Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sourdough biscuits

So the book I picked up is 'Lonesome Dove' by Larry McMurtry, seemingly a classic and definitely a good read. One of the main characters, Gus, takes much pleasure in making his sourdough biscuits before sunrise each morning. I was inspired to try myself, plus I needed to revive my sourdough starter. I'm really pleased with the biscuit; soft, light, tasty and very simple.

Sourdough is fabulous. Living in the Bay Area I was never impressed with it, that sour white bread in the hard brown crust just didn't do it for me. I began to work with it myself not because of the taste but out of a desire to play with wild yeasts. Just as people are different culturally, so are bacterias: Lactobacillis talamancais is very different from the Lactobacillus sanfranciscois! and I prefer the softer talamanca bacteria. I love the process, I love that these yeasts and bacterias are in the air, filling us as we breath, moving with us as we walk. Louis Pastuer said in the end that "microbes will win out". Thank goodness, who wants to live in a sterile environment?

Sourdough is easy. To begin a sourdough starter add a cup of flour to a cup of water (white flour works better than brown for this first stage). Stir thoroughly and leave in a glass jar in a warm place (75-85F) with a tea towel on top (to allow air in and air out). Stir twice or thrice a day for the next two to five days until you see bubbles form. This means the yeast is active. If you don't see bubbles you can cheat a little by putting in a pinch or two of store-bought yeast to get it started. Once you have bubbles you can begin to feed your starter, simply add two tablespoons of flour each day and enough water to keep your starter from becoming too thick / solid. At this point you can use your starter, or you can put her in the fridge to slow her down. Feed her whenever you use her, or every other day, or twice a week if she's in the fridge.

To make the biscuits, begin by making a sponge. Take 1/2 cup of the starter and add 1 cup flour and 1 cup milk (I also use soy milk, soy yogurt or regular buttermilk or yogurt). I throw a pinch of sugar in there to help the yeast. Mix and leave in a warm place overnight. Next day add 1 tablespoon of honey, beat, then add 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, a good pinch of salt and about a cup to cup and a half of flour. Add the first cup all all once and the rest little by little until you get a dough you can work with. Turn out on flour board, knead lightly for 5 minutes adding flour to stop stickiness. Roll out about a half inch thick, cut into 6cm rounds and dip in olive oil mixed with sunflower oil and black pepper (or other herbs) and place on a cooking tray. Cover with towel and allow to rise in warm place for 30 minutes. Cook at 375F for 18-20 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes before enjoying slathered with unsalted butter, Gus enjoyed his with honey.

tip: when cutting out the biscuits, don't twist the press, it seals the edges and creates an uneven rise!


  1. Well, now you have given me another thing to try, Ancel! In answer to your question - we will be back in Belize in early April. We have never been there in April before and are looking forward to it.


  2. I love sour dough biscuits! I found a recipe for whole wheat sourdough biscuits in a Harrowsmith magazine (now out of publication, sigh!), I used their recipe for starter and made those whole wheat sourdough biscuits for years. They were like clouds, so light and high...ah-h, but the recipe made so many that we couldn't eat them all.They didn't keep well so I always had some little clouds end up in the compost. What a waste! I so enjoy your posts, keep doing what you do. You are an inspiration!


thanks for sharing!