake 20 minutes with lid on. Then 20 more with lid off.
Recipe contributed by Phil DeGreen
Yield, enough for 3-4 big eaters
Mix by hand:
9 oz starter
6 oz flour
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp salt
1 tbs brown sugar
Once that’s mixed together, melt and add 1/2 cup of butter (it’s added after everything’s mixed so that the warm butter doesn’t cook the egg prematurely).
Depending on the wetness of your starter, you may have to adjust the dry flour so that it looks like proper pancake batter.
I like to cut the blueberries in half – don’t add them just yet though! Rinse and dry ’em, discarding any bad ones, and remove any stems. Spread them in a single layer on a round tupperware lid. Place another tupperware lid on top so that the berries are held into place. Now you can pass a serrated blade carefully between the two lids and cut a bunch of blueberries at a time. I usually do 3-4 batches like this for a full recipe – I think that probably comes out to 1 – 1.5 cups of blueberries.
Start warming your pan or griddle – I start with a very small bit of spray on oil.
Once the blueberries are cut and the batter is ready, it’s time to add the leavening agent. Take 1/2 tsp baking soda and mix it with a few drops of warm water in a small vessel (I use a shot glass). This prevents any lumps of soda from making it into the batter which can leave a terribly acrid surprise. The idea is to minimize the time after the baking soda is moistened and when the batter is cooked. Add the soda/water and mix the batter, then fold in the blueberries. If you stir the blueberries too much they’ll get mushed.