Over the weekend I read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder and was interested in the descriptions of Ma's sourdough bread that they literally lived on for most of the winter and spring . She usually used yeast cakes and made light bread but out of necessity she made a starter and used that for her bread. If you've never read this book, do so immediately but make sure you have a quilt handy because it makes you cold to read it. Most pioneers used a sourdough starter and they are legendary in Alaska. You can even order a special wooden spoon from Alaska that has been dipped in starter and use it to make a starter for yourself. Or follow my starter recipe and make your own with your own wooden spoon. It's really easy and quite an interesting process. After you have a starter going and make a loaf of bread, you have to feed the starter to keep it alive. The yeast in the starter lives off the sugar in the flour and it can't go much longer than a week with out more flour being added to it. Sometimes when I can't get a chance to bake I will dump a cup of the starter out and feed it 1/2 a cup of water and a cup of flour to keep it alive. When I bake, I replenish the starter with the same amount of water and flour. So you see, it's easy and when you can make bread like this it's absolutely worth it.
Soft Sourdough Bread
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup sourdough starter (Replenish starter with 3/4 cup water and 1 1/2 cup flour)
3 Tablespoons soft butter
3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons wheat germ
1 Tablespoon salt
4 cups flour (I use 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups unbleached white)
Stir together yeast, milk, butter and honey. It will be lumpy because of the starter but take heart, it's nothing a little kneading won't fix. Mix in the wheat germ, salt and flour and stir until the dough starts to come together. Dump it out on a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. This dough may be sticky at the beginning so add flour as you need to work with it. Set the kneaded dough to rise in a large bowl in a warm place. If I am not using my oven, I set it in there with the light turned on. Rise until doubled in size. Gently deflate the dough and shape into a ball. Set on an oiled baking sheet and let it rise again. When it is about twice as big and looks puffy, preheat your oven to 4oo degrees. Bake the bread 25 to 30 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cool the bread on a rack at least 20 minutes before you slice it. Guard it from your family members if need be.