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Today as I prepared for the incoming hurricane (supposed to hit us this time) I noticed I had only one three-pack of yeast.  So I dug out my recipes for 'stretching' that yeast, from the times I have had to make one packet last for months; or make bread for 12 people when all I had was dough for ONE frozen dinner roll!  Both times I was gratified with the results, and my diners thought I was a magician.  Here are two ways to make 'sponge' bread dough for those times you need to stretch your yeast supply.  A sponge is not quite the same as sourdough - it is not "sour" nor even "tangy" unless you let it go long enough to develop that flavor.  But like sourdough, or Amish Friendship Bread Starter, it will raise your bread, pancakes, rolls, and the like quite nicely.  So without further ado, this is how I make "sponge" bread.

 

First, make a "starter" (works to replace the yeast).  I have used two different methods:

 

The Yeast Method

In a 4 quart non-metallic bowl, dissolve 1 package of yeast, in 2 cups of warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees F).  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 Tablespoon sugar and mix in by hand until blended.  It will be thick, but some lumps are OK. ;This is your sponge starter.  Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 5 days (as warm as 80 degrees would not be a bad thing).  Stir it 2 to 3 times a day.  It will "develop" into a thinner, bubbly mixture, and may have some yellowish liquid on top - that is OK. Just stir it together.  ;Take some out to make bread, or refrigerate covered until you are ready to use it.  (You can also freeze it in 1 cup amounts in freezer bags, or dehydrate at very low dehydrator temperatures, I use 95 degrees).

 

The Dough Method

Take your handful of dough (in my case I used a single frozen dinner roll dough ball, thawed).  Mix it with 2 cups of cool water, swishing and smooshing it until it is dissolved.  Then stir in 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 TB sugar.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and et aside in a warm place until bubbly and 'yeasty' smelling, about 5 days while it develops.  Take out your chosen amount, refrigerate the rest, same as the other kind.  Now you can make bread...(You can see how sourdough could be transported by putting a handful of dough into the flour sack while traveling, to be stirred into a sponge as needed!)  

 

The Bread - Old Fashioned Light Bread - 2 loaves

Starter, about 1 cup but more speeds things up.  Just remember to save some for next time.

1 TB sugar

1 1/2 cups sweet milk

flour

Get out a large bowl  Warm the milk to just over lukewarm, and put it in the bowl with the starter, the sugar, and enough flour to make a stiff batter.  Beat well, cover loosely, and set overnight in your bread-raising warm spot.  Next morning you should have a bubbly 'sponge'.

To this sponge, stir in:

2 cups scalded milk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 TB melted shortening, butter or oil

Flour enough to make a dough you can handle.  Beat until it gets too stiff, then knead, adding flour as needed to keep from sticking, until the dough becomes smooth and satiny (takes about 10 min of kneading).  Put in a greased bowl and grease the top of the dough.  Cover with a damp, clean tea towel and put in your rising place until it rises to double its volume.  Punch down and shape into 2 loaves, placing them in greased loaf pans.  Grease the tops, cover with the damp towel and let rise in your rising spot again until the dough comes just 1 inch higher than the pan edges.  Remove and preheat your oven to 350.  

Bake loaves 35-40 min or until brown as you like.  They should sound hollow when you thunk them like a melon. De-pan, grease the loaves while hot to make a soft crust, and cool on racks.  (Fat spray works nicely for this and saves burned fingers!)  This makes 2 small loaves or one medium one and a cake pan of dinner rolls.

 

The nice thing about using 'sponge yeast' is that you can use any bread recipe, or indeed any recipe that uses yeast.  Just put 1 cup of starter in a bowl, add the water or milk you will use in the recipe, slightly warmed, along with part of the sugar and enough flour to make a batter kind of like thick pancake batter.  Let it rise overnight, covered then put in the remaining ingredients and raise it and bake it as usual.  It might take longer to rise while the yeast multiplies, but it is worth the wait if you are hankering for some fresh baked goods and are low on yeast.  I once kept one packet of yeast alive for 6 months baking the family bread when we were too broke to buy much more than coffee, beans, rice, eggs and cheap margarine for groceries.  Believe me, if you have home made bread on the table, the rest of dinner can be skimpy and nobody will care much!  

 

Don't forget  to feed your starter - like sourdough, you need to feed the yeast to keep it alive.  So for each cup of starter used add back 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup water and 1 teaspoons of sugar.  Stir it to blend, then cover loosely and set in your warm spot 10 to 12 hours or overnight to 'work' into a mass of bubbles.  Stir down and refrigerate until needed.  

 

Happy Baking! Please over-look any typos I might have missed, my arthritis is making my hands wonky again.  :shakinghead:

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