I have had a sourdough starter dormant in my refrigerator for over 10 years. It made the move with me from New York to Pennsylvania and today I thought I would try and revive it. I read that this culture is hard to kill. When it goes into a dormant state the culture settles on the bottom of the jar and forms a thick white sludge. A dark water like liquid forms on the top and it’s commonly called hooch. It’s actually a layer of alcohol formed by the culture that protects everything below it. Sort of a well balanced environment for the dormant culture. I took the jar out of the refrigerator and stirred up the hooch into the culture below. When done it was like the consistency of heavy cream. Everything above the hooch was nasty so I just poured the stirred mixture into a clean mason jar. I fed it a half a cup of flour, stirred it well, and will now wait to see what happens. Once it reaches room temperature, if it’s still alive, I should start to see bubbles forming and the culture start to grow. I’ll give it 24 hours and empty about a cup of the liquid down the drain, then add another cup of flour and filtered water.
It took three days to regenerate the culture. When I checked this morning it was a bubbly mass inside the jar and almost doubled in size. One more day of feeding and I should be ready to make a loaf. These little beasties are amazing. A living organism that can go 10 years without eating and still survive. They got my respect.
It’s time I start digging through all my recipes on making sourdough bread. The years of experimenting and baking are all down on paper. The wonderful thing about sour dough is the flavor. This is a natural yeast, not like the commercially grown yeast that rises quick. The slow rise process goes through a fermenting process and that is what adds the flavor to the bread. There are some cultures that are hundreds of years old. Some bakeries in Europe are using the same culture that they used during the time of Napoleon. They just keep feeding the pot of culture every time they take some. If I use a cup of active culture in my recipe I always add a cup of flour and cup of water to the pot, and keep it going. If I don’t bake for a while I’ll just put the active culture in the refrigerator and when I’m ready to use it just repeat the process.
Pane Cafone (Country man’s bread)
500 Gm (3 1/2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
235 ml (1 cup) water
235 ml (1 cup) active sourdough culture
2 teaspoons sea salt
Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap loosely and proof at least 5 hours at room temperature. 80 degrees is the ideal temp so I put the bowl in the oven with the oven light on and that holds the oven at a constant 80 degrees.
Once the dough doubles in size, I pull a corner of the ball and fold it over itself. I do this to the other three sides. I flip it over and place it on a piece of parchment paper on my cutting board, cover it with a towel, and return it to proof for another 3 hours. Before I put it in the oven I make a slash or two on the top.
Bake in a preheated oven on a baking stone at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack for at least an hour before you slice.