Normally I use my starter a couple times per week and make sure it is good and happy before I put it back in the fridge. This last time though, it had been well over a week since the last use and the starter was looking pretty sluggish. It didn't have a large layer of hooch over it yet, but it was just starting to collect around the bubble mounds. That and the starter was all soupy, like it gets when you neglect to feed it for a week... or more... Still, we had need of bread, just time to do a fairly standard loaf, and a "request" for sourdough. So I figured I would try my neglected, unfed starter with the added yeast method.
I very rarely use all white flour anymore but in this case I decided to give the starter all the help I could. Thus came about a very successful french/sourdough batard made with unfed starter. (When I say french sourdough, I mean a cross between french bread and sourdough bread.) My starter is quite tart even when unfed so I ended up with a very happy, crispy/chewy crusted loaf with a wonderfully soft and chewy interior that did have a good hint of sourness to it. It was great with soup and it would make great sandwiches too. This will definitely go in my regular rotation for using up sleepy starter. There will be no problem getting it eaten! (If I had time and wanted to perk up the sourness, I would just combine the starter, water and half the flour or so an hour or two prior to starting the dough; in essence a prefeeding.) Today I am making this loaf with part white whole wheat because the starter has been fed fairly recently and is quite happy despite living in the fridge. (It is taking a tablespoon extra water for the whole wheat flour and perkier starter.)
Sourdough French Bread with Unfed Starter
½ cup (4 ¼ oz) sourdough starter, fed or unfed
¾ cup (6 oz) lukewarm water
1 tsp sea salt
1 ¼ tsp sugar
1 tsp Instant Yeast
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
Combine all ingredients. Knead to form a smooth, soft dough. Add a bit more flour if needed, (older, "soupy" starter may require a couple extra tablespoons of flour). Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until until doubled, around 90 minutes. Shape into an oval or oblong loaf. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet or a parchment lined peel. Cover and let rise until quite puffy. Around 60 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Slash the tops and place in a preheated 425º oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. To get a nice crispy crust, spritz some water in the oven right when you put in your loaf. You can just toss in a few tablespoons of water if you don't have a spritzer handy, just be careful of your oven window, wouldn't want to crack it! Remove the loaf from the oven and cool on a rack as long as you can stand it. (Bread cuts better when it is cool, but everyone knows fresh bread hot out of the oven can't be beat.)
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