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Introducing Bertha...

Meet Bertha. She is a little over a year old now.

This is where she lives:

 This is what she looks like when she's way too hungry:
She shouldn't look like this.  When she separates out, that is a sign she is starving. I had let this go a day or two over the two week mark.
 After a quick stir and she's back to normal:

 This is what she looks like soon after she's fed:

She pretty much puffs up to double
This is what she looks like when she's ready to go back in the refrigerator for two weeks before her next feed:
She sort of falls
Bertha has a nice flavor that has developed over the year. At first she wasn't that sour. I had a previous sourdough starter that was several years old and had a really sour taste. Unfortunately, I neglected it and it died. I recently read that you can dry out some of the starter. After it is dry you smash it up into a powder.  You can now save it to revive it at a future date.  I actually killed two starters - one started from this dry method and the other was the traditional liquid.  I'm thinking about drying some of Bertha out-just in case (since I'm a multiple sourdough-starter murderer).

It really is rather low maintenance. The most difficult part is trying to remember to feed it every two weeks. You just need to pour off 1 cup of starter and either use it or discard it.  You then mix in 1 c of flour and 1/2 c of water, let it rise and fall, and then put it back in the refrigerator. 

When I first started her, I was a little concerned because I was going to be away for a few weeks and had to entrust her care to someone else (the eldest). I found this hotel for sourdough starters but alas it was in Sweden. She survived the weeks I was away and now turns out some really nice bread. I would again entrust the eldest (if she were home) with Bertha.

There is a cheat way to make sourdough bread.  You add a little citric acid sometimes called "sour salt." But I don't think it has quite the same developed flavor as a sourdough starter.

There are quite a few different recipes for starter out there. I started Bertha from a method that used some yeast, flour, water, and honey.  However, if you don't want to start your own and wait until it matures, you can get one for free that is dried the way I described before. They say it has been around for 150 years. King Arthur Flour also sells a starter - but that one will set you back $8.95 and you have to feed it within 24 hours of receipt. They also sell a crock (which is where I got mine).

For this batch of bread, I used the whey from the ricotta making escapade. I don't know that it made too much of a difference. I guess I will have to try the whey on it's own. The recipes was supposed to make 3 loaves but I just did two free-forms.

This is how Bertha bakes up

Oatmeal Sourdough Bread


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