Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breakfast Frugality...sort of

Let's go back about 10 days to a couple Thursdays ago...I got this brilliant idea, after a trip to the grocery store, to make my own english muffins.  We're not huge loaf-bread-eaters in our house (we might go through one loaf on a good week, usually it goes bad before we finish it), so making traditional bread has never made much sense to me.  However, we go through a lot of english muffins (and raisin bread) in our house and I am always dismayed at how expensive the *good* english muffins are.  I started doing some research to see how exactly you make english muffins and it was about this time that I realized that good english muffins are sourdough.  I then did some research about sourdough starters and realized that this whole process was going to take me a lot longer than I had initially thought.  The good news was, though, that I would have this living sourdough starter in my fridge to make all sorts of good things with.  I found lots of different ways to make starters.  Everything from pineapple juice and wheat flour (interesting?) to just plain flour and water.  I chose this one from William Sonoma, which is flour, water, greek yogurt and buttermilk powder - although I had to omit the buttermilk powder since I didn't own any.  In the end, I doubt it would affect the flavor in any way.
So, I mixed my starter and let it sit on my kitchen counter for 48 hours, stirring it twice a day.  It was pretty gross to watch wheat ferment.  After the required 48 hours, it had gotten nice and bubbly and was sufficiently stinky.  I found a jar and put it in the fridge and let it sit there for a week.  I wanted to make sure I had good, strong sourdough to work with.  Yesterday, the day that my starter needed to be fed (something that must be done weekly to keep it alive), I decided to begin the process of making the english muffins.  Recipe found HERE.  I used about half whole wheat pastry flour.
Last night I took a cup of starter and mixed it with flour, honey and milk and let it sit out for 16 hours.  At the same time I fed my starter by replacing what I took out with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour, then letting it also sit out for 12ish hours before putting it back into the fridge.
This afternoon I checked on the dough.  Things were definitely happening so I finished off the recipe.  I am intrigued by this process.  Without any yeast, I ended up with rising, bubbly dough. 
From the start of mixing the starter last night to finishing frying the last english muffin, the whole process was 20 hours.  10 days if you count all that starter business.  I probably saved myself $5 by making these myself.  And they do taste really good.  That sourdough is pretty pungent.  If you factor in all my time, though, I wouldn't call this any kind of cost savings.  So now the question is: are these good enough to be worth the trouble?  I'll have to eat them for a week first to really have an answer to that.  The boys will have to weigh in on this too.  When I've made homemade breads before, the kids always refuse to eat it (too heavy, I think).  If they refuse to eat these too then that will probably answer my question too.  I'm also looking forward to attempting to make that sourdough bread with the really crusty crust.

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