Ho! Ho! Ho! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I think I missed it in the craziness of the past two weeks. Been a busy baker indeed.
The baking challenge this month over at the Daring Kitchen was to make sourdough using a sourdough starter. I had never even heard of a starter before. And I must admit, I was initially disappointed because I was hoping it’d be a more holiday themed challenge. But nonetheless, turned out to be quite the learning experience.
I got started on my starter pretty early in the month. I knew I’d be busy and seeing as how the starter takes 4+ days to create, I didn’t have time to waste. Basically, a sourdough starter is a natural leaven “grown” by mixing a high content wheat flour with an equal weight of water. It gets its kicks in a bit warmer temperatures and needs to “eat” every day until it matures (about 4 days), after which it needs to eat only once a week if kept at room temperature, less in the fridge.
My starter was three days developed when I decided to spontaneously go to Tampa to see the Script. My mom was coming over to feed my bird twice a day, so she also looked after my starter. When I returned three days later, it smelled really sour (my starter, not my bird), like it had gone rancid, and had a layer of liquid on top. I thought for sure my mom had killed it, or at least that the bacteria had won the war against the yeast. I looked at other Daring Bakers comments to see if they had the same results. In the end, I decided to see if I could revive it, since everything I found said that starters are easy to nurse back to health. Just in case, I started a new starter as well.
Back to wortk for a week, I had to keep discarding part of the starter so I could feed it more flour and water. I work ten hour days, so I don’t have time during the week to make a yeast bread. When the next weekend came around, it was time to put my yeastie beasties to work. I also, after reading other bakers comments, lovingly named my starters. They are living things, afterall. Yeastie number one was named Paddy, since he was the one I revived after leaving town to see an IRISH band. Yeastie number two was named Krusty because he would have a hard crust on top 24 hours after feeding.
The dough for sourdough is extremely sticky. I had so much trouble with it. I let my bread machine knead it because it stuck to my hands too much when I tried to. I used Paddy in one loaf and threw in some chopped cheddar cheese, and Krusty was used in the other loaf and left plain.
Unfortunately, my end results fell flat, literally. Sourdough Paddy had some holes in it when sliced, but was tough and didn’t rise. Sourdough Krusty was just flat and seemed kind of wet, not at all like the dryness you expect with sourdough.
I still have the leftover starters in my fridge, waiting for another feeding and another chance to rise like a star. I just didn’t have time this month to give it a second try. But it ended up being an interesting challenge and my initial disappointment was dispelled by the creation of life, the creation of Paddy and Krusty. They will probably soon be joined, as I don’t need two sourdough starters, to become super Paddy. And I will try to feed him every two or three weeks since he’s in the fridge so I can attempt sourdough again.
In other yeastie news, I decided to make French pastries for Christmas breakfast. We had a croissant challenge at the Daring Kitchen a few months ago but I was unable to participate. So I pulled up that recipe and got to work. I used good old fashion dry active yeast and cut all of the rising times in about half. I started it at 5pm on Christmas Eve and when you have a dough that needs to rise 3 hours, fold and rise two more hours, then incorporate butter and rise another two hours between “turns,” it gets to be quite the lengthy project. And cutting corners didn’t seem to affect the end result. The croissants were plenty flaky and the pain au chocolat, pain au raisin with pastry cream, and galette suisse with pastry cream were equally delicious. With my sister living in France, I think my parents appreciated the taste of France on Christmas morning.
So what else did I make this month, you ask? When I say I was a busy baker, I mean it. I made seven different types of cookies one weekend to give to friends and coworkers. I also made my coworkers a gingerbread house in the shape of our office. Funny enough, the gingerbread house was a previous Daring Bakers Challenge that I half-assed a couple years ago. So I was glad to be able to finally see that one through. Though it didn’t get all the details I wanted it to have, it wasn’t bad for the nine hours I put into it.
I am putting away my oven mitts and stepping away from the kitchen for the rest of the year. That’s not saying much since there’s only four days left in 2011. And actually, I might have lied. I bought fruit to candy peel and want to make a stollen next weekend. But that’s it, seriously. I need to catch up on sleep. Did I mention that December was crazy? See you in 2012!