Sourdough starter is a lovely thing. It sits in a jar and doesn’t talk back. All it requires is a little food and water. You may not be able to pet it (if you try, it won’t exactly be pleasant). You can’t teach it to talk, fetch or retrieve your slippers, but you can teach it to play dead. Through the thick and thin of aging parents, loss of love, and loss of work, a little flour and water is all that is needed to keep a constant friend ready to help you bake and forget.
Several weeks ago, I went to Portland to visit my best friend. She is a loyal visitor to my blog and has followed my sourdough adventures. I suggested a couple of times that she might enjoy baking bread. I didn’t think she was very enthusiastic about bread making until she asked me to bring the starter with me on the plane. I have to admit that I am not a traveler. Travel makes me anxious. I fly so infrequently that I end up flummoxed by the changes in procedures that happen so often in this post 9/11 world. I packed a bit o’ Herbert in a leak proof plastic container nestled into a zip lock baggie with a cold pack to help keep the starter nice and sleepy. I didn’t really think about what was in my luggage until a man next to me in the lobby of the airport sat arguing with a security guard. As I eaves dropped, I came to realize the man was angry because they found a small vial of silicon oil in his luggage and airport security informed him they discarded it. I began to nervously think of the Turkish prisons in the film Midnight Express. Luckily, Herbert must have seemed strange but safe. I made it to Portland without having to explain what was sitting in my luggage.
R. was tutored in the care and feeding of the starter that week and surprised me the week after with emails containing the most delicious pictures of pancakes, breads and pizza. She seemed to love her new toy! She also let me know that her starter has been named George and George has been “gifted” to several of her friends who are now baking all sorts of wonderful things.
During that week in Portland, I only managed to bake one thing. I saw this recipe for sourdough grissini on Susan’s Wild Yeast blog and they looked like the perfect accompaniment to the yummy homemade dinners my friend treated me to during that week. I had never made bread sticks and I was pleased by the fact that the recipe was so fast and simple. The breadsticks turned out great and we gobbled them up in two days flat.
Last week, I baked for the first time in weeks. I made pizza. Making pizza made me feel like I am getting my baking mojo back. I began to be on the lookout for something else to bake. I was thumbing through the latest issue of Cooking Light magazine and there was a suggestion for an accompaniment to a pasta dish. The suggestion was to take frozen breadstick dough and brush it with olive tapenade, twist the breadsticks so that the tapenade gets folded into and around the bread. Since I am never one to do things the easy way, I knew a sourdough version of these breadsticks was inevitable! I made a wheatier version of Susan’s grissini and covered them in tapenade. These breadsticks are mellower than I would have expected them to be with so much olive paste, but the flavor is delicious and the texture is chewy and with a slight crunch to the tips of the bread. The baking time is a bit longer for these due to the fact that I added extra water before I really checked on the texture of my dough and the tapenade may have made them a little moister too.
This is my submission to this week’s YeastSpotting event on Wild Yeast. Please visit Susan’s blog for more adventures in bread!
120 g white bread flour
220 g stone ground whole wheat flour
200 g water
1 ½ tsp salt
23 g olive oil
230 g well fed, 100 % hydration sourdough starter
4 – 6 oz olive tapenade
Combine all of the ingredients except for the tapenade in a bowl and mix well. You may need to add extra water by the tablespoon until it forms a medium soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes to form the gluten. (You should be able to stretch the dough without it breaking apart). Transfer your dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough ferment for 2 – 3 hours with a fold at 40 and 80 minutes (Fold: Pat the dough into an 8” x 4” rectangle and fold it like a letter. I usually do this a couple of times. Do not pat it roughly, you want to form air pockets and stretch the gluten but you don’t want to abuse the dough).
At the end of the fermentation time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, flatten each piece into a 6” x 4” rectangle. Brush the rectangle liberally with olive tapenade. Cut the rectangle into long strips. You should be able to cut about 8 strips from each piece of dough. Move the dough strips one at a time to the cookie sheet. Pull the dough gently to stretch it to the length of the cookie sheet and then twist the dough into a loose coil from top to bottom. Repeat until all three dough pieces are flattened, brushed with tapenade, cut and twisted. Bake the breadsticks for 30 – 40 minutes, until browned. Remove from the oven and transfer the bread to wire racks to cool completely before enjoying.