Today’s Ferment: Sourdough

sourdough_cinnamon_rollsA packet of San Francisco style sourdough starter has been in the refrigerator for years. We love sourdough bread, so we pulled it out and reactivated it.

Reactivating dry sourdough starter (which looks like dry yeast) basically involves adding water and flour to it daily until it becomes active. How can you tell if it’s active? It will look somewhat like bubbly pancake batter trying to climb out of the container. It’s really pretty cool.

Once activated, you can make bread, pancakes, biscuits…you just have to keep feeding it to keep it alive. We decided to make a sourdough boule first. The dough had a lovely elasticity to it and it smelled great. Once baked, it produced a dense loaf with a nice crumb, but didn’t rise that much. In the next iteration, we used a whole wheat flour and the resulting loaf was very dense and, again, was a reluctant riser.

The temperatures have been fluctuating lately, bouncing back and forth between summer and fall. As a result, mornings are pretty chilly. The ferments prefer it warmer, so we set the third loaf on a seedling mat to rise. It was very happy with the gentle warmth, and rose better than the previous loaves.

What’s not to like about bread that doesn’t require yeast to rise? It’s a group of living organisms, so it’s kind of like a pet, too; while you still have to feed this pet, it pays you back by providing the starter for tasty baked goods, too. Bubble on, friend.