Monday, June 28, 2010

Rise Up: Restarting My Starter

So I'm reading Lonesome Dove, which is not my usual fare, being both a Western and a novel. But I'm completely entranced by McMurtry's ability to draw characters and evoke imagery so strongly and clearly.

And then he mentioned sourdough biscuits. See, one of the main characters, Augustus McCrae, likes a good breakfast and makes his own biscuits every morning. Only one morning, some cowboys miss breakfast and he refuses to "stress his starter" to make another batch. I suddenly had a hankering for biscuits--I was missing them just like the tardy wranglers. But I didn't know you could make them with sourdough so I rushed to my cookbooks, including the new one I bought at the George Ranch, which exceedingly vivid evocation of the 19th-century cattle world encouraged the reading of the Pulitzer-prizewinning novel. (I know, I know, what's with a lesbian vegetarian being interested in cowboys and cattle drives? Crazy, weird, and completely intoxicating for now. And you know, there were some women on the trail . . . Mama says, "The answer is: it's a Texas thing.")

So this morning, I needed to refresh my sourdough starter that has languished unfed in the fridge these last two weeks. And with the cup of starter I removed, I knew I would make sourdough biscuits. And Sis helped. She measured ingredients, helped knead the dough, enjoyed rolling out the dough with my new French rolling pin (which I bought at Kalustyan's and is amazingly easy to work with), determinedly cut biscuits, and then ate several with honey when they were done.

They're all gone now. We ate them after lunch, for afternoon snack, and with Mama for dessert after dinner. The sourdough gives them a nice tang, more depth than plain ol' biscuits, and, call me crazy (again), but they seemed more tender on the inside with a flakier/crisper crust than usual. I can see how a cowboy could sit in a saddle for 16 hours with a stomachful of those biscuits. I won't be doing any horseriding anytime soon (even though I loved the ranch with its three period houses from the 1830s, 1860s, and 1890s), but I'll be making biscuits again as soon as it won't stress out my rejuvenated starter!

(which, if I understand it, is no sooner than 18-24 hours after being fed. Or, oops, 12 hours. Either way, Gus was right.)

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Golden Sourdough Biscuits
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup Sourdough Starter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I substituted dry buttermilk powder and water, adding the powder to the flour and the water to the starter)
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine Sourdough Starter and buttermilk; stir into crumb mixture with a fork until dough forms a ball.
  • Turn onto a well-floured surface; knead 10-12 times. Roll to 1/2-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter. Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake at 425° for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Yield: 1 dozen.
  • Taste of Home

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