Sourdough Stories

Once upon a while ago (about three or four years) my mom ventured into the world of making sourdough as a healthier alternative to regular baking. This was my first introduction to the process and it was brief. I do remember making some delicious puffy pancakes from the excess starter.

Important Fact: In order for sourdough starter to be active enough to let bread rise it needs to be fed. Feeding starter involves measuring the starter than mixing in that many cups of flour and water. (Sometimes I add less water as the starter becomes more active.) Starter gets fed daily. The result is LOTS of starter.

Then, this winter I spent a month in Lancaster as an intern at a couple of schools. I stayed with a fellow teacher named Becky and brought some of my mom’s sourdough starter along, thinking I might have time to experiment. The way things worked out, Becky was gone a lot of evenings so I made various batches of single-serve pancakes. However, with only one person using starter, I soon had a lot.

I began to make other things with it including biscuits and muffins. I made a larger batch of pancakes for Becky and I one Saturday.

However, the starter supply would have become especially overwhelming if I hadn’t begun to make friends with it. One day Becky’s sister-in-law came over, and Becky, who was intrigued by the starter, showed her how it bubbles and grows. I explained to Becky’s sister-in-law how it gets fed, and she was intrigued but quite convinced that her husband wouldn’t like it. Somehow Becky and I convinced her to try it anyway. We told her that we would have to throw out the starter, so she may as well try it.

She left with some in a little container. Panic! We forgot to tell her not to use a metal spoon. Fortunately, she hadn’t, and she was able to make nice bread that her husband actually enjoyed.

My friend Loie was also interning in the area and staying with a family friend who enjoys making foods in wholesome, old-fashioned ways. She was delighted to have some of my starter, and I enjoyed her bread over supper one night.

Finally, I determined that my starter was active enough to make into bread, and I found an artisan sourdough recipe. I had to do things a little different than the recipe said.

  1. Create a rising space by warming the oven and placing a pan of boiling water in it
  2. Use a cookie sheet with wax paper on to bake it on as I didn’t have any special pans.

Amazingly the bread turned out very much like it was supposed to and I enjoyed eating it in my lunches with hummus, spinach, and cheese.

But I must be fair and tell you another sour dough story.

I came home from college and spotted my mom’s starter in the pantry and asked her if I could take some out to feed for bread, and she consented while informing me that this was not to become a permanent fixture. I faithfully fed it, and it grew and grew.

Once again I made myself pancakes, stove-top baked corn, and even crepes with my excess starter but soon I had a large bowlful of the stuff and it didn’t seem active enough to make bread. So, once again I made a large batch of pancake batter that puffed as I added the baking soda and made fluffy and delicious pancakes.

Then, I decided to make bread. The dough was soft and sticky so I added a little extra flour and faithfully kneaded it every few hours. I put it in all the warm places I could find but that dough didn’t rise. It just sort of sagged, but I bravely added more flour and formed loaves. After four hours they still looked flat.

When I rose the next morning they were no better. My mother added baking soda and formed them into loaves which weren’t all that bad if you want bread-shaped, sourdough bannock.

I really wanted to try again, but I was a little scared to and we didn’t need more bread. Plus, my mom was done with the bowl of starter on her counter. Hence, we made multiple batches of pancakes and froze them to pop into the toaster and eat when the time is right.

But, I do have a simple little recipe to share from this experiment.

Simple Single Sourdough Crepe

1 egg beaten

1/2 c. sourdough starter

sprinkle of salt

milk/ almond milk

Mix together the egg, sourdough starter, and salt and add enough milk to make it thin enough for crepes. Add sweetener if you like for a dessert crepe or add other herbs and seasonings for a first-course crepe. A combination of curry, onion flakes, and garlic flakes is really good.

Will I try again? Sometime. I am thinking that feeding starter might be the sort of fascinating experiment to liven up a drab week in February for my students. After all,who wouldn’t want a Friday afternoon snack of fresh, fluffy pancakes?

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5 Comments on “Sourdough Stories

  1. Pingback: Un-Afraid? | travelight94

  2. Sourdough sounds exactly like something that I would be terrible at, but I confess that I still feel the desire to try it. I enjoyed your stories about it so much, and I absolutely love the idea of bringing it into your classroom. Such a good idea! It got the teacher in me feeling all tingly with ideas and possibility. 🙂 Thanks for posting!

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    • You really should just try it. If you are ever in the area, I am sure Mom would be happy to give you a little starter. 🙂 I hope you find ways to be a teacher whether or not you are in the classroom. 🙂

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  3. You’ve almost got me persuaded to try it. I have been learning how to bake bread with heritage wheat. First I tried with a bread machine, but this is old style wheat with old style gluten, not the stuff bred for industrial bread manufacturing. So I have taught myself how to do what my mother used to do. Then I started to think of going all the way back to sourdough bread, but it seems almost like a step too far for this old guy. Maybe I will get up the courage yet one day.

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    • Oh, do try. 🙂 Heritage wheat does sound interesting. I confess that I just buy whatever’s on-sale.

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