New Zealand Rye Sourdough Starter
Product Review (submitted on December 4, 2012):
This starter is my first one. I've used it to make a bunch of breads from freshly milled emmer farro (an ancient wheat with a superior taste, in my opinion). This starter has performed much better than I expected. It's VERY sour, and seems quite quick to me. To my surprise, it actually makes bread rise without the use of additional yeast. That hadn't occurred to me - but is a wonderful effect! I had imagined I would still need yeast, and it's awesome to find that I don't.
Our house is pretty cold, since we heat with wood, so I chose this starter because it said it was the fastest (thinking I wouldn't have to worry as much about maintaining a long constant temperature). I've now made four different recipes with it. Saving the best for last, here are my results:
1. The sourdough bread recipe that came with the starter. It's good, but was too sour for some people. With the low-gluten emmer farro, even if kneaded well, it makes a very hard bread. I made some good, hard sourdough poppyseed rolls for family members who like dense bread. It does rise, but has a very firm texture and makes a remarkably hard crust. The emmer farro does not seem to have enough gluten for this recipe, but I'm sure it would be fine for regular flour.
2. The sourdough pancake recipe that comes with the starter. It's a way to use the extra starter (if you overproduce it when freshening it). Excellent recipe. Got great reviews from family and makes delicious crepes, too. These are becoming a household staple. Very delicious.
3. This Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread recipe from TheFreshLoaf.com:
This made a nice bread with the emmer farro. It rose well, and fit perfectly in the specified baking pan. It had a good crumb and flavor, and will certainly work as a sandwich bread. It cut well, too. We cut it into slices and froze them to remove later for sandwiches and such.
4. This Whole Wheat Sourdough English Muffin recipe from TheFreshLoaf.com:
These were was the biggest hit! Light and soft and fluffy perfection, with a nice crust. Mine only took 3 minutes on each side in a cast-iron pan, vs. the 5-min-each-side specified in the recipe. These are definitely going to become our "daily bread". We also made these with emmer farro wheat which is grown here on the west coast: http://www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com/bluebird-emmer-farro.html
So, to sum up, this was a great starter for a total beginner in a wood-heated home. Please note, I did and continue to activate and/or freshen the starter on top of my water heater - which is consistently warm. But I have risen the breads just in the house, which is drafty and unevenly heated, with no problem.