What do you think of when you hear the word ...sourdough... ...sourdough starter... ?
For me it used to be ideas like tangy, sour, funky... bread, pretzels, waffles... time consuming, finicky, attention demanding...
If I came across sourdough anything when I was in a baking mood and shopping around for inspiration I would think "I wish," and promptly move on. Then, in December 2017, I took the week between Christmas and New Years off and thought, “Well at least now I'm home and can tend to a sourdough starter.” So I whipped out my Scandinavian recipe book, found a rye sourdough recipe, weighed out and mixed up my ingredients, and waited.
A few days later nothing had happened, so I waited some more. My sourdough starter had turned a bit grey, and I was pretty sure it was starting to grow some mold. I was ready to toss it out and start over, but my partner, who routinely made sourdough bread, scraped off the top layer, stirred it with his finger, and boosted the thermostat a few degrees. 2 days later I had bubbles! They were itty bitty bubbles, but bubbles nonetheless.
I made my first batch of Scandinavian Rye Sourdough bread later that week. It was amazing! It tasted just like what I remembered from my trips to Norway: super dense, sour, and with complex nuttiness. Thinking I knew how temperamental starters were, I thought I could keep my starter alive for a few months, but guessed I would eventually kill it through neglect. So far I have been wrong. My starter has been alive since 2017. AND, it appears to perform best when it’s hungry. My most sour, most tender loaves have been from a starter that went unfed for almost 2 months while it lived in the fridge.
In fact, the rye sourdough that I bring to the farmers markets is made from descendants of that first starter. Over time I’ve changed flours and altered the compositional ratios, making it my own. I love how versatile the starter is; I can make one batch with a heavy dose of rye flakes, and the next batch can be loaded with dry fruit and nuts for a completely different experience. The flavor and texture options are endless. Soon I hope to share my seeded and dried fruit versions with market customers.