I've been dreading writing this post because I already know it will be rather complicated to explain but my friend Alessandra who gave me this recipe convinced me last night on the phone that if I don't document my "Pasta Madre" I will end up regretting it in the end. So here it goes....
What is "Pasta Madre"? It is the naturally produced yeast that is used in making sourdough bread. The literal translation for Pasta Madre is Mother Dough. It is called this in Italy because genuine Pasta Madre (I will abbreviate PM from now on) is not sold in grocery stores. It is a natural yeast that must be made at home. It must be cared for and "refreshed" to keep it alive or else it will die. Yes I know I'm sounding a little crazy but I'm trying to make it easy to understand because when I first started reading about it, it seemed extremely complicated and I hardly understood anything about it.
Alessandra was so informative and made everything so easy to understand. She told me "Silvana, you have to act as though it is your child! That is the real reason it is called Mother Dough!" So there you have it. I have been raising my "child" for about 10 days now and I'm proud to say she is growing big and strong! :-) ...it's a she by the way...I named her too. You have to name your PM...it's a must! If you're interested her name is Maria :-)
Alessandra has had her PM for over 2 years! Can you believe that?! The longer you have it the stronger it gets and it makes the most delicious sourdough bread and baguettes you have ever tasted!
So where do we start? You only need three things:
1) 100 grams of Manitoba Flour: you must use a strong flour or Manitoba flour as it's called. You should not use regular all-purpose flour or else you will not achieve the right yeast growth.
2) 50 grams of room temperature water: notice that it is exactly half of the amount of flour you have used. Use bottled water if you can instead of tap water.
3) One tablespoon of honey: you need some form of glucose to activate the yeast and this is the preferred method of my friend. It's the easiest and the purest method. Some people even use raisins in place of honey but by using other activators, you run the risk of mold forming which you must then immediately throw out and start over. Using honey is the "cleaner" approach and it makes for a beautiful and robust PM.
That's all you need! Now mix the three ingredients together by hand and you should end up with a ball the size of a tennis ball. Place the ball in a tall glass container that you will then cover with plastic wrap. Put one hole on top of the plastic wrap with a toothpick and let it sit on your counter top for 24 hours. Never place it in the refrigerator. The PM must produce naturally-occurring lactobacilli and yeast. This starts the fermentation process and will cause your PM to grow in size and expand.
|This was Day 1 for my PM|
So after 24 hours, you must refresh your PM for the first time. You should refresh every 24 hours for 30 days. I know...I know... I thought the same thing. It's a long time. But it really only takes 10 minutes a day. I do it before going to bed at night and it really is not a hassle at all. As I said before, my PM has been growing for about 10 days now so you will see it larger and of a different consistency than it was the first time I refreshed it. Now I will show you step by step the refreshing process which was the most complicated part for me.
This is what you need for the refreshment:
1) 100 grams of Manitoba Flour
2) 100 grams of your PM
3) 50 grams of water
Remove the top layer of your PM and discard. With a spoon take 100 grams of your PM from the middle area which is the most active, weigh it on a scale and place in a bowl.
Weigh out 100 grams of Manitoba flour and place in the bowl with the PM.
|If you find that it's still too sticky, go ahead and add a little more flour.|
|This is how the PM should look after it has been refreshed. It's now ready to rest.|
Discard the rest of the PM that you had left over and wash the glass container with ONLY hot water and dry well with a paper towel. Never use soaps or other chemicals. Only hot water. The PM will be very sticky so what I do is let the glass container soak overnight in hot water and place my refreshed PM in another tall glass container. Cover with the same plastic wrap with the hole on top and place on the counter again. Let it sit and repeat the process after 24 hours.
Each day you will see it grow larger and larger. It truly is an amazing process...It's like magic as my friend says! Once the PM is ready to be used, after 30 days, you will keep it in a closed container in the refrigerator and you don't have to refresh it every day. It usually should get refreshed once a week. I can't wait to make my first sourdough bread! I'm excited to see how it will turn out.
|This is what my sourdough looks like now. In about 2 weeks it should reach the top of the container and be completely active for my first bread :-)|
If you want to try it, don't be intimidated. Just give it a go! You have nothing to lose...
Here are some pictures of typical sourdough bread to get you motivated. Hopefully mine will turn out this yummy!! We'll just have to wait and see....
To be continued....
Update: Part 2 here