Sourdough Starter

Picture, if you will, a swaying wagon train following a cattle drive fording the Red River in the mid-1800s as it passes north from Texas into Oklahoma, on its way to the trailhead and stockyards in Kansas City. As the pioneers set up camp, the "cookie" arranges the vittles and brings out the sourdough starter, which is much like this one, to prepare the bread. At around the same time in history, a gnarled and bearded '49er pioneer outfitted in his new fangled Levi jeans prepares for a day panning for gold in northern California by taking a piece of starter from his wooden pail and making up a sourdough loaf. Such is the stuff of culinary legend, but sourdough is rooted in this very real heritage.

San Francisco is often thought of as the sourdough capital of the United States, probably because sourdough bread has remained popular there ever since Gold Rush days. Making the initial starter is a three-day process, so plan ahead if you want to make sourdough for the first time. You may need to visit a natural foods store to find the organic stone ground unbleached white flour

  • 1-1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 cup spring water

1. To prepare the starter, place the milk in a mixing bowl.

2. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk.

3. Whisk in the honey and 1-1/2 cups of the flour.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (72 to 76 degrees F.) for 72 hours (3 days).

5. After 72 hours, stir in the 1/4 cup water and whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup flour.

6. Cover again with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours; the mixture should be bubbly and have a sour, tangy aroma and taste.

7. Remove the amount of starter the recipe calls for and set aside.

8. Transfer the remaining starter to a sterile' glass jar and replenish it by mixing in 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Recipe from:

Flavored Breads
Recipes From Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe
by Mark Miller and Andrew MacLauchlan
176 pages, full-color $19.9
paper, ISBN: 0-89815-862-1 $29.95,
cloth, ISBN: 0-89815-889-3
Publication Date: January 1, 1997

Reprinted by permission


Western Cookbooks

Flavored Breads



This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007

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