The past few days I have made bread twice. Not a packet of yeast in the house. Yet my bread was light and yeasty with a fine texture and a light *crumb*, as they say in baking circles.
I use a *starter*.
A good starter is worth it's weight in gold! I know of some families that use starters that date back 100 or even 200 years!
I made my starter a month ago.
When I made bread, I saved one cup of the dough, put it in a clean jar, added a teaspoon of sugar, 1/4 cup warm water, stirred it up, tightly capped it and stored it in my refrigerator. I shake it a bit every few days and once a week add a teaspoon of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. If it looks a bit dry, I add a bit of warm water.
When I make bread, I spoon out about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of starter into the bowl I am going to make my bread dough in. In the *starter* jar, I add 1/2 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup (or so) of flour and store it in the fridge for next time.
When you use a starter, it can take a while longer for your bread to rise. Some folks recommend letting your dough rise 24 hours, but I never have the time to do that!
I generally add an hour or two to the rising time.
Now, for sourdough lovers out there, you make your starter an entirely different way!
Sourdough starters are usually made by *capturing* wild yeast. I am currently making my own.
Step one, boil a potato in it's skin. Yes, you can cut it up to speed things up. SAVE YOUR POTATO WATER! You'll need two cups of potato water.
Go ahead, eat the potato, I'll wait.
Now, take that two cups of potato water, put it in a ceramic crock or glass jar.
Add 2 cups of flour to it and stir well.
Add 2 teaspoons of honey and stir well.
Now, I use a piece of cheesecloth *rubber banded* over the top of the crock/jar, but some folks leave it uncovered.
Just set it on top of your fridge or in any other *sorta* warm place in your house. Some folks set the crock/jar outside (covered with cheesecloth, I hope!). Let it set for 4 to 6 days, stirring it 3 or 4 times a day to aerate.
It should begin to smell *yeasty* and get bubbles in it. The yeasty smell will have a bit of a sharp-sour smell to it that is different from regular yeast bread.
Store in your refrigerator and treat sourdough starter as you do a regular starter.
Use as you would the regular starter.
Remember to always *feed* your starters and to replace any used with flour and water with a smidge of sugar or honey!
I know...yeast is available as close as your grocery store, but as a *prepper*, I realize that my local grocery store might not always be there! Also, *starters* give bread more *personality* and flavor than commercially available yeast. If you run out of those convenient packets of yeast and don't have the time or inclination to run to the store, it is comforting to know you have starter sleeping away in your fridge, just waiting to wake up and perform for you!
Think of your starters as legacies for your family as well. It used to be a tradition for young brides to receive starters from their mothers (or new mother-in-laws) to set up housekeeping.Some starters have been in families for 100, 200 or even 300 years!
I know of one family that had such a *legacy* starter, brought into the US by immigrant ancestors from Ireland. It had withstood the uncertainties of time and travel for over a hundred years. In the 1960s, a *modern* daughter, disgusted at the smell and of the mindset that "bread is best purchased at the grocery store", threw it out after the death of her mother! Along with the little hand made crock it was kept in.
What a loss! A strain of yeast is gone and can never be reproduced.
I think we should bring back the tradition of mothers handing down starters to their newly married daughters (and sons). Bread is known as the "staff of life" and in giving starters, we are giving them our heartfelt wish that they will have a happy and long life!