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Prep 45 mins
Cook 15 mins
Sourdough gets its start from the wild yeast in the air. Many contemporary recipes call for using packaged yeast, but the starter will develop a more interesting flavor without it. Jacqueling Higuera McMahan, a cookbook author who suggests using organic grapes. Their natural sugar helps feed the natural yeast to activate the starter. It takes 7 to 10 days to develop a good starter, but it can last you a lifetime. A range cook’s measure as a man was the quality of his sourdough biscuits. Many Texans still pride themselves on make these airy and slightly sour treats, though few follow the camp tradition of baking them over an open fire in a Dutch oven covered with glowing coals. If you don’t already have sourdough starter see the recipe.
- 1 1⁄2 cups wheat flour (use a soft wheat flour like White Lily if the primary use of your flour is for biscuits, if you vary)
- 2 cups mineral water
- 1 bunch unwashed organic grapes, on the stem
- additional flour, as required
- additional water, as required
SOURDOUGH BISCUITS(ues 1 cup sourdough starter)
- 1 cup soft wheat flour, preferably White Lily (or cake and pastry flour)
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons bacon drippings or 3 tablespoons butter
- FOR THE SOURDOUGH STARTER: Stir the 1 1/2 cups flour (use a soft wheat flour like White Lily if the primary use of your flour is for biscuits; if you vary frequently between biscuits and bread, use all purpose flour)and 2 cups mineral water or spring water together in a large plastic or earthenware bowl. Add the bunch of grapes, pushing it down into the gooey batter. Cover the bowl lightly, with cheesecloth or a dishtowel, so that the starter continues to get air. Leave the bowl in a warm place.
- Each day give the bowl another tablespoon of flour and one tablespoon of water, stirring to incorporate the additions. Within a couple of days the mixture should show signs of “starting,” bubbling up a bit as yeasts feed on the starch and sugar. If this doesn’t happen, throw the mixture out and begin again. Continue feeding the starter each day with one tablespoon flour and one tablespoon of water. If the mixture separates, stir it back together. After about 5 days, the starter will begin to smell sour. The smell won’t be unpleasant, and won’t overwhelm your kitchen.
- Let the starter ferment another few days, continuing to feed it. You’ll end up with a mass that looks like a thick pancake batter. Remove the grapes with a slotted spoon, and discard them.
- Cover the starter, and refrigerate it. Take the starter out of the refrigerator the evening before you plan to use it, or even a couple of days ahead for a more sour taste to the bread or biscuits. Every time you use the starter, replenish it. For each cup of starter you remove, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Let it sit on the counter again for about a day before putting it back in the refrigerator. If you don’t want to use the starter at least once every week or two, just feed it that often: Pour off about a half cup of starter, and add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.
- Properly tended, the starter can last for years, developing more complexity over time. It can be used for sourdough pancakes, breads, and other dishes in addition to biscuits.
- FOR THE SOURDOUGH BISCUITS: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Sift together the flour, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the starter, and stir with a sturdy spoon until the flour is incorporated in the dough. It will remain sticky.
- Flour a pastry board or your counter. Grease or flour your hands to make kneading the dough easier. Turn the dough out, and knead lightly a few times, just until it is smooth. The dough will remain soft. Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of eggs, or, for a more modern look, roll out the dough and cut it with biscuit cutter.
- Melt the bacon drippings (for real range flavor) or butter in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. Dip one side of the biscuit in the fat, and then put it in the pan with its other side down. (Or melt the fat in a small dish, dip each biscuit in the fat, then place the biscuit on a baking sheet.) Arrange the biscuits so they just touch one another, which helps them rise.
- Bake the biscuits 15 minutes. Serve them immediately. Makes 1 dozen biscuits.
- Texas Home Cooking.
I started this starter and one with commercial yeast around the same time. While the commercial yeast one worked, It wasn't really sour, it seemed that I was just cultivating more commercial yeast. This one is deliciously sour. I was unsure if it had the power of the commercial yeast until I fed them both and did a comparason, at this point I have been tending it for 2 weeks. I just baked my first loaves with only the grape starter and they are great! I just threw out the other starter! I am new to this whole sourdough thing, it makes me feel like a mad scientist to be able to make bread raise and taste great with grapes! Thanks, you helped take the mystery out of it for me!
Using another sourdough starter, I have made these biscuits twice. They are a huge hit with my family. Thanks for a nice recipe. I have a grape vine, and may try this grape starter next summer.
i have made the starter.. i will make the buscuits soon. the starter bubbled up about the second day and seemed like pancake batter then.. i kept feeding and stirring every day for a few more days and i smelt the sour smell.. but it never thickened up again.. after the first bubbling it went into just a thin batter and would seperate every day and i would feed it and stir it up.. i didnt know if this is how it was suppose to react or if it is spoiled.. is it suppose to remain bubbly? i did make some bread out of it and it had a hard time raising very much.. i didnt know if this was the fault of the starter or the fact that i used almost all whole wheat flour in my bread?? i'll update when i make the buscuits- made em. one said they were too sour but others liked them.. they didnt rise very much either.. i dont know if that is my starter or what. they had good flavor but so small and dense. oh well this was my first sourdough exp. thanks.