No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread – Easy Peasy

No-knead techniques have taken the baking world by storm, or really been rediscovered by storm, and are a wonderful addition to any bread baker’s arsenal.  Truly, there is nothing I love better than pulling several loaves of freshly baked bread from the oven, whether it’s on the boat or in our home.

For me, the connection of homemade bread to our roots, to our communities, to our families and to our personal nutrition is a tie that weaves beautifully through all of these multi-layered parts of our lives.  I know, I know, there are a number of us that can’t have gluten and even more who shun bread due to the carbohydrate thing, but truly, a kale smoothie just doesn’t make the same heart and soul connection for me.

This bread is wonderful with a bowl of soup on a chilly spring day or toasted for breakfast and slathered with some homemade jam.  It’s a staple on our Maine windjammer and one I make at home all the time too.

IMG_3195a

No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing the pans
12 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 cups warm water (more or less)

Grease 3 loaf pans and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mixing with one hand while turning the bowl with the other, add the water.  When the flour is fully incorporated into the dough, turn out onto a floured counter and cut into three equal pieces.  Press into rectangular shapes and roll the dough gently into a log.  Transfer to the prepared loaf pans, cover, and set aside for several hours until the loaves have doubled in size.   Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown on the outside and the loaves come out of the pans easily. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 3 loaves

Annie
Happy baking to you and to me!

Sun-dried Tomato, Artichoke and Spinach No Knead Bread

Let’s be honest, there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread in your own home to make you feel accomplished and cozy all at the same time.  This is a no knead version, so it’s super simple.  Mix, wait, shape, wait, bake, wait.  Eat.  With butter.  What could be better?

Sun-dried Tomato, Artichoke and Spinach No Knead Bread

5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup artichokes, drained and broken into pieces
1 cup lightly packed spinach, de-stemmed, washed and well-drained
1 to 2 cups of warm water

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, mix in the sourdough starter, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Begin to add water until the dough just barely forms a ball and there are no little dry bits hanging out in the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight, until the surface of the dough has risen and is flat, not rounded. For those who have worked with traditional kneaded dough, this will look like a disaster. Just wait, it will be fine.Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 1

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a heavy (empty) pan or skillet in the bottom of the oven (you’ll use this when you put your bread in the oven to create steam). I use a cast iron skillet, filled with rocks I’ve picked from the garden and scrubbed clean, to create a sauna of sorts. It just stays in the oven all the time. The addition of moisture into the oven air helps the bread rise more and then creates a terrific crust.Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 2

Shape the dough into the loaves of your choice – 3 baguettes, 2 batons or 1 large boule. Do this by turning the dough onto a floured surface, cutting into the number of pieces you need and gently turning the edges under to form the desired shape. Sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal or rice flour and place the loaf/loaves on the baking sheet.Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 3

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 4

Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again for another 20 to 45 minutes depending on the size and looseness of your loaf/loaves.

Slash the tops of the loaf/loaves with a sharp knife, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and immediately pour a cup of warm water into the pan on the bottom of the oven to create the aforementioned steam. Be extra careful with this step and quickly remove your arm from the oven once you’ve poured the water.

Bake until the exterior is golden brown and the bottom is firm, from 25 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your loaf/loaves.

Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato & Artichoke No Knead Bread 6
Happy that the house is warm and my belly is full
Annie

 

No-Knead Bread 101 – Artisinal Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread

Bread is not easy.  Anytime we deal with a living organism, there is unpredictability.  Live things just don’t always do what we wish, or it takes longer, or it happens faster.  In any event, it’s not always on our exacting timetable.  But it doesn’t have to be so maddening.

Roasted Garlic & Olive No Knead Bread Recipe by Annie Mahle

A number of people have said to me recently that they’ve tried and failed to make their own bread.  We’re going to work on that, because once you get it, there is nothing more satisfying in the cooking world than pulling a beautiful loaf of bread out of your own oven.  Even after 25 years of cooking and making bread on a daily basis on the boat, I still love it.

We’ll begin with a step by step of the guideline/recipe in Sugar and Salt:  Book One and move on to adding grains and different ingredients.  I’ll be posting once a month or so and then take a break over the summer.  We’ll come back to it in the fall, just in time for the first chilly snap of frost that makes us think of heating the house and warming our bellies.

This recipe requires a Dutch oven.  This covered pot creates a convective space for moist air, which allows the bread to rise beautifully, and then, once the moisture has dissipated, creates a terrific crust.  I use this method at home frequently.  However, on the Riggin I need to make 4 loaves at a time – but I don’t have the space for 4 Dutch ovens.  So I choose the other, more traditional method that is in Sugar & Salt:  Book One.

Basic No-Knead Recipe
5 cups flour (or flours) of your choice
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 to 2 cups water

Roasted Garlic and Black Olive Bread
to the basic recipe add:
1 cup pitted black olives
1/3 cup peeled roasted garlic cloves; about 1 head roasted garlic

Combine all ingredients except water in a large bowl.   Add water and mix with one hand, adding water until the dough just barely forms a ball and there are no little dry bits hanging out in the bowl. Depending on how moist the olives and garlic are, the amount of water can vary from 1 cup to 2 cups.   This dough should feel too wet to knead and like biscuit dough in moisture content.

Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap; and let the dough rise at room temperature overnight, until the surface of the dough has risen and is flat, not rounded.  For those who have worked with traditional kneaded dough, this will look like a disaster.  Just wait, it will be fine.

Place a Dutch oven (an oven proof pan with a lid) into the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Shape the dough into a round boule by tucking the dough loosely under itself; place the loaf in a bowl lined with parchment paper.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise again until doubled, another 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Slash the tops of the loaf with a sharp knife and transfer the parchment paper and dough to the hot Dutch oven and cover with the hot lid.

Bake until the exterior is golden brown and the bottom is firm; about 50 to 70 minutes (no peeking for at least the first half hour).  Remove from both the oven and the Dutch oven and let cool before slicing.

Sourdough Recipes

My Bread by Jim Lahey, all about the no-knead bread process, is my new favorite read.  Mostly, it’s my new favorite “look” because the book has a number of super helpful photo essays that illustrate what the bread should look like, step by step.  When I initially wrote my column on no-knead bread using my 100 year plus sourdough, there were LOTS of questions that were posed by readers.  Many of them hard to answer because I couldn’t see what you created and I, in the format provided by the Portland Press Herald, couldn’t show you what it should look like.

 

Before I go any farther, I’d like to offer to anyone who would like to try using sourdough, a small bit of my starter.  It’s over 100 years old, given to me by a guest and absolutely meant to be shared. It’s just $10 plus shipping and I’ll send a cup of the starter to you with directions on how to feed it.

The Portland Press, in wisdom known only to them, has discontinued links to all past articles, including my columns.  And so I give you the no-knead sourdough column again in it’s entirety.

March 11, 2009
No-Knead Bread Recipes

Rustic Sourdough Bread
Brown Rice and Flax Seed Sourdough Bread
Maple Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

The smell of yeasty, mouth-watering bread baking in the oven is one of the most evocative smells to emanate from a kitchen.  It’s also one of the cheapest foods you can make for yourself and even more so when adding leftover cooked grains, nuts, compoted fruit, roasted peppers or onions.  And with so much talk of budgetary constraints recently, it’s a pleasure to give you recipes that can reduce your food budget while at the same time increase your enjoyment and nutrition at the table.  But making your own bread sometimes comes with a bit of interpretation, especially if you haven’t had the benefit of watching a mother or grandmother complete the process.  It’s my hope that the absence of kneading in these recipes tempts you to try one of the most rewarding efforts a cook/baker could have in the kitchen.

Almost two years ago now, Mark Bittman, food columnist for the New York Times, published a recipe for no knead bread baked in a Dutch oven and less than a year later Cook’s Illustrated published their own, more scientific version.  Both articles can be Googled online should you be interested in the source material for this article.

When I read Mr. Bittman’s article, I was skeptical, but as always, game to try anything once.  The claim was that baking bread this way achieved for the home cook what steam ovens and professional methods did for artisanal bakeries – an irregular-holed crumb and a full, crispy golden crust.  These two hallmarks are at least two of the characteristics that make bakery bread so special.

The Cook’s Illustrated article focuses on the flavor of the bread, as Bittman had perfected the method, trying to infuse a sourdough taste into the bread without using sourdough.  I followed the Cook’s recipe and found that I actually liked using my own sourdough over their method of adding beer.

The bottom line is that these recipes work and they do make excellent bread.  What I’ve done is to build on them to suggest a few variation and reintroduce the sourdough flavor into the bread.  Because ultimately, the kind of bread I make on any given day depends on what’s kicking around in the refrigerator waiting to be used up.  Just to give a few examples, when I was testing the recipes for this column, I found brown rice, oatmeal, cheesy mashed potatoes, polenta, roasted poblano peppers and ginger stewed prunes.  Not all meant to go into the same loaf mind you, but definitely promising for interesting bread, full of taste.

In the over 20 years that I’ve been baking, I’ve been able to attain a fairly decent crust, crumb and texture to my bread in my home oven and yet, a full, crispy crust had always been out of reach.  I’ve tried ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, spraying water mist over the bread and finally arrived at a cast iron pan filled with stones and used just as you would a sauna by pouring a cup of water over hot stones and closing the oven door quickly.  This pan just lives in the bottom of my oven, ready for action anytime.  Even with the most effective method, my crust has been good, but not great.

The techniques for these recipes are all the same and the baking time varies only a little.

To start, you need to plan when the dough gets mixed around when you will be home long enough to let it rise the second time and bake it.  This technique works especially well when you use different yeasts – rapid rise or regular.  When you want the bread for dinner the same day, mix it as soon as you wake up with rapid rise yeast to bake that evening.  When you’ll be home in the morning to bake, mix it the night before as you are making dinner with regular yeast.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and then add the wet ingredients, RESERVING some water.  The water is the only measurement in these recipes that should change.  The dough when thoroughly mixed should resemble biscuit dough that is a tiny bit too wet.  If it is at all dry, add more water.  For anyone who has tried bread making before, it looks like an absolute mess to knead.  And it would be if you were kneading it.  But lucky for all of us, we don’t have to do that.

Cover the dough and let rise for 8 to 14 hours.  Eight hours with rapid rise yeast and up to 14 hours with regular yeast.

Ready two bowls about the half the size of your dough by lining with parchment paper.
When the dough has risen and developed a level surface, it’s ready to shape.  When you first mix the dough, the surface of it is rounded and slightly ball-shaped.  When it’s ready to shape, the dough will have leveled off and look even more wet than it did initially.  Again, it looks like a mess to work with, but it’s doable.

Generously flour your hands and the counter and with a dough scraper or spatula, move the dough onto the floured counter.  Cut it in half and, with a generous application of flour, pull the edges of the dough into the center to form a ball.  You aren’t punching it down as you might with kneaded dough.  You actually want the air bubbles in the dough to mostly remain intact.  Form the dough with 10 to 15 folds to the center.  Quickly transfer the shaped dough to the parchment paper lined bowl.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Oil the dough lightly and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise to double its shape, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Half way through the rising time, place two Dutch ovens or other heavy oven proof pots with lids in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  When the dough has risen to double, transfer to the hot Dutch ovens by lifting the edges of the parchment paper to move the dough.  Don’t remove the parchment paper; you bake the loaves with it underneath.  Cover the Dutch ovens and return to the oven for the suggested time.  The baking time may vary some due to the thickness of the pots.

Rustic Sourdough Bread
5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
1 3/4 cups water

Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until an internal thermometer measures 210 degrees.
Makes 2 loaves.

Brown Rice and Flax Seed Sourdough Bread
If you’d like the benefit of the Omega-3 fat in flax seed, take the extra step to grind them in a spice/nut grinder.  I like both the nutty, crunchy taste and feel when they are whole as well.

6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/3 cup flax seed
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups water

Bake 1 hour and 15-20 minutes or until an internal thermometer measures 210 degrees.
Makes 2 loaves.

Maple Oatmeal Sourdough Bread
You can make this bread without the extract, but the fabulous smell or taste isn’t quite the same.  Try substituting vanilla instead.  Maple extract can be found in the baking section of your grocery store.

5 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups water

Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until an internal thermometer measures 210 degrees.
Makes 2 loaves.

A note about taking care of sourdough:  Use 1 cup per recipe and replace with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water.  Mix thoroughly and return to refrigerator.

Annie
For more information on sourdough, click the “bread” link on the right and scroll through past posts.

Column #168

March 11, 2009

No-Knead Bread Recipes

 

Rustic Sourdough Bread

Brown Rice and Flax Seed Sourdough Bread

Maple Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

 

The smell of yeasty, mouth-watering bread baking in the oven is one of the most evocative smells to emanate from a kitchen.  It’s also one of the cheapest foods you can make for yourself and even more so when adding leftover cooked grains, nuts, compoted fruit, roasted peppers or onions.  And with so much talk of budgetary constraints recently, it’s a pleasure to give you recipes that can reduce your food budget while at the same time increase your enjoyment and nutrition at the table.  But making your own bread sometimes comes with a bit of interpretation, especially if you haven’t had the benefit of watching a mother or grandmother complete the process.  It’s my hope that the absence of kneading in these recipes tempts you to try one of the most rewarding efforts a cook/baker could have in the kitchen.

 

Almost two years ago now, Mark Bittman, food columnist for the New York Times, published a recipe for no knead bread baked in a Dutch oven and less than a year later Cook’s Illustrated published their own, more scientific version.  Both articles can be Googled online should you be interested in the source material for this article.

 

When I read Mr. Bittman’s article, I was skeptical, but as always, game to try anything once.  The claim was that baking bread this way achieved for the home cook what steam ovens and professional methods did for artisanal bakeries – an irregular-holed crumb and a full, crispy golden crust.  These two hallmarks are at least two of the characteristics that make bakery bread so special.

 

The Cook’s Illustrated article focuses on the flavor of the bread, as Bittman had perfected the method, trying to infuse a sourdough taste into the bread without using sourdough.  I followed the Cook’s recipe and found that I actually liked using my own sourdough over their method of adding beer.

 

The bottom line is that these recipes work and they do make excellent bread.  What I’ve done is to build on them to suggest a few variation and reintroduce the sourdough flavor into the bread.  Because ultimately, the kind of bread I make on any given day depends on what’s kicking around in the refrigerator waiting to be used up.  Just to give a few examples, when I was testing the recipes for this column, I found brown rice, oatmeal, cheesy mashed potatoes, polenta, roasted poblano peppers and ginger stewed prunes.  Not all meant to go into the same loaf mind you, but definitely promising for interesting bread, full of taste.

 

Before I go any farther, I’d like to offer to anyone who would like to try using sourdough, a small bit of my starter.  It’s over 100 years old, given to me by a guest and absolutely meant to be shared. Just send your mailing address by email and I’ll send a cup of the starter to you with directions on how to feed it.

 

In the over 20 years that I’ve been baking, I’ve been able to attain a fairly decent crust, crumb and texture to my bread in my home oven and yet, a full, crispy crust had always been out of reach.  I’ve tried ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, spraying water mist over the bread and finally arrived at a cast iron pan filled with stones and used just as you would a sauna by pouring a cup of water over hot stones and closing the oven door quickly.  This pan just lives in the bottom of my oven, ready for action anytime.  Even with the most effective method, my crust has been good, but not great.

 

The techniques for these recipes are all the same and the baking time varies only a little.

 

To start, you need to plan when the dough gets mixed around when you will be home long enough to let it rise the second time and bake it.  This technique works especially well when you use different yeasts – rapid rise or regular.  When you want the bread for dinner the same day, mix it as soon as you wake up with rapid rise yeast to bake that evening.  When you’ll be home in the morning to bake, mix it the night before as you are making dinner with regular yeast.

 

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and then add the wet ingredients, RESERVING some water.  The water is the only measurement in these recipes that should change.  The dough when thoroughly mixed should resemble biscuit dough that is a tiny bit too wet.  If it is at all dry, add more water.  For anyone who has tried bread making before, it looks like an absolute mess to knead.  And it would be if you were kneading it.  But lucky for all of us, we don’t have to do that.

 

Cover the dough and let rise for 8 to 14 hours.  Eight hours with rapid rise yeast and up to 14 hours with regular yeast.

 

Ready two bowls about the half the size of your dough by lining with parchment paper.

When the dough has risen and developed a level surface, it’s ready to shape.  When you first mix the dough, the surface of it is rounded and slightly ball-shaped.  When it’s ready to shape, the dough will have leveled off and look even more wet than it did initially.  Again, it looks like a mess to work with, but it’s doable.

 

Generously flour your hands and the counter and with a dough scraper or spatula, move the dough onto the floured counter.  Cut it in half and, with a generous application of flour, pull the edges of the dough into the center to form a ball.  You aren’t punching it down as you might with kneaded dough.  You actually want the air bubbles in the dough to mostly remain intact.  Form the dough with 10 to 15 folds to the center.  Quickly transfer the shaped dough to the parchment paper lined bowl.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  Oil the dough lightly and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise to double its shape, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

 

Half way through the rising time, place two Dutch ovens or other heavy oven proof pots with lids in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  When the dough has risen to double, transfer to the hot Dutch ovens by lifting the edges of the parchment paper to move the dough.  Don’t remove the parchment paper; you bake the loaves with it underneath.  Cover the Dutch ovens and return to the oven for the suggested time.  The baking time may vary some due to the thickness of the pots.

 

Rustic Sourdough Bread

5 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 cup sourdough starter

1 3/4 cups water

 

Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until an internal thermometer measures 210 degrees.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

Brown Rice and Flax Seed Sourdough Bread

If you’d like the benefit of the Omega-3 fat in flax seed, take the extra step to grind them in a spice/nut grinder.  I like both the nutty, crunchy taste and feel when they are whole as well.

 

6 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 cup cooked brown rice

1/3 cup flax seed

1 cup sourdough starter

2 cups water

 

Bake 1 hour and 15-20 minutes or until an internal thermometer measures 210 degrees.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

Maple Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

You can make this bread without the extract, but the fabulous smell or taste isn’t quite the same.  Try substituting vanilla instead.  Maple extract can be found in the baking section of your grocery store.

 

5 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon maple extract

1 cup sourdough starter

1 1/2 cups water

 

Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until an internal thermometer measures 210 degrees.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

A note about taking care of sourdough:  Use 1 cup per recipe and replace with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water.  Mix thoroughly and return to refrigerator.  There isn’t enough space here to go into detail, but check out my food blog at www.artichokesandaspargus.com for more information.

 

As always, feel free to email with questions, I’m always happy to hear from you.

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Sourdough Starter Questons – Do I feed my starter before or after using it?

This was another question that was submitted about sourdough starters – related to a series of posts that happened in the winter of last year.  I’ve added some of the original posts if you are looking for more information.

I am storing my starter in the frig. I am using it about every 5 days.  When it comes time to use it in a recipe can I use it straight from the frig or do I have to feed it first, let it rest for a day out of the frig, and then use it?

I’ve done both.  Because I’m mostly using the starter for flavor in my no knead recipes rather than a leavening agent, I’m not sure it matters.  However, if your starter smells too strong, then I would feed it first to reduce the sour or ammonia smell and therefore taste of it.  Also, if you decide to use your starter for its rising properties, then I would feed it the night or morning before you use it.


Other posts on the same topic:

Sending out 100 year old sourdough starter

Sourdough starter – can you kill it?

Sourdough starter – can I use different flours in my starter?

And even more questions answered in these posts

Annie
Time to pull out the dutch ovens and get baking!


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Sourdough Starter Questions – Can I use starter in the bread machine?

A few more questions answered about sourdough…

What size Dutch oven do I need to use?
Mine are Piral Dutch ovens, terracotta pots imported from Italy, that were given to me as a gift when the first cookbook was published.  They are between 3 1/2 to 5 inches tall and 8 to 9 1/4 inches wide.  I know Mark Bittman uses Le Creuset pots.  It's also possible to use a sauce pan if it has a lid and is large enough to receive the dough.  It's not necessary to have top of the line pots, you just need one that is close to the right size and has an oven proof lid.

Can I use starter to make bread in the bread machine?
You can and in this case it would be more for adding flavor than for any levening properties.  Replace 7/8 cup of water in your recipe with one cup of sourdough.  This is an approximation and you'll need to see how your recipes respond. 

If my starter smells like ammonia or nail polish remover, is it bad?
No.  It's still good, this layer is just the "waste product," for lack of a better term, of the yeast eating the starch in the flour.  It does mean you could feed it a little more often if you chose to, but it's possible to have healthy sourdough that you only feed once a week. 

Annie

© 2009 Anne Mahle

The Maine Ingredient – latest column

Wow.  What a response to this weeks column in the Portland Press Herald on No Knead Sourdough Breads! Biggest response to a column ever.  The three recipes include Rustic Sourdough Bread, Brown Rice and Flax Seed Bread and Maple, Oatmeal, Sourdough Bread.  I’ll make the same offer to readers of the blog that I did in the column.  If you’d like to try working with sourdough in your bread, just email me with your address and I’d be happy to send you some of mine. It’s 100 years old and was given to me by a guest on our windjammer.

I’ve been refining my own version of this technique for over a year now based on Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times and the subsequent article that ran in Cook’s Illustrated.  Neither used sourdough and I’ve found it so easy to incorporate into what has become a solid producer of excellent quality bread with a thicky, crispy, golden crust and a moist, irregular-holed interior.

Space in the column didn’t allow for me to talk much about the care and feeding of a sourdough starter, and while it’s fairly simple, like everything, a few tips here and there to prevent major disasters is maybe helpful.  What is first and most important to remember about sourdough is that it is a living, growing organism.  For this reason, it’s most important to keep your culture in a loose lidded arrangement or a plastic container with a lid that can pop off.  If you store it in glass, the pressure will cause the glass to shatter and it is one unholy mess to clean up.

Because it is living, it needs to be feed.  It is forgiving and I think they regulate themselves to a certain degree as I notice mine changes from winter to summer.  In the summer I’m using and therefore feeding my starter almost every day and it’s fresh and lively all the time.  I don’t refrigerate it and even in the warm galley, it’s fine.  In the wintertime, however, I do refrigerate to dial down the activity.  I use it more sporadically and I notice that it’s overall just a little slower.  This is what I would suggest for most home cooks who will be baking at the most once or twice a week.

How to feed your starter is by using 1-2 cups in a recipe and replacing it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water.  It should be the consistency of pancake batter or a little thinner.  Shake it well and return it to the refrigerator.  You can make starter with any kind of flour, but I usually just use all purpose white, mostly for space reasons.

A happy starter is always slightly sour smelling and filled with bubbles.  One that is starving and not as happy has a sharper smell and has separated into a watery top layer and a thin bottom layer.  If this happens, it’s not dead, just feed it and maybe use less of it in a recipe as it’s going to give a stronger flavor.  Then bump up your feeding a little bit.  That’s it.  Also, if you find that once summer arrives and you aren’t baking bread for a few months, just freeze it.  It will come back to it’s lively self in the fall once you defrost and feed it.  I’ve had my starter for years now and its still going strong.

Annie
Many happy loaves to you all!

UPDATED 6/15/10
Due to the overwhelming response of requests for this starter we can no longer offer it free of charge. There is now a nominal charge of $10 for the starter and $5 for shipping. Thank you for your understanding.

© 2009 Anne Mahle