Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Bun In The Oven

Having sourdough starter in the house is like having a baby - it needs constant attention or there will be accidents. I received this generous gift from my blog pal, Jim Sartain of Sartain's Sauce fame, but it has been a mixed blessing.

For one thing, you have to feed it. If you don't add more flour and water more or less daily, it dies. You can refrigerate it and that slows down the need to feed frequently, but the possibility of it being shoved to the back and forgotten is very real, at least in my house.

For another thing, it grows. You start with a cute little container of starter but adding flour and water daily adds quickly to the bulk. Before you know it, you have breadzilla on your hands, foaming and bubbling away on the counter, chuckling to itself and plotting like HAL. You keep moving it to a larger and larger container unless you bake daily. For a gal strictly raised on "Waste not, want not," just throwing the extra away seems sinful. I have offered some to all my neighbors but it's like zucchini season - they run and hide now when they see me coming.*

In desperation, I decided to make hamburger buns for our simple burger dinner, knowing that I could freeze part of the yield for another day. On a visit to Chilebrown's house to meet, fondle, and fall in love with his beautiful new baby, a soft and sweet puppy, I asked him for a recipe for sourdough buns. He didn't have one but his advice was Nikean - "Just try it." he said. "The worst that can happen is you have to throw away some." Good point - an honest failure is a good excuse to use up some of the ever-growing starter.

I went online. What else does anyone do when they have a baking question? I found several sites that offered recipes, but none seemed just right, so I kinda-sorta made up my own. I mixed and rose, punched down and shaped, and rose again before baking. Because I forgot to use an egg wash to brighten and brown the tops, my finished product was a little plain jane but it's the texture and the taste that really matter, right?

The recipe made substantial buns, not light but not leaden either, using a combination of white and wheat flours. The taste was quite complementary to the burgers and the fresh, yeasty smell in the house was a bonus. All in all, they were a nice success. If that seems like damning with faint praise, I will admit I was aiming for somewhat lighter buns - I may have added too much flour or not given them sufficient time to rise. Anyway, they soaked up our hamburger juices in satisfactory style and I will use the ones I froze rather than offer them to the NHL as hockey pucks.

But, as in making the decision to have a baby, accepting sourdough starter is a commitment not to be undertaken lightly.

Sourdough Hamburger Buns

1 cup sourdough starter (let me know if you need some!)
1 cup milk
1/8 cup honey
1 large egg
3-4 cups whole wheat flour, divided in two
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

I dumped all but two cups of the flour into my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attached and started it on low speed, adding more flour when the dough came together too sticky. I added all the extra flour little by little and, in retrospect, it might have been better to settle for a slightly stickier dough in order to get lighter buns, or to let them rise longer. Makes 8 buns.

*Since writing this, Chilebrown relieved me of half of my growing starter. He is currently my hero.







17 Comments:

Blogger Hungry Dog said...

I received some sourdough starter in the fall after taking a bread baking class at Tante Marie. I held on to that starter (which supposedly had been kept alive since the 70s) for a month, feeding it exactly once. Then, goodbye. I felt bad. But, just as I am not cut out for children, I am not cut out for sourdough starter. Which is all to say I am very impressed with you!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger James said...

I too hate to throw out the "extra" starter but what are you going to do? I save 8oz of starter mixed with 8oz of flour and 8oz of water, this gives me 1 1/2 cups of starter to bake with and 8 oz to feed. I have found I can skip a day every now and then without doing any damage. I do hope I haven't sent you a chore as I was going for good eats, Cheers.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Hungry Dog, I'm not cut out for children, either, but not to worry - I'm sure that good starter is still out there somewhere living happily with someone else.

James, this is a case of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. (Don't tell anyone but I'm actually enjoying it). ;-)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Greg said...

Sounds like a full time job but who can argue with good bread.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

That pretty much sums up why I won't be giving sourdough starter a try. I don't even really like baking yeast bread.
However! Hats off to you! Beautiful. Well done.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, I may have exaggerated a teensy bit, for effect. :-)

Cookiecrumb, thanks, it's satisfying in a big way.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger James said...

This is un-related and I hope you don't mind but...
http://savorcal.com/our_company_newsletter.php

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

James, I don't mind at all - maybe I'll even pick up a new reader or two. I had forgotten that recipe and it sounded so good on re-reading that I'm going to go out and get the makings to repeat it this week!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger James said...

Jane would like to subscribe to your blog but can't figure out how to do it. If you think you can help here is her email:
info@SavorCalifornia.com
She is a very nice lady and is totally into food.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger namastenancy said...

I was starting to wonder about that huge mound of white something- or- other slurping over the hill at Pt. Richmond. Now I know - the starter that tried to eat the place. Good for you on nurturing it; I have tried a few times but not felt that I was successful.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

James, I will contact her and try to assist, but I'm pretty digitally challenged, myself. Thanks for the introduction.

Nancy, I call it Son of the Blob. :-) You're welcome to some any time you feel like baking something.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

We made a loaf of sourdough bread yesterday. Everybody loved it. It had a great sour tang. Thanks for the starter. I will pass it on if anhybody is interested.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

Starter is pretty forgiving. It will keep in the freezer. If you keep it in the refrigerator you can feed it every other week. The freezer even longer.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Chilebrown, thanks for the starter tips, especially the freezer one, and I'm glad you used it as it should be used. I have more any time you need it. I want to try those cinnamon rolls...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012  
Anonymous jann said...

And I want an invite when those cinnamon rolls get tried. KILLER!

Friday, February 10, 2012  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Jann, let's make them together! I need moral support to try something that complicated.

Saturday, February 11, 2012  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home