Friday, August 24, 2007

The Sourdough Starter Mafia

I arrived back to Michigan to find my sourdough starter resting safe and sound in the refrigerator where I’d left her. I removed her from the fridge and let her come up to room temperature for a few hours and then began the feeding process. She bubbled up wonderfully after her first feeding upon my return – a very good sign.“Breads for the La Brea Bakery” has become my bible. Although the book recommends feeding the starter three times a day, I’m only feeding her two times a day, really more of a time saver than anything and most of my bread-guru friends seem to agree that this should be just fine. She smells sour and yeasty and delicious and I had to stick a finger in for a taste. Raw sourdough starter certainly doesn’t have the same appeal that raw cookie dough does, but I'm definitely on to something good…

After three days of feeding I’m feeling pretty anxious and am just about to begin my first loaf of bread! Drum roll please! I’ve never made bread from my very own sourdough starter – I’m so excited! My boss has requested the rosemary olive-oil bread on page 82. The recipe makes two loaves and they are supposed to be refrigerated overnight to ferment. But, considering that I have absolutely no patience what so ever and I need and require immediate gratification NOW – I’m going to put one loaf in the fridge to ferment overnight and one loaf on the counter to proof and bake later this evening. I’m also kind of a skeptic as to how much fermentation will really occur overnight in the fridge. And, with a rosemary olive oil loaf – will the fermentation even be noticeable? We’ll soon find out.

I leave Monday to head back to California for an extended trip to take care of some personal biz and visit the family. I’m sad at having to leave my infant sourdough starter. She’s only just a baby! My god, how do people ever leave their children alone? Oh right, sourdough starters don’t cry or have dirty nappies…

I want to take my starter with me, however that wasn’t a good enough argument to score me a ride on my boss’s private jet. Where’s the love? I knew I should’ve chopped a few onions and worked up some tears before I asked. With all these absurd rules for what you can and cannot take on flights these days I’m going to have to start a small mafia of sourdough starter mules. I figure I’ll recruit some young kids from the local culinary academy to swallow condoms filled with the sourdough starter, send them out to the four corners of the globe and then reclaim the starter when we get there on the yacht. A better and slightly more hygienic solution that Nancy Silverton has recommended in her bread bible is to dry out the sourdough starter on a cookie sheet and then revive it with warm water and flour for three days – then it should be ready to use. But will it still have that nice sour taste? I currently have a sheet pan with about 1 1/2 cups of starter drying on it. I’ll know next week if it works!

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