Knock! Knock! Answered by a snap, crackle and a pop. A screech and the oven door slams. With haste, on the counter the loaf lands. Steam rises, even still so does the anticipation Salivatin’ in preparation for mastication. Sure you could use a knife but there’s just something so right about pulling away with the hands that gives life, accentuating the elasticity that translates to chew, that sorta satisfaction that only carbs can give you.Bread
I digress but what’s the point of starter if not to start something? I was excited to put this animal to work and witness the miracles of biology. I was after a plain ol’ sourdough, if that’s a thing. Nothing fancy: Starter, flour and water combined and left to rest- a stage called autolysis. It allows the flour to absorb the water, or gluten to bind with the water, and initiates the gluten formation, making the dough more manageable and workable. After the first rest, (depending on the recipe) the salt is mixed in and the dough is kneaded. The dough is left to rest and rise And rise it did- slowly! But surely.
Even through baking, the starter’s mission succeeded, and the air pockets survived. I was amused! not at my sub-par baking accomplishment but by those many factors beyond me, the starting with just 3 ingredients flour, water, salt- the harvest of sea, land, and air. A mass of dough had become a boule of bread, a crust supported by and pockets of air suspended in an intricate network of crumb. I found that amazing.
It brought to life the Bible account of Jesus telling his crew “A little yeast leavens the whole lump.” Seriously, how cool is it that these little organisms casually chilling in my flour or floating in my kitchen were cause for inflating an entire loaf’s worth of dough, And goodness the satisfaction of pulling out of my own oven the hot, crackling, sourdough, thinking to myself “Yat-ta! It worked!”
It’s been a while since the accomplishment. My work schedule picked up and it was easy to be convinced that I had other things to worry about. I remember a Hulu commercial with Damian Lillard wrestling a sourdough. In a moment, with the flick of his wrist he launches it from his kitchen counter to the trashcan. “Sorry, sourdough; Hulu has live sports.” A glimmer of life as we knew it and he was trading in the apron. I could relate. But after recounting the story, I was excited to give it another go.
My neighbor sounded the alarm. Her own starter needed to be revived; it sat lifeless on her counter, a prisoner to the mason jar that confined it, spitting out hooch in a still pool resting on top the rest of the mixture. Hooch is a byproduct of sourdough starter produced basically when the starter is hungry. I took one of her many pets and fed it some flour, taking it back to day 1. (She had 6 jars!) Some days later, it was bubbling again, almost as slow as the first round.
Don’t tell her I told you: my neighbor had given up on hers before mine was ready but I I’ve since baked a number of loaves, flipped a couple batches of pancakes and collected even more discard which ultimately ended up in some cookies and a large batch of bread.
Life’s tempo continually increasing, supporting this “child” wasn’t a responsibility I wanted anymore. King Arthur Flour’s not the cheapest and I can only eat so many pancakes. I’ve elected to spread it on a parchment lined tray to dry and it’s now resting in my cabinet till I’m read to pick it up again. The ever so reliable internet says a quick rehydration (equal weights water and dried starter) is all I need to get it going again, So till then!