About 10% of the cost of my Whisk Breads pays for yeast. Could I save 33 cents on every batch and add some local flavor at the same time? Yes, with sourdough starter. It's another case of the thrifty choice leading to better results.
While I could have captured wild yeast that's in the air (really!), I wanted to get comfortable by using a well-known strain first. So I ordered sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. It's $6.95 with free shipping, but if well treated can keep you and all your friends in starter until the end of time.
Don't worry about the fussy and precise directions. The baker on King Arthur's hotline reassured me that sourdough starter responds well to a wide range of treatment.
Ironically, the sourdough directions lead to even more expense than using packaged yeast. Step 5 says "Stir the starter, and discard about half." Step 8 says "Stir the starter, and divide it in half; discard half, or give to a friend." And the ongoing feeding directions start like this: "Up to 12 hours before beginning a recipe, stir the starter and discard 1 cup."
I say give the extra starter to a friend or make these rolls. They do call for 2 teaspoons of yeast, just a bit less than the 2 1/4 teaspoons used in Whisk Breads. I like to make these when feeding the starter before making Whisk Sourdough Bread, which doesn't need a bottled boost.
Active time: 20 minutes. Total time: about one hour and fifty minutes. Makes 12 rolls.
1 cup unfed sourdough starter (260 g)
1 cup warm water, about 110° F
2 cups white whole wheat flour (240 g)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (90 g)
1/4 cup wheat germ (32 g)
1 tablespoon brown or white sugar
1 tablespoon corn or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
for topping: water and salt as needed
- Combine all ingredients and knead until smooth using the dough cycle in a bread machine, about 8 minutes on medium-low speed with a standing mixer using a bread hook, or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 8 minutes.
- Cover and let rise for one hour. Put a bread stone or a heavy cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line another cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead five or six times, then shape into a loaf. Cut loaf into quarters and then each quarter into three even triangles. Put rolls on the parchment paper, brush with water, and sprinkle with coarse or regular salt if desired. Put cookie sheet with rolls directly on preheated baking stone or cookie sheet and bake until golden brown and fragrant, about 35 minutes. The interior temperature should be 205° F.
- Cool before serving. Keeps covered at room temperature for at least four days and frozen for a year. The crisp crust softens after the first day.
Tips and Notes
- You can see in the pictures above that I was playing with different shapes, cutting the rolls into triangles or shaping them various ways. The triangles have the most attitude and are easiest, but do what you like. You can even roll the dough out into logs that are a foot or more long and then twist them into pretzels.
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