Bread baking ” The Starter “

April 5th, 2012

Several years ago I acquired a small amount of dehydrated
sourdough starter called “Carl Griffiths 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough” from for simply sending them
a SASE. I have kept this starter going ever since and
have made innumerable loaves of various bread recipes
using this started as the only leavening agent.
No commercial yeast required. The basic recipe consists
of flour, water, salt, and the sourdough starter along with
any extra flavorings like garlic, olives, caraway seeds, etc.

The most recent variation I am making and enjoying is a type
that needs not be kneaded. In the summer when I’m so busy with
other things not having to knead the bread makes it easier to
get it done when time is short.

But before I get into the baking of the bread let’s start with the starter.

The dehydrated starter I received was only a fraction of a teaspoon so I placed half of it into a clean pint jar and added two tablespoons of water. Simply cool tap water. If your water is chlorinated just let some sit out in an open container for a day or two. I have well water so it is not chlorinated. I have been told that the chlorination interferes with the growth of the wild yeasts in the starter.

Put on a plastic cap or cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap. Don’t screw the cover on tight because the gasses must be able to escape as the starter works.

After fifteen or twenty minutes add two table spoons of bread flour (all purpose flour may also be used) and stir the mixture into a thin slurry. Put the cover back on and set it aside over night.

The next morning it should show signs of life. Bubbles and or some foam. Now add a quarter cup of flour and a quarter cup of water, mix well and allow it to sit over night again. The next morning the bubbles and or foam should be more plentiful.

Repeat the addition of flour and water again this time one cup of each and again mix well. This amount will fit into a quart jar. If your initial jar was smaller just transfer the contents into a larger one.

You can really use almost any type of container glass, plastic, or ceramic but NOT metal. Also you should not use a metal utensil to stir the mixture. I simply use a thin wooden dowel.

The next morning after this last feeding you can use the starter to make your bread.

If you use one cup for your bread simply replace equal amounts of flour and water to bring the level in the jar back to where it was and you will be able to take another cup out the next day.

It is a good idea to put the jar into a soup bowl while it is working because if you put in a bit too much water and flour it will foam up and can ooze out from under the loosely fitted lid or plastic wrap cover. I should really use a bigger container!

If after you have removed the amount of starter you are going to use and you will not be baking the next day don’t replenish the flour and water right away. The starter that is left in the jar can be left alone for several days and the flour and water should be added the day before you intend to make bread so the starter you will use will be at its peak of activity.

If you will not be using the starter for more than a few days just refrigerate it. That will slow the process down a lot and can be left alone for a week or two.

Old starter ready to be fed.

The liquid HOOCH layer atop the flour water starter mixture.

Another view of the old starter.

One cup of bread flour added.

one cup of water added.

Mix flour water and old starter with somthing non-metallic.

Fit cover to allow gas to escape, don't screw it on tight.

Starter fed and ready to rise, note bowl to catch possible overflow.

Frothy bubbles on surface of reactivated starter.

The starter came high up the sidesof the jar then settled back as the gas escaped.

Coming next, the baking of the bread.

Growing alliums (onions, leeks, and shallots) from seed.

March 17th, 2012

Onions may be grown from sets (little onion bulbs) or seeds.
Leeks as far as I know are grown only from seed.
Shallots until recently have always been propagated like garlic by replanting some of the multiple cloves that grow from one shallot that is planted. There is now shallot seed ( a hybrid ) being offered and I am trying them for the first time this season.

I have developed a system for onions and leeks over the years and will apply it to growing these shallots also.

As with the seeds of other vegetables that I plant in individual pots that are grouped together in half gallon milk cartons I use half gallon milk cartons for alliums as well but without the individual pots.

The method I have used for the past several years with very satisfactory results is outlined in the following photos.

Half gallon milk carton used as starting tray for seeds.

Cutting off one side of carton with utility knife.

Half gallon milk jug with side removed.

Milk carton filled half full of screened potting soil.

Here is the seed planting template made from the discarded side piece.

The seed planting template was made from a discarded milk carton side. I used a simple paper hole punch to make the holes. They are spaced 3/4″ apart in nine rows with four holes per row.

The template with 9 rows of 4 seed holes placed on top of the potting soil.

The template is placed in the soil filled milk carton and I use the point of a pencil to make a planting cavity in each hole of the template. Than an individual allium seed is placed in each hole using a pair of tweezers.

Tiny paper marker used to keep track of each row of of 4 as seeds are inserted.

I use a small scrap of paper to help keep track of which row I am filling. After the 36 seeds are put in place the template is removed and a thin layer of sifted potting soil is applied to cover the seeds. After gently tamping down the surface I water liberally using a spray bottle. It is important to keep the surface of the soil moist for good germination.

Sprouting onion seeds.

Once the seedlings have emerged and become substantial a more aggressive method of watering can be used. Alliums like moist but not soggy soil. In a few weeks they will be ready to transplant.

I will outline the transplanting process that I use when the time comes.

The next post will be about baking my own bread.

Recycled newspaper seedling pots.

March 9th, 2012

I searched the web for a simple way to make seed starting pots from newspaper but I found only those that were made either using a purchased fixture, a fairly complex origami fold or wrapped around a container them taped or crimped to hold it together. I didn’t like any of the designs and the sizes were not what I needed.

In the past I tried using toilet paper tubes (they disintegrated before I was ready to transplant the seedlings) and paper towel tubes (they were sturdier and lasted long enough to make it to transplant. The tubes were cut to length but neither worked really well for me and wasted usable root volume.

Square pots would work better because I likewise use recycled half gallon milk cartons as seedling trays into which 8 round tubes fitted neatly but left much unused space. The square pots will provide more volume for root development.

Since I use approximately 300 individual pots the technique to make them needed to be simple and fast. If I make 10 pots per day it takes about 11 or 12 minutes with an extra 7 or 8 minutes if I put bottom inserts in them. So in one month I could have my 300 pots if I worked at it every day for about 20 minutes, but alas I rarely make pots every day so I estimate that it will take about two months if I get 10 pots done each other day.

In order to get exactly what I needed I came up with my own design using our local sale paper which when the sheets are cut into quarters provides pieces that measure approximately 8 1/2 inches by 11 1/4 inches.

I make the square pots 3 inches tall and 1 5/8 on each side. This allows 8 pots to fit nicely into one of the half gallon milk cartons.

The following series of photos show how the pots are constructed and fitted with bottoms, if desired and installed into the milk cartons.

Quarter sheet of newspaper approximately 8 1/2" by 11".

With 11" side facing you use 3" template to fold into 3 layers.

First fold over using 3" template.

Second fold down over first fold forming three layers 3" high by 11" long.

Using 1 5/8" teplate fold over four times.

After the four folds are complete there will be some excess.

Cut off the excess.

Unfolded this will give you five sections of the same size.

Insert one of the end sections into the fold of the other end section.

This gives you a square bottomless seedling pot.

Using the scrap that was cut off fold it around the 1 5/8" template several times.

Slide template out and rotate 90 degrees and fold up the exposed ends.

Insert this into the top of the pot with the flaps pointed up.

Force it all the way down in to form the bottom.

Here is a view of the pot with the bottom in place.

Here is how the pots fit into the half gallon milk cartons. Eight fit nicely.

Here are eight pots in a milk carton awaiting potting soil and seeds.

Next post will show how I start onions, leeks, and shallots from seeds.