As he does each July and August, "Food Guy" Greg Patent went on a sourdough kick this year, taking advantage of summer's balmy kitchen countertop temperatures of 72 to 73 degrees F. That's the sweet spot for a sourdough culture's bacteria and yeast; they get busy fermenting, which means your sourdough bread dough can double in size after a four-hour rise without the aid of any additional yeast.
But you don't need to wait for summer to play with sourdough, especially if your kitchen includes a warm space, sheltered from drafts and large enough to leave a bowl, loaf pan or baking pan for a few hours.
Greg Patent's Basic Sourdough Starter
This starter, according to Greg, will "gain character if you feed it with more flour and water over time and store in the refrigerator."
1 tablespoon or 1 (1/4-ounce) package dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees), divided
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
Combine the yeast and sugar with 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.
In a few minutes, the mixture will foam, indicating the yeast is alive. Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart glass bowl. Measure the flour by scooping a measuring cup into the flour container, filling the cup to overflowing and sweeping off the excess with a metal spatula. Add the flour to the yeast mixture along with the remaining 1 cup water and whisk to make a smooth batter about the consistency of pancake batter. Adjust the thickness with flour or water, if necessary.
Scrape the side of the bowl and let the starter stand for a few hours at room temperature, loosely covered, until the mixture almost triples in volume. Stir the batter down, cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight at room temperature. The next day it will be ready to use. Makes 2 cups starter.
Per serving: 73 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, 16 grams carbohydrates, .75 gram total fiber, .85 gram total sugars, 15 grams net carbs, 3 grams protein, 1 milligram sodium.
To use: Before using a starter for the first time, whisk in 1 cup flour and 1 cup water and transfer the mixture to a larger glass or plastic container. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until it has again almost tripled in volume. Then stir, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using. Each time you use some of the starter, replenish it with equal amounts of flour and warm water.
Let the replenished starter rest, uncovered, at room temperature until it is bubbly and active, then stir, cover and store again in the refrigerator.
When starter is stored in the refrigerator, a liquid layer ("hooch") will eventually separate from the flour mixture below it. Before using, always stir the two together. As long as the hooch is not pink or tinged with orange, it is all right to use.
Sometimes the liquid layers will be tinged with light yellow, gray or even black but they are still usable. If your starter goes bad, you simply begin again.
(For those old timers on the trail, "hooch" was welcomed as an alcoholic liquor they could siphon off before they made their biscuits, pancakes or bread.)