Have you ever made sourdough starter? I’m trying an experiment this week, to add a finishing touch to the baskets I do for various friends and family members. My mother used to make this starter — it requires a 10 day babysitting commitment, a true investment in time and effort that is the mark of most truly great Christmas gifts.
To make your sourdough starter (make this 3-10 days before you want to make the actual cake), in a small bowl combine 1 package active dry yeast and 1/2 C warm water. Stir to dissolve. Then, in a non-metallic bowl using a non-metallic spoon, combine 2-1/2 C warm water, 2 C all-purpose flour, and 2 Tbls sugar. Stir to combine well, and add yeast mixture. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or cheesecloth and let stand in a warm place for 3 days, stirring 2-3 times daily.
For your own baking: After three days, place in refrigerator, stirring daily. Use within 11 days. Always bring starter to room temperature before using in cake recipe by allowing to set in a warm place for an hour before using. Stir well, then measure out the amount needed for recipe.
To share starter: On Day 10 divide starter as follows: 2-3 C for recipe (below). Divide remaining starter into 1C portions and place in plastic or glass containers, cover with plastic wrap (don’t let starter touch metal lids). Keep one cup for yourself and give the rest to friends along with the “Nurturing Your Starter” directions:
Nurturing Your Starter: Starter should have a sweet, yeasty smell. If you notice signs of spoiling, toss and start over. Do not add milk, cream, or eggs to starter or it may produce harmful bacteria.
* Day 1 (starter received): Stir mixture with spoon, let it sit on a counter loosely covered with plastic wrap or wax paper for one day. Do not refrigerate or place in metal container.
* Days 2-4: Refrigerate, stir the mixture each day, keep loosely covered.
* Day 5: Transfer starter to larger glass or ceramic jar or bowl. Add “starter food”: 1 C water, 1 C flour, 1 C sugar. Stir to mix, cover loosely, return batter to refrigerator. (Container should not be more than 1/2 full.)
* Days 6 -9: Stir once a day and keep refrigerated, loosely covered.
* Day 10: Transfer to larger non-metallic container and add more starter food (1C water, 1C flour, 1C sugar). Allow starter to sit at room temperature for an hour. Remove 1C for each of 3 friends, use 3C for the following recipe.
1 C sugar
2 C flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 C vegetable oil
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
3 C starter
2 C chopped nuts or fruit (raisins, cherries, chopped apple, crushed pineapple, dates, pecans, almonds, etc.)
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, set aside. In another bowl mix starter, egg, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, fruit and nuts. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan or 9×11 loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes. Cool and dust with powdered sugar.