Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tips for Going Back in Time

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(the author practicing her "abe" disguise in the event she's taken back to the Civil War era )

I didn’t keep a diary as a kid. I did, however, keep a list of things I’d need in the event I went back in time. Recipes for soap, shampoo, natural antibacterials and remedies for stomach ailments. And then there were those bits of knowledge that would give me a slight futuristic edge but nothing so spectacular that I’d be burnt at the stake. Steel was an ongoing conundrum for me because I planned on being a world-class swordswoman. Who also made her own swords with metals yet unknown to man. Could I make a smelting furnace that produced enough heat without being accused of devil worship? You can see I gave this some serious thought.

I still keep a mental list. I’ve added some sadly superficial things absent from my childhood tally, chief among them, tweezers.

But a relatively recent addition is one I’d wholeheartedly have added as a kid. Sourdough starter. Baking a great loaf of bread is an excellent way to win a pre-historic popularity contest. It’ll also create enough of a diversion to stave off any pesky questions about how the hell you just materialized out of thin air, assuming you’ve also churned some outrageously creamy butter and cooked up a lovely berry compote to go along with the slab of warm goodness.

Starters have been around for ages. From Byzantium to Egypt, little bits of natural yeast have been dropping from the ether and fermenting blobs of flour and water for millennia. It's a skill that won't set off any witchcraft alarms.  So why not get in some practice, just in case you find yourself whisked back in time to Salem.

Sourdough Starter

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ ounces fresh compressed yeast
3 cups warm water
1 ounces granulated sugar
1 pound 8 ounces unbleached flour

- In a plastic container with a large opening so your starter can expand with each feeding, dissolve yeast in the water and add sugar. Stir in flour using a wodden spoon, until you have a smooth paste. (Make sure the container is pretty large. Bigger than a large tube of cottage cheese).

-cover loosely to allow gases to escape and place in a warm spot in your kitchen for 2 to 3 days. The mixture should bubble and give off a sour odor. Stir down the starter once a day during this time and make sure to stir in any crust that’s formed. After this point, store the starter in the fridge.

- The starter needs to be fed every 10 days, otherwise it will die. Add halfs as much flour and water as the original recipe if you aren’t using the starter regularly. Use less if you’re actually using your started regularly. Stir in the flour and water and keep refrigerated.

So what to do now with your starter? First make it. And then we’ll talk about using it.
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