17 December 2013

Starter Start-up: Flatbread

Starter Start-up: Flatbread

It was like having a pet. Or a vampire in hibernation. I had to go home every day at lunch, mix water and teff flour, and feed the starter. Methinks I should name it Audrey, Junior.

Meet my sourdough starter. I followed Jennifer Katzinger's recipe in Gluten-free Vegan Bread, pretty much to the letter. When I got to the point of weekly feedings (after 5 initial feedings when the culture is developing), I wanted to bake with fed starter and the "discard" portion. 

What is sourdough? Sourdough is fermented bread dough. A baker mixes flour and water. Strains of yeast and symbiotic lactobacilli bacteria develop in the mixture, either due to the addition of culture, or in the case of my wild starter, because of naturally-occurring bacteria on cabbage leaves. The sour taste comes from lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli. Wikipedia taught me this. You should thank me by donating to Wikipedia.

Sourdough is the answer to perpetually sweet VGF bread. Finally, my baked good are yang through and through: not only is baking a contractive, drying (yang) process, sourdough tastes not-sweet (sweet is a yin quality).

But can I not make something that falls in the breakfast/dessert category? No.

I topped this flatbread with a maple cinnamon persimmon sauce. The source recipe called for apples, but I had two-week-old persimmons to use up. As the source notes, the base would be perfect for pizza. Hold the phone, we may have decent VGF pizza crust, OMG. FYI, this recipe had three hours of rising time total. In fact, most of the time it takes to make it is idle time.

Sourdough Flatbread
Modified from King Arthur Flour Apple Cinnamon Flatbread

1 cup teff sourdough starter, unfed (let it sit out at room temperature for four hours before using)
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup teff flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup millet flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tablespoons nondairy milk powder (I used soymilk powder)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for pan

3 persimmons, diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water

1/4 cup reserved persimmon syrup
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all the bread ingredients and mix well. Add up to 1/4 cup water extra if it's too dry. It should be a smooth, slightly wet dough. Place in a warm, draft-free place and let rise for an hour. Punch down (aka: stir it up and kind of flip the dough over) and let rise for another hour or until puffy and doubled in size. GF dough doesn't usually grow that much to 2x the original, but it should grow some.

During the second rise, combine the persimmons, syrup, and water in a small saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the fruit has softened (but not turned completely to mush). Remove from the heat and pour the fruit through a strainer set over a bowl. Mix 1/4 cup of the liquid with coconut sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Freeze the rest of the liquid for another use (can you say, sourdough buckwheat pancake syrup?!).

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.  Use a generous amount of olive oil to grease the pan (oil on pan = crispy crust). Spread the risen dough to form a rectangle about the size of the pan and much less than a half-inch thick. Use a spatula and push the dough around with your fingers to spread it out. Top with topping and drizzle with the cinnamon syrup. Loosely cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for another hour. 

About 15 minutes before the rising time is up, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread on the bottom rack for 33-37 minutes or until the edges & bottom are browned and the centre isn't wet when poked. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for an hour before cutting up to pack as tribute to coworkers and friends.

That oil-fried crust though...

I also made sourdough banana bread with fed starter--sweet success there. Banana bread is soooo easy to make low-fat: I used five bananas and three tablespoons of oil instead of three bananas and the half stick of butter for which the source recipe called. Most fruity baked goods recipes can be tweaked in such ways. The sourdough gives a delightful, yoghurty (same bacteria) tang to the sweet banana bread. Usually I like a loaded banana bread, with raisins, toasted walnuts, and cacao nibs, or cookie crust bits. To preserve the starter's leavening power, I kept this one straight.

According to a friend, it was  good, though when I presented it to him he said he would (and did) violate it with butter. Delivering the VGF baked goods is my business; how you consume them is your business!
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