The Birth of the Goo
Being a celiac, I pretty much have to bake my own bread. If you look hard enough, you can find gluten-free bread in some specialty stores, but I've never found any that was even remotely edible. So, I make my own.
And let's be honest -- it's not really bread. It's kind of an interesting head-fake, but it doesn't have the texture and taste of real wheat bread. Hey. You do the best you can under the circumstances.
The other day, I tried making some french bread and it was a reasonable imitation, but it occurred to me that if I could make sourdough french bread, I could get even closer to the real thing. So I set about trying to find some sourdough starter.
I looked for days through a number of local grocery stores... most of the time the store employees just blinked at me when I asked if they had any sourdough starter. When I finally did find some, it was -- of course -- full of "hard white flour".
Eventually I turned to the web and at long last I found a recipe for making my own starter:
- 1 package yeast
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 2 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups bread flour
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add sugar, vinegar, salt, flour. Add remaining water until a creamy batter is formed. Place in a glass bowl, cover and let sit until it starts to ferment (about 3 days). It will take on a powerful boozy smell. Stir again until creamy and measure out what is called for in the recipe. Replenish starter with equal amounts of flour and water. Store in fridge and bring to room temperature before using.
Obviously I couldn't use the bread flour, but in a lot of simple recipes you can get away with substituting various gluten-free flours. So, I figured, what the hell, why not try substituting a gluten-free flour mix I picked up from Bette Hagman (2 parts white rice flour, 2/3 part potato starch flour, 1/3 part tapioca flour)?
Unfortunately, by the time I'd added only about half the 2 cups of water, the batter had become more like milk than cream. So, winging it (you do that a lot trying to get gluten-free stuff to work), I just threw in more of the gluten-free flour and less of the remaining water. I'd guess the total amounts ended up being more like: 1 and 1/3 cups warm water, and 2 and 2/3 cups gluten-free flour. That seemed to give it the right "creamy" consistency. (When it comes time to "replenish", my guess is I will have to add about two parts flour to about one part water.)
So, anyway, per the recipe, I threw the whole mess into a glass container, sealed it, and let it sit for three days. After the three days were up, I flipped the lid and -- sure enough -- it had that nice, boozy smell described in the recipe.
So, who the hell knows? Maybe I did it? Maybe I've given birth to some gluten-free sourdough starter. I'll try it out this weekend, see what kind of sourdough bread I end up with.
I have to say that if I really did get it to work, it's going to be particularly gratifying. I can recall being introduced to my grandmother's sourdough starter when I was a little boy. At the time, I think they told me it had been living in gram's refrigerator for something like twenty or thirty years. I was fascinated by the notion that there was this weird creature living in there. Every once in a while, grams would go in and remove some of it, then "feed" it to keep it nice and healthy. I may have imagined it was a little bit like having some weird, Outer Limits pet in your refrigerator. I may have worried a bit about what it would do if you didn't "feed" it when and how you were supposed to.
So now I have given birth to one of my own. Naturally I'm feeling a little bit paternal at the moment. I look forward to taking "Bud" to Yankee Stadium for the first time, teaching him to ride a bike, and so forth.
Though I think I probably won't be starting a college fund.