How to Maintain the Sourdough Starter

PJ Hamel wrote . . . . . . . .

How’s your starter doing?

Fresh sourdough starter is a wonderful resource. Bread, pancakes, waffles, cake… there are so many delicious directions you can take with sourdough.

The key: maintaining your sourdough starter so that it’s healthy, happy, and ready to go when you are.

Once you’ve successfully created your starter, you’ll need to feed it regularly.

If you bake a lot of sourdough treats, you may want to keep it on your counter, at room temperature. While this means feeding it twice a day, it also means your starter will be ready to bake with at the drop of a hat (er, oven mitt).

However, many of us don’t want the commitment of twice-a-day feedings. If you’re a more casual sourdough baker, it’s possible to store your starter in the refrigerator, feeding it just once a week.

Let’s take a look at both methods.

But first, a word of advice. Sourdough baking is as much art as science. This method for maintaining sourdough starter is just one of many you might choose to follow. It doesn’t exactly match the process in our Baker’s Companion cookbook, nor some of our recipes online, nor what your neighbor down the street does. And that’s OK.

If you have a process you’ve successfully followed before, then hey, stick with it. Or try this one and compare. All good.

Maintaining your starter at room temperature

Room temperature is the best environment for the yeast and lactobacilli that inhabit your starter, and you can learn a lot about your starter by observing a twice-a-day feeding regimen with the starter at room temperature.

If you’re willing to maintain your starter at room temperature by feeding it twice a day, here’s how:

Stir the starter well and discard all but 1/2 cup (4 ounces). Add 4 ounces non-chlorinated, room-temperature water (hereafter known simply as “water”) and 4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (hereafter known simply as “flour”) to the 1/2 cup of starter. Mix until smooth, and cover. Repeat every 12 hours.
A note about room temperature: the colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. If the normal temperature in your home is below 68°F, we suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to develop your starter.

For instance, try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Or, set it near a heat source (baseboard heater, etc.).

Another option: set the container of starter on a folded dish towel laid atop a heating pad on its lowest setting.

Maintaining your starter in the refrigerator

For most home bakers, daily feeding is impractical; so you’ll need to store your starter in the refrigerator, and feed it once a week.

Take the starter out of the fridge. There may be a bit of light amber or clear liquid on top. Either drain this off, or stir it in, your choice; it’s alcohol from the fermenting yeast.

Remove all but 4 ounces starter. Use this “discard” to make pancakes, waffles, cake, pizza, flatbread, or another treat; Buttery Sourdough Buns is one of my favorite “unfed” sourdough recipes. Or, simply give to a friend so they can create their own starter.

Add 4 ounces lukewarm water and 4 ounces flour to the remaining starter. Mix until smooth, and cover.

Allow the starter to rest at room temperature (about 70°F) for 2 to 4 hours; this gives the yeast a chance to warm up and get feeding. After about 2 hours, refrigerate.

Getting ready to bake

If you’ve been maintaining your starter at room temperature, you may want to increase the volume of starter to the amount needed for your recipe. You can do this by feeding your starter without discarding; or by discarding, and feeding it 8 ounces flour and 8 ounces water.

If your starter has been refrigerated, you’ll want to both increase its volume, and raise its activity to a more energetic level. You can do this by giving it a couple of feedings at room temperature.

Take the starter out of the fridge, discard all but 4 ounces, and feed it as usual with 4 ounces water and 4 ounces flour. Let it rest at room temperature for about 12 hours, until bubbly. Repeat as necessary, every 12 hours, until you notice the starter doubling or tripling in volume in 6 to 8 hours. That means it’s strong enough to leaven bread.

For the final feeding, make sure you add enough flour and water to use in your recipe, with a little left over to feed and maintain the starter for the next time you bake.

For instance, if your recipe calls for 1 cup (about 8 ounces) starter, add 4 ounces each water and flour. If your recipe calls for 2 cups (about 16 ounces) starter, add 8 ounces each water and flour.

Once the starter is bubbling and vigorous, remove what you’ll need for the recipe and set it aside. Feed the remaining starter with 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water. Mix until smooth, and allow the starter to work for about 2 hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator.

Troubleshooting your starter

Living creatures sometimes get sick, be they humans, pets, or even sourdough starter. If you find yourself becoming a sourdough doctor, here are some symptoms and possible cures:

If your starter lacks acidity

Feed with half whole-rye (pumpernickel) flour or whole wheat flour for a few days. The extra nutrition in the bran and germ can increase the starter’s acidity.

Be sure your starter has a chance to ripen (develop) fully before it receives another feeding; before you use it in a recipe, or before refrigerating it. An ideal feeding regimen for a starter kept at room temperature (in the low 70s) is two feedings a day at 12-hour intervals.

Find a slightly warmer (in the mid 70s) area in which to ripen the starter after its feeding.

If your sourdough is too acidic

You may be letting the starter ripen too long before using it. Once your starter is bubbling and vigorous, it’s time to make bread, feed it again, or refrigerate until its next feeding. Don’t let it become bubbly, rise, and then fall and start to “calm down;” that’s adding acidity to its flavor. Reduce the duration of ripening as necessary.

Ripen your starter in a slightly cooler area, so it doesn’t digest its meal of flour and water too quickly.

Reviving a dormant or neglected starter

Sometime you may find yourself with a starter that’s gone far too long without a feeding.

Covered in a clear, dark liquid (alcohol, a by-product of yeast that’s been deprived of oxygen), the starter will lack bubbles or other signs of activity, and will have a very sharp aroma.

Although the starter appears lifeless, its microflora will spring into action again as soon as they get a few good meals.

Stir the liquid back into the starter. Discard all but 4 ounces, and set the bowl or crock on the counter; you’re going to be leaving it at room temperature (at least 70°F) for awhile.

Feed the starter 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water and a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) all-purpose flour twice a day, discarding all but 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of the starter before each feeding. It should soon become healthy, bubbly, and active.

Sourdough starters are hearty, and easily resist spoilage due to their acidic nature. The pH of a sourdough starter discourages the proliferation of harmful microorganisms.

However, if your starter turns ominously pink or red; shows signs of mold growth, or smells decidedly putrid, throw it away and begin again. Luckily, in our experience, this rarely happens.

OK, after all of that – how about baking some sourdough bread? Our Rustic Sourdough Bread is a great place to start.

Source: King Arthur Flour

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Why Brick Ovens Bake The Perfect Pizza

Angus Chen wrote . . . . . . . .

The ideal Italian pizza, be it Neapolitan or Roman, has a crisp crust flecked with dark spots — marks left by a blazing hot oven. The dough is fluffy, moist and stretchy, and the toppings are piping hot. A pizzeria’s brick oven pops these out to perfection, but intrepid home cooks attempting to re-create Italian-style pizzas have more than likely discovered facsimiles are nigh impossible to produce.

“Even if you prepare [the pizza] the same way, you cannot get the same result with just your oven at home,” says Andreas Glatz, a physicist at Northern Illinois University and pizza enthusiast.

The fact that you need a vaulted brick oven to bake a great Italian-style pizza is well-known, but Glatz and Andrey Varlamov, also a pizza-eater and physicist at the Institute of Superconductors, Oxides and Other Innovative Materials and Devices in Rome, wanted to know why. The secret behind a pizzeria’s magic, they concluded in a paper published on arXiv.org last month, is in some unique thermal properties of the brick oven.

They started off interviewing pizzaiolos, or pizza makers, in Rome who were masters of the Roman style of pizza. For this, the bake lasts 2 minutes at 626 degrees Fahrenheit. (Neapolitan pizzas usually bake at an even higher temperature — at least 700 degrees.) That turns out a “well-baked but still moist dough and well-cooked toppings,” Glatz says. The same settings in a conventional steel oven produce far less ideal results. “You burn the dough before the surface of the pizza even reaches boiling, so this is not a product you will want to eat,” he says.

Brick versus steel

Chewing this over, the physicists realized the key difference lies in how much more slowly brick transfers heat to the dough compared with steel — a measure known as the material’s thermal conductivity. A brick oven heated to 626 degrees will heat the crust to roughly 392 degrees, while the pizza top receives indirect heat from the oven and stays at 212 degrees as water boils off from the cheese and tomato sauce. Glatz says that after about two minutes, both the pizza top and crust reach perfection.

But pizza crust in contact with a steel oven at the same temperature will hit 572 degrees because the metal transfers heat far more rapidly than brick. That’s much too high for dough, Glatz says, “so it simply burns.” Unfortunately, because the top of the pizza must cook as well, simply lowering the oven temperature to 450 degrees doesn’t work. While that will heat the crust to 392 degrees, the rest of the pizza won’t receive enough heat to boil by the time the crust has cooked — resulting in cooked dough but undercooked toppings.

Home chefs could deploy a ceramic pizza stone in home ovens — which would work if home ovens could reach temperatures as high as 626 degrees. “But most electric ovens cannot get to those temperatures,” Gatz says. Even at 550 degrees, the upper limit for many home ovens, the longer required bake time from the lower temperature will dry out your pizza. What’s more, Gatz has still colder news for home cooks: “If you want the flavors of the smoke and the wood and the dry heat of a brick oven, there’s no good emulation for this effect.”

Switch up your style

Making an Italian-style pizza at home will simply never reach perfection, agrees Kenji Lopez-Alt, the author of The Food Lab and food editor at SeriousEats.com.

“No matter what you do, a home oven is not going to deliver absolutely perfect Neapolitan pizza,” he says. “I would honestly choose a style of pizza that doesn’t require an extremely hot oven. Maybe more of a New York-style pizza.” New York-style pizzas typically have dough with more fat — extra oil will help keep the dough “nice and tender” during a longer bake time, Lopez-Alt says.

Still, home cooks should not despair, Lopez-Alt notes. “You can get pretty close [to a Neapolitan pizza.]” Gatz and Varlamov’s paper was right that a home oven doesn’t reach the right temperatures, he says. “But they do have broilers.”

Preheating a steel surface — like a pan or, possibly, the oven floor — in the oven to around 430 degrees will quickly cook the pizza crust, while the broiler would expose the toppings to direct heat and fast cooking.

“Steel at 500 degrees can burn the pizza in 60 to 90 seconds, so you want to be careful about that,” Lopez-Alt says. “If the bottom is going to burn, pick it up and let it finish under the broiler.” That should create a well-baked crust and finished toppings without drying out the pizza, he says. “It won’t be exactly the same” as a Neapolitan pizza.

But it’ll still be pretty good.

Source: npr

Video: Making Processed Beef (牛脂注入肉) by Injecting Beef Fat and Flavouring in Japan

“Piquer” is the origin of the idea behind the processed beef.

Piquer is a French culinary technique that inserts fat or herbs into lean meat by using a special needle called the “lardoire” to enhance the flavor or juiciness.

Processed Australian Beef

Japanese Wagyu Beef

Watch video at You Tube (0:56 minutes) . . . . .

Video: Fish Curing Techniques of Two Michelin Stars Chef Masaki Saito

Long before Masaki Saito’s career began as a sushi chef, the Hokkaido native was attending a high school in his hometown that focused on marine biology.

“That knowledge, or rather experience, has been very helpful,” says Saito — now the executive chef at the New York location of luxe, Tokyo-based sushi restaurant, Sushi Ginza Onodera.

Choose either of Ginza’s omakase menus and it will cost you $300 or $400; but Saito is known to make the meal a memorable one because of his poignant guest interactions and laid back sense of humor.

Watch video at You Tube (7:50 minutes) . . . . .

Video: Home-made Sichuan Chili Bean Paste (豆瓣酱)

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