Sourdough. It is fairly easy to do but does take a little time to get going.
First you need the sourdough starter. You can either try to 'catch' wild yeast, add yeast into your starter mix, or purchase some dried sourdough starter that you need to rehydrate.
I'll post on capturing wild yeast another time but if you are interested in jumping ahead and not wait due to my slowness in posting, you can search the internet for many variations. Below is my version of making sourdough starter using active dried yeast. It was too cold when I started it and could not catch any 'wild' yeast, so I added yeast to the concoction.
I have several bread baking books that get used for different recipe variations that I've purchased but do check out your local library if you're tight on funds or search the thrift stores, freecycle or craigslist ads for used bread baking books. I think my favorite is Storey's Baking with Sourdough (center yellow/white booklet). Good recipes and easy to understand. I like things simple.
Recipe and instructions (my adaptation) :
* Quart size canning jar with screw band and a bit of plastic wrap to cover the jar opening
* Medium sized ceramic bowl
* wooden spoon
(whatever you used to mix it up with just be sure NOT to use anything that is metal - sourdough is corrosive. It won't be corrosive in the beginning stages but will be later as it develops)
2-1/4 teaspoons active dried yeast (one package)
2 cups bread flour
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
Dissolve yeast in water. Thoroughly mix all the above ingredients together in a ceramic bowl. No lumps. Let sit in a warm spot, on top of the fridge works nicely, covered with cheesecloth (to keep things... like bugs.... from falling in) for a couple of days. It should become foamy and bubbly. It will start to bubble soon after mixing together but it will take a couple of days for more bubbles to appear in the mix and to get a nice sour smell/fermented smell.
After a couple of days, stir it and pour into the quart canning jar, cover with plastic wrap and put on the screw band lid to keep the plastic in place. Set in the back of the fridge for a few more days to develop more of that sourdough flavor.
Like I said above, I really like the Storey's Baking With Sourdough booklet. 10 pages of information on the basics of sourdough (starters, replenishing/sweetening the pot and 'rules' for success) and how to adapt standard bread recipes to use your sourdough starter. The rest of the 22 page booklet is dedicated to recipes. But I like my other books, too, for more variations. Bread shouldn't be boring.
Now for replenishing the pot. Whatever amount of starter you use to make your sponge (the base of your bread recipe) you need to put the same amount back into the starter jar. After removing the amount the recipe needs.... let's say it was one cup of starter .... I will then put one cup of bread flour and about one cup of water into a ceramic bowl and mix together thoroughly. Then I will scrape out the remainder of the starter from the canning jar into the bowl and mix them all together. At this point, I will set the mixture aside and rinse out the canning jar so I don't have old crusty gunk on the side of the jar from pouring it out for the recipe. I've had it mold on the sides in the past so I just do this to keep it clean. After rinsing out the jar, wipe off the outside and pour the mixture from your bowl back into the jar, put the plastic and screw band lid back on and put it back into the fridge for use again later. Easy.
Now, say you don't use your starter for a month or so and the starter separates leaving the whitish floury stuff on the bottom and a slight brownish/gray liquid on the top. Don't panic - it is okay, it does that. As long as you don't have mold or weird looking stuff floating on the top, resembling some science project, it is okay. If it is just a separation of liquid and flour = stir it back into a mixture. Weird stuff or globs of mold floating on the top = toss it out.
So with your sourdough starter in hand, how about making some bread. Mud ovens make excellent bread baking ovens but if you don't have one on hand, you can sort of replicate the nicely crusted bread in a regular oven with a shallow pan and some ice cubes. You can even use a cast iron dutch oven with a lid to get the same effect.
|Rising in a warm spot|
|Voila!! Fresh baked sour dough bread|