Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Sourdough Chronicles

Welcome to The Sourdough Chronicles.

This project started because my husband, Brandon (you all know who he is but I just like saying "husband" :) ) kept asking me to make sourdough bread.  I have been making my own bread for almost a year.  Mostly I have done Jim Lahey's "no knead" method, which makes incredible crusty bread, but his book does not talk about sourdough.  (By the way.. if you do not have his book GO BUY IT.  It is called "My Bread".  It changed my life.  Seriously.) T

Anyway, I started to look at sourdough recipes and it is fascinating... and not simple, well that is if you want to go old school and make your own sourdough starter... which of course I do.

But wait, what IS sourdough starter?  (Lupa also is curious...)

Apparently it is the backbone of any great sourdough.  It is basically fermented yeast which gives sourdough its sour smell (that is my super scientific definition).  It is crucial stuff.  It LIVES in your refrigerator.  You can buy it.  But I wanted to make it.  And that is where the confusion began.  There are a million websites that talk about a million different ways to make sourdough starter.  And so I started one way, only to second guess it and start another way, and then after a night of tossing and turning and rereading the websites, a third.  And so the sourdough starter battle began.  My kitchen is now a laboratory.  My griddle has different concoctions on it and I am waiting for them to exhibit signs of life, to bubble, and to smell funny.   Um look:

Attempt one failed.  The recipe was from the food network, and is the first result when you do a google search.  It is available here.  It had pretty good reviews.  The starter called for yeast, and after reading some more, it seems that the general consensus is that to use commercial yeast is cheating.  Furthermore, most recipes that do use yeast suggest about 4 days of fermentation and this one only had 12 hours (I left it for 18).  But we were so hungry! We wanted bread! So I made one loaf.... it tasted like white bread.  It was good, but not what I wanted.

Also, the starter (which I fed and put in the fridge) exploded and I had to clean the fridge shelves and under the drawers which were covered in crusted starter.  YUCK!  Lupa really wanted to get in the fridge and Betsi ended up with sourdough starter on her head... trouble... i may have to through that starter away, but I am giving it a chance to "mature"...

Anyways.  So far no signs of life from the other 2 starters, both of which rely on "wild yeast" to get going.  One has water, honey, and flour.  It is more water than flour,  it is covered with cheesecloth and I stir it several times a day.  I should expect to see something happen by Saturday... hopefully... at which point i start to feed it.  Yes, it is like a pet, it needs feeding.

The recipe for this one can be found here.

The last one is just made using flour and water.  There are more advocates of this method than others.  This is the true old school approach.  But even within this approach there is a lot of disagreement about the right way to do it... the ratio of flour to water, the type of flour, when to start "regular feedings,"...

I started with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup water and have been fed it twice, each time with 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup unbleached white flour, 1/4 cup water.  It mostly just sits in a bowl... but supposedly it will start to come alive and bubble... we'll see...

Some articles on this method can be found here and here.

OK so that is the beginning of The Sourdough Chronicles.  Stay tuned for Part Deux.  

Shrimp, mushroom, and asparagus pasta

I made this really good shrimp, mushroom, asparagus, and tomato pasta the other night.  I made this up as I went which is a really big deal for me!  I have long been afraid to deviate from recipes but it is my new policy that I MUST make up my own dishes, and I thought pasta would be a good place to start since I was literally raised on it and know all the basics of pasta sauces. 

If you want to try doing this dish, this is what you will need:

3 T. butter
1 T. oil
1/4 cup or so of minced yellow onion
8 oz. Crimini ("baby bella") mushrooms, sliced
Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used about half a bunch)
Some dry white wine (chardonnay is good)
1 lb. of large raw frozen shrimp (or fresh shrimp if you are so inclined)
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
Red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. of angel hair pasta
Grated parmesan

First, defrost the shrimp by placing them in a bowl under running cold water for about 20 minutes.  Shell them and set them aside.

Then chop up your veggies.

Heat 2 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil over medium heat.  When the foam subsides, add the diced onions and cook until golden.

Add the mushrooms.

(sorry for the bad photography on this recipe... my flash was off)

Cook until butter is absorbed and the mushroom juices rise to the surface.  About 5 minutes.  Stir in the asparagus.  Cook for 1 or 2 minutes.  Then add some white wine.  Maybe about 1/2 cup... whatever feels right.  Cook until about half the wine has evaporated. 

 Add the tomatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the heat to low.  While this is cooking, bring a large pasta pot of water to a boil.  When the sauce has cooked for 15 or 20 minutes, add the shrimp.

Slowly cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is a light pink color.

Cook the angel hair pasta, drain it, and put it in a pasta bowl with 1 T. butter. Stir to coat.  Add pasta sauce and toss thoroughly.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and some bread to sop up the sauce.  Delish!