Through a series of events I ended up moving by myself into a little home that came with a cup of sourdough starter. I have long dreamed of possessing my own starter from a culture that had been around for years or decades, centuries even. Living in Boulder, Colorado the stores here sell “sourdough” in quotation marks, not acceptable to this former resident San Franciscan. My excitement was huge.
And yet I felt intimidated by the starter. I don’t know much about the science behind it all..and I wanted my loaves to come out excellent. I didn’t want to kill it and I didn’t know how delicate was its connection to life.
The instructions the starter came with read, do this at at 3 pm and this at 9 pm, clearly notes to herself but distracting for a sourdough bread making novice. I vowed to rewrite them and learn more about the specifics of the task at hand.
The starter sat untouched and unfed in my refrigerator for weeks, which turned into a month, which turned in six weeks. I was certain it was dead and with my tail between my legs I was going to have to reenact and embellish upon a scene from Oliver, “Can I have some more please?… I think I killed it.”
I put on my brave boots and opened the container. I smelled it and it was plenty sour but also deflated across the bottom of the container looking rather limp. I added flour and water and let it sit.
I decided a good way to determine if it was dead was to call my sourdough mentor, tell her I hadn’t used it yet and was about to and would like to go over the steps. I figured if she didn’t say anything about it being too long or I hope you fed it, it would be okay. She simply told me again how to do it, no fanfare, no seeming issues.
I followed the directions and made my first loaf. It came out alright! I was alone so I cut a few pieces and took it next door to the construction site, I had to break bread with fellow folks on my first loaf. And it came out delicious, all the trepidation unwarranted. As many times it is.
I’m making my fifth loaf right now and what prompted me to write this is how simple it is to bake bread. Truth is it takes little personal time and not much effort.
Someone in your house should bake bread. I don’t like shoulds either. It’s just that as a people we’ve moved farther and farther away from the staples of a balanced life. I’m a strong advocate for cooking at home, and for learning how to think in the kitchen. Food is more important than is given credence in our culture.
As I mentioned I’m on my fifth loaf. The sourdough starter and I are beginning to relate in a different way. I’m learning it’s textures and ways to work with it. I’m reading up on it and each loaf is different and delicious in it’s own way. I can’t believe I was ever afraid to begin.
There’s a new year just around the corner. It’s always a good demarkation for shaking up habits and patterns, taking a look at the criteria you use to run your daily life.
Add baking bread to your repertoire. You can buy sourdough culture or make your favorite kind. Forget the machine. Get your hands dirty.