23 September 2011

Sisterhood of the Traveling Sourdough Starter

Sourdough bread is delicious! This fact was not always plain to me. I never understood as a child why my parents would choose sourdough, or rye for that matter, over white bread. There is something incredibly comforting about white dinner rolls. I would like to say that it is scientifically proven that when you're younger you only use a few taste buds, but I've never heard that from a published source. It has only been my experience that children are very picky, because my brothers and I were very picky eaters. Over the years I began to appreciate new flavors.

Now that I'm an adult not only does sourdough bread taste fantastic, but the process of making sourdough fascinates me - to think that natural yeast exists and can be cultivated and fed to produce a leavening agent and new flavors in baking! I've thought about having a sourdough starter at home for awhile. My first inkling of the idea came when I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The book explains about natural and store purchased yeast and how bread rises, as well as how to get that crispity crunch, like the European artisan bread, with very little effort. I highly recommend the book, though you could most definitely survive on just the basic recipe, or one page in the book. New sourdough ideas came after owning the book for awhile. My friend, Kami, posted that she was doing a sourdough class in Arizona.  I wish I could learn from someone experienced how to keep a starter and make that sour taste!

I am an impulse buyer at times, especially when items are already on my mind. This was most definitely the case when I found a San Francisco Sourdough Flakes packet at a local gardening supply store. I brought it home this summer when I was bored and looking for new hobbies, and it has been bubbling and emiting sour odors happily since then. I read internet articles about sourdough and researched recipes. I fed my sourdough starter every day, which involved removing one cup and adding in a half cup of bread flour and a half cup of warm water. Some times I would use that one cup I removed to bake beautiful loaves of bread or attempt sourdough pancakes.

Most of the time though, the cup I removed went down the drain, literally.
I starting thinking of ideas for how to more fully utilize the benefits of my sourdough starter. I could bake bread every day and give it to my neighbors.... but that would require a lot of baking time which I didn't have. I could take that cup removed and give it to my neighbor to start their own sourdough starter at home... but then all of Lebanon would be in my same predicament. My best idea - share it!

So I started a group - The Sisterhood of the Traveling Sourdough Starter. A group of medical school wives I'm friends with share calendar access to schedule a week with the sourdough starter in their home. These ladies can bake sourdough breads and waffles and pancakes to their hearts content for a week, and then pass it off to someone else to feed and enjoy. It's only been a few weeks, but so far I'd say it's working quite well! I've heard that everyone is enjoying yummy bread in their homes, and when I pass along the starter at the beginning of the next turn it's still bubbly and stinky. All good signs!