Homeschooling is about nurturing the whole person–the body and the soul. Naturally leavened bread seems to be much healthier for the body than bread made with commercial yeast and it is definitely good for the soul.
People with gluten issues, candida and celiac, seem to be fine with natural yeast breads.
I made my own starter using the instructions in Peter Reinhart’s The Breadbaker’s Apprentice. I absolutely love knowing that I can make my own starter and I don’t have to depend on grocery stores for yeast. I have used Reinhart’s instructions for basic sourdough and I have used the recipe for sourdough that is found at the Daniel’s Challenge website. Both were wonderful, but the one on the website is a little less complicated.
To keep your starter ready to use, refresh it* at least every three days. You can leave it in the fridge for a week or two, but it will not be usable until you’ve refreshed it. So, if it has been sitting for several days, you will refresh it, let it rise for about six hours, maybe more and maybe less, depending on the temperature in your home. If it has doubled in size and is nice and bubbly, then you can use it to make bread. I have, on occasion, when I was gone or too busy to bake for over two weeks, had to refresh twice before baking a good loaf of bread.
Watch the videos at Daniel’s Challenge for instructions on making the bread. Note my personal methods here and do what works for you.
- Before bedtime, mix the ingredients, adding flour to make a stiff dough that is just a little tacky on clean dry fingers.
- Continue kneading in your bread mixer for at least 10 minutes. (If you’re doing it by hand it is a little more complicated. Feel free to ask me questions.)
- Turn the dough into a large oiled bowl, at least twice the size of your ball of dough, and then flip it, so the top of the dough is oiled.
- Cover with a damp towel.
- Put plastic over the damp towel while the dough is rising over-night, so that the towel doesn’t dry out. (May not be necessary in humid climates.)
- Mostly following the directions in the video, put dough on wet counter, knead a bit and then shape the loaves. I don’t roll it out, as it says to do in the video.
- Let loaves rise for roughly an hour, depending on the temperature in the kitchen and the activity of the dough, and then score them with a sharp knife or razor blade before baking.
- I use the bottom part of my broiler pan for a water pan and heat the oven 425 or 450 before putting loaves in, making sure that the oven is steamy. (Don’t stick your hands or head in to check, though.)
- I bake the loaves on “couches” or in my Pampered Chef stoneware loaf pans or in 1.6 liter CorningWare dishes. (Oil them first.)
- I turn the loaves over in the pans about 11 min. before they are done baking to make the bottom crusty. (It may just be that my oven doesn’t cook evenly.)
- I put a damp towel on them as they cool on a rack. Let them cool a good 45 minutes before you cut them.
I’m totally thrilled with the way the bread is turning out. I have used white bread flour, which is fantastic. (Using white flour on your first try might be easier. It’s still better for you than commercial yeast bread; it just won’t have all the nutrition it could have.) I have used 100% whole wheat, which is a different flavor, but still delicious. And I have used mostly white with three cups of rye flour/kamut flour (3 cups total; the rest is unbleached bread flour). The rye/kamut/white is my favorite, so far. I’ve also made cinnamon rolls, which were delicious. Do whatever you want to do. Don’t be afraid to experiment. And don’t think you’ve killed the starter, until you talk to me. (If it has blackish water on top, drain it off and use normally. If it is purple or orange throw it away.)
Once you get going and you have some extra starter on hand try making some delicious crackers.
You may also want to try vitamin B12 enriched bread.
*To refresh: Add at least as much flour as you have starter and water to make the whole mass about the same consistency as the starter. You minimize the sourness by adding fresh flour and using newly refreshed starter. The longer the starter sits unrefreshed, or the less flour you add, the more sour your bread will be. Also, the longer your bread sits on the counter, the more sour it will become.