September 10, 2007

Sourdough Biscuits

My sourdough starter is driving me nuts. It sits in the back of my fridge, all docile and unassuming, I feed it every few weeks, and it seems happy enough. But when I try to bake with suddenly turns into a temperamental, unpredictable mess, like a petulant 7-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. Sometimes it will foam up and overflow out of the bowl within a few hours, sometimes...nothing. Sometimes the bread I make from it will be perfectly edible but taste nothing like sourdough, while sometimes it becomes mouth-puckeringly sour. But it's hearty, though, I will give it that. I left it unfed for two months this summer, and I thought it was dead for sure. But lo and behold, there was still a glimmer of life, and now it's up to its old tricks.

One of the problems with a starter is that it needs to be fed every so often (2 weeks in my case, but some people feed theirs more often), and this feeding leaves a certain amount of excess starter, which can either be used in baking or discarded. As much as I like sourdough bread, I don't have the time (or masochistic personality) to bake it that often, and so I am more often than not left with a cup of starter that I eventually, regretfully, throw in the trash.

This recipe is a great way to use that extra cup of starter. The biscuits turned out light and fluffy, with a pleasant yeasty taste. Mine were in no way sour, although that could just be my unpredictable starter up to its old tricks. And they stay soft and tender for longer than regular biscuits- I accidentally left them sitting out overnight, and they were still surprisingly soft and edible in the morning.

Sourdough Biscuits
Makes 8-12 biscuits.

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup refreshed sourdough starter ***

1. Preheat oven to 425 F
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, soda, and baking powder.
3. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender or fingertips, until mixture resembles coarse meal and bits of butter are no larger than peas.
4. Stir in starter. Do not overmix- stir only until mixture comes together. It will still look a little dry.
5. Dump mixture onto floured board and knead a few times until dough forms a cohesive mass. Roll dough about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, then cut out rounds with a biscuit cutter and place on baking sheet. Gather extra dough into ball, then repeat rolling and cutting.
6. Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Cool on rack.

***How much starter you will need depends on the consistency of your own starter- mine is very liquidy, so if yours is a bit thicker, you may need a little more to get a workable dough.


Susan in Italy said...

Ha ha! I'm probably a bit more of a masochist than you are. I think extra starter is a lot like August zucchini. You really want to give it away but you don't have enough willing takers. Thanks for the recipe.

Maddy said...

Hey Susan,
I know, none of my friends are bakers so I can never give my extra starter a good home.

Funny you should comment on this- about a year ago, when I was first contemplating creating a starter, a google search led me to your blog (this page-
Your adventures in sourdough definitely encouraged me and what you said about graduate school and baking struck a huge chord- it's so true! I finally had a way to explain to my friends (and myself) why I was baking loaf after loaf of bread instead of writing my master's thesis.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

I googled you too~ looking for good sourdough recipes.
My starter can be a little finicky too. I keep on trying!

Anonymous said...

I've been using extra starter for pancakes to avoid throwing any away. So far it's worked out pretty well.