And, then there’s Sourdough Yoga.
My kids’ high school participates in a program where Australian high school students spend a couple of weeks with a family here. We participated a couple of years ago. Nicholas joined us and we bonded with him immediately. I also bonded with his father from many thousands of miles away. My God, he has a brick oven in his backyard. He has pizza parties for twenty. I’m jealous. Envious.
Ever since, Ian and I have maintained an email correspondence. Trading pictures of pizza and our tales of our existence. Rumor has it he and the family will be headed out this way in a few months. I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime, we have emails. Last weekend, he sent me an email bemoaning the fact that his sourdough starter, which he had named Eric (!!), had died from neglect. So, he started another one — Eric II — and baked a loaf.
Authentic Australian sourdough.
Well, the gauntlet had been thrown. My sourdough has been sitting in the refrigerator, neglected as well for many months.
For those uninitiated in the ways of the sourdough. Once you get your starter going, you’re supposed to feed it regularly. This means removing a cup of the starter and adding a cup of flour and water. Sourdough is something that needs frequent love and attention. And, if you’re going to give it all of that love and attention, you might as well bake sourdough regularly. The problem for me is twofold. First, sourdough is more time consuming than making regular bread. See the aforementioned regular feeding. Also, once it’s time to bake, you’re looking at a two day process. As a result, easy to make french bread is, well, easier to make.
The second problem is that two members of the Midget family don’t like sourdough. As a result, french bread is, well, easier to make. And enjoy for the whole family. Particularly, when you slather it in melted butter while it’s rising. Slather it in melted butter again just before you back it. Slather it in melted butter after you bake it. And sprinkle sea salt or kosher salt on top.
In that picture above, it’s hard to see, but there is an inch or two of black water on top. A neglected sourdough starter separates and continues fermenting. The black water is foul smelling and disgusting. But as long as there isn’t any mold on the jar, I’m good to go. I hope. With Ian throwing the challenge down, I began to work with my un-named sourdough starter.
Fed it Thursday night. Fed it Friday morning. Fed it Friday night and began my week long sourdough yoga. I pulled a cup out of the starter Friday night and combined it with another cup of water and flour. Set that to the side. Saturday morning, I added some more water and flour and formed some dough for your basic sourdough. Normally, because of time issues, I add some regular yeast to help speed up the rise. But, I knew this weekend could be a lazy one. We had some plans, but they were spaced out so I could do this thing without additional help. No added yeast.
The dough sat in its bowl until about 2:30 in the afternoon. I formed the loaves and put them in bread loaf pans. One of the things I’ve discovered is that sourdough and other low yeast breads, when they rise, they tend to “rise” to the sides — meaning the bread comes out pretty flat. Unless you put them in something that will help shape them properly. Hence the loaf pans. The dough sat in those pans until almost 8:30 when I put them in the oven. Here you go. Two loaves of sourdough.
But, I wasn’t done. There’s still Sunday, right? I fed the starter again last night. Pulled a couple of cups out of it and added some flour and water and set it aside. This morning, I turned that it into more dough. And while it began to rise, I sliced up some of one of last night’s loaves and made french toast. And topped it with some strawberry jam my youngest made a few weeks ago.
By the way, my youngest leaves tomorrow for four weeks in Israel. He’s the other member of my family who likes sourdough. Half a loaf is tucked into his carry-on for nibbling on the plane.
Because sourdough has no added yeast — In case you want to know the science of sourdough, go here — it takes hours for it to rise. When I make French bread with regular yeast, the rise is only about 45 minutes. Sourdough takes hours. Then you form it and it takes hours more. That slow rise gives sourdough it’s distinctive bit holes, but also can make it denser and heavier than normal yeast breads.
So, there’s a lot of time in there to do other things. While today’s loaves are doing their thing…
I had to have lunch. Right? If it’s Sourdough weekend, that must mean Sourdough Grilled Cheese. Provolone and Jack cheese. Two slices of each.
I tried something different with this sandwich. I grilled both sides of the bread so it was crunchy on the outside and the inside. I may do that more often.
The final two events of Sourdough weekend, of my sourdough yoga, are the two most important. First, three of the rounds pictured above turned into roasted garlic asiago sourdough. If we had smell-a-vision on our computers, I’d share the smell with you. This bread, baking in the oven, is the absolute best food aroma there is. (And, yes, that picture is upside down.)
The final event was, of course, pizza with sourdough crust.
Thank you, Ian, for motivating me to get the starter out and gorge myself on all things sourdough. Yes, the starter is safely back in the fridge. Where it will remain for a few months before I pull it back out again. Next time, I won’t go quite so crazy. At the moment, I think I need to bicycle non-stop for the next three days to burn off all these carbs.
Why “Sourdough Yoga”? Because there are things that relax me, where I find comfort, and some semblance of peace. Cooking is one of them. Baking. Making pizza. Pulling the starter out of the fridge this weekend and refamiliarizing myself with it living and breathing sourdough for a couple of days. Finding new ways to use it. That’s yoga to me.