I recently went to a book signing and talk on fermentation at Banyan Books. The author in question is Sandor Katz, the Kraut guy. I found him to be very informative and entertaining, and I got one of his books, "Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods".
Therefore the experiment of the week: sourdough bread.
This is the starter I made:
2 boiled potatoes, which I mashed in their own water
2 cups unbleached whole wheat flour (it could be any unbleached flour)
1/2 cup unpasteurized honey
2 tsp salt
I mixed it and put it into a glass casserole dish with a lid (lacking a crock). I have let it sit on the kitchen counter where it has done its thing, getting quite bubbly and sweet and yeasty smelling after 2-3 days.
Yesterday, I took a cupful or so of the starter and made a whole-wheat, millet loaf. It turned out pretty well, considering. I think I was a bit impatient in letting the cooked millet cool, so perhaps added it to my dough when it was a bit too warm. That might have killed the yeast a bit. The resulting loaf rose fairly slowly and the texture of the bread in the end was a little heavy with big pockets of air running through it, rather like swiss cheese. Obviously, I need to revive my long-dormant bread-making skills and be a bit more patient with the process next time.
In the meantime, whenever I have only about a cupful of starter left, I feed it another cupful of water and flour. I give the whole thing a stir with a wooden spoon every couple of days. Pretty much any yeasted bread recipe you like can be made with the starter as the substitute for the yeast: pancakes, muffins, French bread, sourdough rolls, injera....(oooh, injera! more on that later)