Once upon a time, I used to say that I was a cook and, therefore, not a baker. Cooks like to improvise, they use recipes as general guidelines, and they never make the exact same thing twice. Bakers on the other hand have to measure ( NO WAY!), stick to the recipe, and are successful only through perfect replication.
I stand corrected!
A former colleague of mine (back in my former-me days) tried to educate me about the art of baking. He promised that if I did enough recipe-following to start with, then I would eventually be able to get back to my improvisational roots.
Once I left "professional land" and became full-time MOMMY, I thought I might try out his wisdom. I searched the internet for baking recipes (of the bread and roll variety, not sweets....YET!), poured over cookbooks and started treating my family to fresh baked biscuits, rolls hot from the oven, and crunchy-topped breads.
I stuck to the recipes, for about...a week, maybe??? And my friend was right! As I got a feel for the purpose of baking powder, and how that is different from the purpose of baking soda, the right dough consistency, the rise time for various things, etc. then I found that I didn't need a recipe as much. I still use them for guidance and there are a few that I think are perfect just the way they are written, but I do a lot of modification.
So, now I've started a search for more complex or challenging recipes. My first new adventure...SOURDOUGH! I spent an evening researching starters (http://www.sourdough.com/ was especially helpful) and discovered that there isn't really a one-size-fits-all starter recipe out there. Some use yeast, others rely on nature, some add sugar or even beer, others are more simple. After reading lots of suggestions, I decided that I was not a purist...nor am I patient. Waiting for nature to find its own bacteria in my flour, was probably not going to happen, nor did I feel that it was important. So YEAST it is:)
My starter recipe:
1 cup warm water
1 packet dry yeast
1 T. sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
Heat the water using the beverage setting on the microwave (or until warm, but not hot). Add yeast and sugar. Dissolve and let sit until bubbly. Add flour and mix well. Store in glass jar, uncovered on counter. Feed the baby every 6-8 hours for the first several (7-10) days. I used two different methods for feeding depending on how much time or energy I had.
1. Throw in a T. of sugar and mix well.
2. Pour out most of the starter. Add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour and mix well.
After the first week or so, when the starter is reliably doubling in size every time you feed it, then you can move it to the fridge. Then you only need to feed it every few days.
Please be aware that it WILL DOUBLE IN SIZE, so please put it in a container large enough to handle this volume increase (or you may be explaining a rather large mess to your husband too)!
To use the starter, collect what you pour out before feeding and add it to any sourdough recipe (pancakes, breads, etc.).
Now you can have your very own BACTERIA PET too:) Maybe we can schedule some playdates for our new friends!