Friday, September 14, 2012

Jacquie Rogers -- Sourdough Baking: Part 1

The Joy of Sourdough Baking
Part One
by Jacquie Rogers

While sour breads have been around for thousands of years, the term "sourdough" is relatively modern, coming from the 1800s American West. The folks in the California gold rush broadened the term to mean the starter, the bread, or the baker. To this day, "sour bread" and "sourdough" can mean different things to different people depending on from whence they hail.

That doesn’t mean that sourdough is exclusively North American. Northern European rye breads are nearly all made from sourdough starter because rye doesn’t contain enough gluten for baker’s yeast to work properly. Those recipes are hundreds of years old.

Sourdough Biscuits from
Discovering Sourdough
All sourdough breads and quickbreads begin with . . . ta daaaa . . . a starter.

Starter can also be called "sponge." No matter what you call it, it’s nothing more than yeast that you culture yourself. The starter is fragile and will die if frozen or overheated. In winter, the cook often slept with the starter to keep it warm. After all, without starter, he could only bake hardtack. 

How it works:

With flour and warm water as food, the yeast spores break down into starch and sugar, which promotes fermentation. Handled a little differently, you’ll make a fine pint of ale instead of a loaf of bread--a story better told by someone who brews it. The fermentation produces more yeast which is what makes the bread light and fluffy during the baking process.

Other terms for natural leaven starters are :
Levain (French)
Desem (Flemish
Barm (British) (not in traditional usage)
Lievito naturale (Italian)
Friendship Starter (if not yeasted)
The major distinctions between the various terms for natural leavens, other than the terminology, are the grain used, the degree of hydration and, to some extent, the storage medium and temperature, all of which affect the degree of complexity and sourness of each type of starter.
A note about taste:

In the modern day, sourdough bread tastes a bit sour and sometimes a lot sour, if you buy the more expensive variety. But in the Old West, they didn’t want their bread to taste sour and went to great lengths to make sure it tasted as sweet and good as any yeast bread, and as light, too.

Stay tuned for Jacquie's next article (October 12th)
Part Two: The Care and Feeding of Starter

Hearts of Owyhee #3
by Jacquie Rogers

♥ FIVE STARS! Jacquie Rogers writes some of the best Historical Romances on today's market. Not content to simply write a plot and toss in a lot of bed scenes and/or filler, this author adds in subplots, humor, action, suspense, and some endearing strays.
~Detra Fitch, Huntress Reviews

♥ When you read a Jacquie Rogers book, you know you're in for a fast, fun ride!

  • A sexy ranch foreman who just happens to be a beautiful woman
  • A Boston lawyer who wants to settle his father's estate and go back East
  • Rustlers who have another agenda in mind
  • Mayhem endangers them all--but can the foreman and the lawyer ever see eye to eye?

Benjamin Lawrence is a highly respected attorney in Boston, but in Idaho Territory, they still think of him as that gangly awkward boy named Skeeter. When he goes back home to settle his estate, he's confronted with a ridiculous will that would be easy to overturn--but can he win the regard of his family and neighbors--and the foreman?

The Bar EL's foreman, Janelle Kathryn aka J.K. aka Jake O'Keefe, is recognized as the best foreman in the territory. But being the best at her job still isn't enough--now she has to teach the new owner how to rope, brand, and work cattle before she receives clear title to her own ranch, the Circle J. The last thing she expects is rustlers. Can she save her ranch without losing her heart?

Hearts of Owyhee ♥ 
A fun short story: Willow, Wish For Me (Merlin’s Destiny #1)


Lyn Horner said...

Jacquie, what a great topic! I love the tangy taste of sourdough bread. While writing the cattledrive sequence in Dashing Druid, I learned how important it was for the cook to keep his starter going. Looking forward to the second part of this article!

Gerri Bowen said...

Interesting post, Jacquie. I guess way back when they did have to sleep with it to keep it warm.

Ellen O'Connell said...

I'm eagerly awaiting Part 2 also, Jacquie. And the tidbit about expensive breads being the really sour ones these days was interesting. The last sourdough bread I got at the store was too sour for me. Guess I'm an economical kind of girl.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thank goodness for the grocery store and their bread section! I quit trying to learn good bread-baking because Hero and I ate the hot bread, no matter how bad. I decided that if I ever learned to make good lightbread, we'd both weigh 300 pounds. ☺ I do make great cornbread, though, I say modestly. Hero makes great biscuits. Between the two of us, we are all right if we run out of bread and have to rely on our own baking skills.

Paty Jager said...

Way to keep us in suspense Jacquie! LOL I went through a phase some years ago where I made everything from sour dough. This is a great topic.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Glad you stopped by, Lyn. :) I love sourdough, too, but have you ever had "sweet" sourdough? Yum! The cinnamon rolls are to die for.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Usually only out on the range, though. The cabins were generally warm enough in the winter. There, the problem was keeping the starter cool enough in the summer. Thanks for stopping by, Gerri!

Jacquie Rogers said...

Me, too, Ellen. Just call me a cheap date, but I really don't like the uber-sour breads or the one with crusts you can't bite or chew. A little sour is good, but this is a case where there can be too much of a good thing.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I don't eat wheat so make all my own bread. Unfortunately, I'm currently on a no-bread diet. The reason that's unfortunate is because I'm not about to make sourdough bread to take pictures for the blog. Yep, I'd have that bread eaten about 15 seconds after the pictures were snapped. So in part 2, you ladies will just have to take my word for it.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I did, too, Paty. Don't you just love sourdough cornbread? Yum. I made all our baked goods out of sourdough for a couple years. The thing of it is, I ate a good portion of it, too. Sigh. Regular bread doesn't tempt me so much but sourdough--just can't stay away from it.