Do you have a sourdough starter? If you don't, let me suggest you make one! With it, you can make bread, pancakes, waffles, muffins, biscuits, bagels, pies and even cake! The best part is you don't need yeast in your recipes when using sourdough starter.
Before people could go to the store and buy yeast, bread was made using a starter such as sourdough. Sourdough likely originated in ancient Egypt. It was used to make bread all through the middle ages, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and went west with the pioneers. What I think is the best part of using sourdough is the total control you have over the taste. You can make it extra-tangy or extra-mild.
Long ago, I thought the only kind of sourdough that was acceptable, was sourdough started on the west coast (think San Francisco sourdough). That was before I knew that all sourdough starters take on the characteristics of the local wild yeast. What that means in the south is, my sourdough bread will not taste like San Francisco sourdough bread since the wild yeast are different here. Your starter will taste different where you live as well. Since you can't keep the San Francisco flavor in your sourdough starter, why pay for it? It doesn't make sense to pay a lot of money for a starter that originated somewhere else.
What to do? Start your own! My friend Chef Tess has a tutorial on her blog that gives step by step directions. She also has a great sourdough bread recipe there as well. This is how I made mine.
Start with a clean non-metallic container. Sourdough and metal don't mix so be sure to use non-metallic spoons when you are stirring as well. This is what I use. I got it as a present. It is from the King Arthur Flour Company.
To the container, I added 1 cup of water and 2 cups of whole wheat flour. I mixed that well and added 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. (Adding the yeast is not necessary, it just speeds things up a bit. If you don't add the yeast, it will take longer to get a good sourdough starter because your starter will need to collect wild yeast from the air.) I used bottle water to avoid the chlorine.
The next day, I poured out some of the starter and fed it again. This time I used 1/4 cup bottled water and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour. Stir well.
I repeated the process for four days. At the end of that time, the starter was ready. It should be nice and bubbly and look like this.
Now the starter is ready to use in lots of yummy recipes! If you aren't ready to use your starter yet, or if you have a starter and want to take a break from using it, you can put it in the refrigerator. When in the refrigerator, you will only have to pull it out weekly to feed it. When you want to use it in a recipe again, take the starter out the day before and feed it. The next day it will be ready to use in your baking.
I have also had some success freezing the starter for up to six months. In my experience, when I let the starter go longer than six months in the freezer, I have mixed results when trying to re-activate it. If you want to take a break from sourdough for longer than six months, you can always follow these directions again to start a new batch.
I will post some of my favorite recipes soon!