Monday, July 15, 2013

Sourdough and Water Kefir--My First Attempts!

I was so excited to find out--through Facebook-- that Craig's aunt Lori has recently been experimenting with water kefir and sourdough! By the way, do you pronounce it KEE-fur, or keh-FEAR? I'd always heard it in my head as the former, but Lori pronounces it the latter. Threw me off the first time I heard her say it..and I still don't know which way I like to say it. But, anywho.

After reading Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz not very long ago, fermentation was 'fresh' on the brain (that has to be some kind of weird opposite pun)..and to say I was extremely enthusiastic is an understatement. Craig's sister can only shake her head when I get overly excited about the most mundane things--I do tend to get a little over the top. I may have jumped up and down when Lori offered me starts of both her sourdough (which she started from nothing but rye flour and water), and water kefir grains.

Lori said she'd have the starts ready for me at the 4th of July family gathering. I could barely contain my joy; you'd have thought someone had told me I'd just won the lottery.

The 4th of July gathering is a huge deal each year. We head deep into the country, an hour-long drive of nothing but fields and farmhouses. The boys anticipate swimming in the huge pool at Aunt Nancy's (with a rustic barn right in the background), and I anticipate catching up with Craig's maternal family, the kindest bunch of people you'll ever meet. The family is surrounded by a large Amish community, and there is nothing like sitting on the front porch of Nancy's house while Amish neighbors drive by in their buggies and wave. I mean, hello? Good old fashioned country joy, anyone?

Lori lives across the road from Nancy, and she took me over to get my 'babies'. While I was there, she showed me her gardens and fruit trees, as I gawked the whole while. I eat this stuff up, and she sensed it, and we bonded. It was great. Did I ever mention that finding out I have kindred spirits in my midst, under my nose without ever having known it, is one of my biggest joys in life?

I put Patrick in charge of holding the kefir babies, and I tucked the sourdough into a cupholder for the hour drive home. I couldn't wait to start experimenting.

The kefir fermentation is a process that is going to take some practice. This link offers lots of helpful tips. It likes eating sugar, and that is what makes it bubbly and delicious. One of the things I've been using to make the final bubbly kefir is my sour cherry syrup (click here for my post about 6 ways with sour cherries).

The sourdough has been an experience in trial and error. After two disastrous loaves, I finally made the perfect free-form loaf that just absolutely blew me away. The texture was there, the bubbles were there, the tang was there. I used the recipe that Lori gave me, as follows. I modified it just a bit.

As the summer progresses, I hope to practice my sourdough and kefir methods! Just starting out though, I have to admit--the success I'm having is fun and tasty. 

Rustic No-yeast Sourdough Bread  

--bake at 475 for about 15 minutes
1 cup room temperature starter (leave out overnight if you keep the starter in the fridge) 3/4 c. room temp water 3/4 tsp. sea salt 2 cups bread flour (variable--could be more or less) Mix ingredients and knead for 5-6 minutes. Let the dough rise till doubled, then shape into a loaf (whatever shape you desire) and place on baking sheet (I always use parchment paper, but you could grease the pan instead) . Cover and let double again (when you press with fingerprint, the imprint stays). Bake at 475 for around 15 minutes (depending on the shape of the loaf and your oven). When you put the bread in the oven, give a good spritz of water with a water mister to create steam. This will help create a nice crust! Put it on a cooling rack to cool. Sourdough is supposed to keep at room temp for several days. I suppose it depends on the humidity in your house, though.

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