Never having started a starter (so to speak) I went hunting online for an easy recipe. I have to say there are a lot of people out there afraid of working with yeast. Some people were adament about having the yeast be added to water that needed to be carefully monitored for temperature by a thermometer. Some websites were terrified of leaving milk out on the counter *GASP* to ferment *GASP* and wanted you to use only water.
People please. After doing some of my own research into the business of basic sour dough bread making I found some interesting facts. Back in the day people didn't have dry active yeast, they just allowed milk, flour and sugar to do it's thing, breaking down the good ol' fashioned way. After all, the flour/sugar/milk is just food for the yeast and you just keep feeding it until you want to bake it. Actually if you keep in mind that the yeast is like a happy little pet in your kitchen all the stuff makes sense. It wants warm yummy food and a warm place to grow and thrive.
So I went to the store and bought me some dry active yeast. Using a wooden spoon and a plastic bowl (because they didn't have metal in the days of yore and also because metal messes with the yeast) I mixed a .25 oz yeast packet in with a 1/4 cup warm water and let it get crazy with itself for about 10 minutes. Then I added 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour and (you guessed it) 1 cup of warm milk and mixed it in. I let it sit in a plastic bowl overnight with a hand towel over it and in the morning transferred it to a gallon sized zip lock. Thus I created my very own starter.
Knowing that in 10 days I would have more starter to hand out to friends and family, I went in search for some instructions to give with the starters. It was kind of slim pickings. I found the recipe and instructions for mashing the bag and the days when you're supposed to add stuff, but I was left wanting. People who posted some instructions left a lot of openings for questions and confusion. On some of the blogs I had seen people wondering why Amish people used "instant vanilla pudding" in the recipe or why it was safe to leave a bag of starter batter on the counter for several days. What's a girl to do?! Make my own! I included a back story on the bread, instructions, recipe variations and a FAQ section to clear up any questions. Even if the second page gets lost (the second page has the variations and the FAQ section) they'll still be able to work with the starter and bake the bread.
The FAQ section has already been extremely handy especially for my Mother in Law who is the type of person afraid to leave eggs out on the counter for more than a few seconds. It's a wonder how people forget that refrigerators are only a modern invention and that eggs, milk, butter etc. were always kept out, but I digress. The FAQ helped explain some of the process behind the wonderful bread which allowed her to be put at ease and have fun with the starter! It is my hope that these instructions will help those out there wanting to try the bread, but afraid to get started!
If you do use my instructions, please leave a comment. I would love to know how your bread turns out!
*Note: I'm not blogger savvy enough yet to figure out how to upload PDF documents, so here are the instructions via picture format (click for larger view). If you want a PDF copy, PM me your email address.