One of the Alaska traditions I adopted early on was that of keeping a sourdough pot. Practically speaking, being able to make sourdough pancakes, waffles, and bread is nice. It’s yummy, healthy stuff, easier to digest than commercial bread, with nutrients that are more readily absorbed.
I also tend to think of it as a sort of pet—I call it my “sourdough pet” instead of “sourdough pot”—a living thing that needs care and provides satisfaction and food in return. And a tough little critter it is: It can live on the counter or in the fridge, and it survives lengthy periods of neglect without complaint.
I don’t put any stock in claims of hundred-year-old sourdough. The way we continually add flour and water while using sponge means the contents turn over regularly. Hundred-year-old, shmundred-year-old. And as taste goes, I can’t tell a difference between one-month-old sourdough, one-year-old sourdough, and that which claims to be a hundred years old.
It’s been a while, but I started a sourdough pet recently. Today we had fresh homemade sourdough English muffins.
Hot off the griddle, we don’t toast them. We split them and top them will the usual toppings: butter, peanut butter, honey, jam, garlic butter, etc. They’re chewy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. Tomorrow, they’ll make great toast.
My favorite sourdough recipes and instructions come from Garden Way Publishing’s Bread Book : A Baker’s Almanac by Ellen Foscue Johnson. I have a first edition copy (the yellow one), which, of course, is no longer in print, though there are used copies available. If a recipe calls for additional commercial yeast, I’m likely to skip it, unless my pet is recovering from neglect.
The 1994 edition, The Bread Book: A Baker’s Almanac has the same 1970s photos and the same great advice and recipes.
Reading the bread-baking basics in the front of this book greatly improved my results; I haven’t baked a brick since receiving it as a gift from my sister-in-law. Beating the first blending of flour, oil, salt, and yeast “at least 200 strokes” is, I think, the best tip I’ve ever gotten.
The recipes are outstanding—ethnically diverse and utilizing a variety of grains and other ingredients. In addition to the sourdough recipes, I love chappatis, North African coriander bread, lacy corn cakes, brown rice bread, wedding bread from Crete, and oh-so-many more. Last week I made rhubarb bread for the first time. Mmmm!