Guido, the Sock Monkey, sits by my work computer to remind me not to take myself so seriously. Maybe he's wrong ... maybe I need to be more serious about myself. Frightening thought. Let's move on.
It was Jerry's 15 1/4 birthday this weekend. He's a Leap Day baby and I find that celebrating his birthday has an amorphous quality about it most years. When, oh, when does it Happen? This year we went to China Yuck in Cañon City for dinner - it really isn't yucky and it really isn't called that and, it's quite...okay. But, there are the local legend tales of rats and cockroaches in the kitchen so that explains our moniker for the place. We like the proprietors and have watched their children grow from the Head Start bus to waiters to... ? After the pu pu platter and fried rice we drove to Pueblo to see Slumdog Millionaires. I loved it, I loved the "bally-dancing" credits, too.
It's getting to the time of year when seeds are planted. My little guys are growing under the grow lights and Jerry is helping me fashion a coldframe so we can get some spinach and lettuce going real early. I'll post about the coldframe later.
I've got mostly tomatoes started but I also started some argula and other greens. Those (the lettuces) will go into the coldframe (when it's finished). I'm growing green onions for the first time! My stepdad always grew onions and garlic and this is my first year. You can see the spray bottle of vinegar and water off on the upper right. That is for Miss May, our nasty little cat (not really nasty - she gets away with all sorts of things as a rule). Last year she decimated my entire seedling garden. Came home from work and found all the little seedlings batted here and there. She gets a squirt of vinegar water if she even thinks about my seedlings this year. And that's only happened once so far. I saturate that pink washcloth with vinegar and keep it hanging off the side of the card table. She does not like it.
For the past week I've been diligently feeding a sour dough starter every 12 hours. I was trying to get a starter going using wild yeasts but it's dry here and winter and - no good. I had a little growth (you can tell when it bubbles) but not near enough to raise a loaf of bread. So I went ahead and started another bunch using commercial yeast. I've been reading all sorts of posts on these sour dough endeavors. It's a bit of a cult, I think. Some folks say you have to have a "real" starter if you can't capture the wild yeasts in the air. I had a starter for years that originally was from commercial yeast. It had a wonderful sour tang and I am convinced that it had taken on the wild yeasts of Colorado eventually. Rather than pay some bucks to have one mailed to me I think this will do just fine.
Sour dough breads are said to be easier on your digestive system because there is already some fermentation of the grains going on with the "souring". I've pretty much eliminated most grain from my diet - bread makes me fat in the stomach and I get heartburn something awful. But I love bread. So, I want to keep trying. Maybe if I didn't eat so MUCH of it....?
Here's a sour dough starter recipe using commercial yeast. In a crock or glass jar, mix together 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup warmish water (you don't want to kill the yeast so don't make it hot water), 2 1/4 tsps of commercial yeast (or 1 cake), 1 tsp sugar. Let it sit loosely covered for 48 hours. (If it's in a real warm spot it won't take this long). It should have a pleasant sour smell. At this point you want to "feed" your starter and make a permanent starter pot. Use another cup of flour, 1 cup of warmish water, and a scant tsp of sugar. Let it bubble up or "work" for 12 hours. The sour dough is now ready to use in sour dough recipes. The longer you keep a starter going, the more it takes on your own special locale in terms of the wild yeasts it accumulates. I love this aspect of the art.
To make a "basic batter" you mix one cup of starter, 2 cups of lukewarm water, 2 1/2 cups of flour, and one tablespoon of sugar. Put it in a large glass or plastic bowl and let it "work" overnight or at least 6 hours. To make two loaves of bread
2 tablespoons of melted butter
3/4 cup of milk
2 tablespoons honey
2 tsp salt
4-5 cups flour
3 cups of basic batter
Mix wet ingredients, then dry. Knead for 8 -10 minutes. It should not stick to your hands. Place in lightly greased bowl and let rise until double 45 -60 minutes. Punch down, shape into loaves. Let rise again. Bake at 375 degrees F.
There are so many recipes using sour dough starter - it makes a wonderful yeasty biscuit and fabulous corn bread in addition to breads. I think you can get a starter going with commercial yeast and just let it "work" over the weeks. You'll eventually get a special starter that is just right for where you live. Remember to feed the pot. You can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks at a time - just pour some off or use it in a recipe and feed it every so often.