I was reminded again this morning of just how alive sourdough is. The little jar of starter that sits in my fridge, at the back of the highest shelf, with the lid slightly off-centre and, usually, a little glob of crusted paste that bubbled up on a particularly warm day, doesn’t get much of the tender loving care I was told, repeatedly and at great length, that sourdough starters apparently need to stay healthy. I have a knack for forgetting about things like this, and it isn’t unusual for my poor starter to go a fortnight without feeding. When it is fed, it’s never the organic, unbleached rye flour or organic, unbleached brown bread flour that I was told is the only sort of flour a starter should ever be fed with. It’s often the cheapest white bread flour I can get. Frequently, when I’m out of bread flour at home and suddenly realise my starter hasn’t been fed in three weeks, it’s Tesco stripy label plain white flour.
When I feed my starter, I empty the entire contents of the jar into a bowl and double what’s there. Once it’s good and lively and risen, I take a portion of it, feed that a second time and stick it back in the jar. The rest gets used to bake with that day.
By rights, I should have a dead starter. At the very least, I’m sure no one would be surprised if it turned out I frequently have to spend a week feeding my starter when I do remember to, slowly nursing it back to health before banishing it once more to the back of the fridge to languish again. But that isn’t the case at all. Last night I pulled my starter out of the fridge several days late for a feeding, where it turned out the fridge temperature had gone too low and left ice crystals on the outside of the jar, and the contents inside had a darker crust on top. I fed it, the same way I always do, covered it in clingfilm and went to bed for an unsatisfying five hours of sleep.
And woke up to a mixing bowl on the verge of overflowing.
Look at that! Look at the stringy tangles of gluten, the texture so riddled with holes it’s hard to imagine how it even held itself upright, and that creeping fist of tightly wound, firm, stretchy dough threatening to swallow the knife I’m trying to break into it with. This thing is alive and vibrant and so very, very healthy. And I am a terrible starter owner. I’ve had this starter for a year now, and it’s just the healthiest, happiest, bubbliest thing.
It smells amazing, as well. Sour and alive, and full of energy. My starter was just waiting to burst into life and activity. I love it.
Later today I’ll portion a little off, feed it again and stick it in the little jar, at the back of the fridge. The rest will be kneaded with a little oil and herbs, and topped with pepper paste and vegetables and mozarella. Sourdough makes the BEST pizza dough.
- Sour Dough Bread (guyawford.com)
- Somebody Took a Bread Making Class… Thank You Love Apple Farms (skepclecticmom.wordpress.com)
- Sourdough Bread (herbifit.com)
- Sprouted Rye Sourdough (bakersdiet.wordpress.com)
- Sourdough Project: Day 4 (and beyond) (dalejusttoday.wordpress.com)