GREEK BAKERS save a piece of the raw dough each time they bake to use as the leavening for the next batch of bread. As they usually bake at least once a week, they are never without a piece of starter (prozymi), and in the unlikely event they run out of it, a friend or neighbor can lend them a piece.
In the old days, the starter was always kept in a special clay jar and became quite sour. It also dried out and needed to be soaked in warm water before it could be incorporated into a new dough. Today, the starter is stored in the refrigerator, well sealed, where it will keep for up to 7 days, or it can be frozen for up to 6 months.
To make a dough starter from scratch, you prepare a basic yeast dough for a white bread, divide it and keep it until needed. Because I like my starter slightly sour, I make it at least a week before I will be baking and keep it in the refrigerator. Or, if I’ve frozen it, I take it out of the freezer, let it rise at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours and, if I don’t plan to use it immediately, I refrigerate it again for up to 2 days.
In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes, or until frothy.
Place the flour and salt in a food processor. With the motor running, pour in the yeast mixture and enough cold water to make a soft, sticky dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
Process the dough for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until slightly sticky and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl and a piece of plastic wrap.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to the oiled bowl. Cover with the oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Place each piece in an oiled bowl large enough to allow it to double. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 7 days. Or flatten each piece (or just one) into a disk, wrap in aluminum foil, place in a zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 6 months.
When you are ready to use it, take the starter out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Or let frozen starter stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours before using.
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