Bert the sourdough starter, or “mother”, came to our family in the usual way – through a generous adoption from our local Buy Nothing group which has been a savior for my “but this is still useful” near-hoarding ways. He (preferred pronoun) lives in a purple mason jar, because of course he does. And he is helping me through my midlife crisis, because while I would rather have a puppy, Bert at least helps to feed the family and serve as last minute host gifts for any number of occasions, therefore he pulls his weight around here. He’s only been here for about 2 weeks but he has already provided 3 loaves of bread, 2 batches of crackers, a breakfast of pancakes, and a pile of crepes.
I feel like a sourdough starter is a rite of passage for so many things. It’s definitely a rite of passage for my neighborhood of Boston, which can be described using words like hippy-dippy, progressive, quirky, and dangerously rapidly gentrifying, all of which can be the subject of a different post. I tried to find a Weck jar to give Bert a more wide-mouthed and less…purple…home, and I went to the local small kitchenwares store to see if they had one. Bantering with the cashier about “my first sourdough starter” was met with a very serious “the air here is so perfect for cultivating the wild yeast!” so I slunk out of the store careful not to make more inadvertent hippy jokes. I’m surprised that my starter has not come with papers and a full adoption story, although I’m sure if i reached out to its previous owner, I might get one. (Kombucha SCOBYs offered on the Buy Nothing group are often accompanied by “only fed organic sugar and love” type caveats.)
I also briefly remember my mother being gifted a sourdough starter in my youth — if I remember it, then she must have been about my age when she acquired this starter. I vaguely remember eating bread made from it. I vaguely remember my mom lamenting about keeping the starter fed and having to make all that bread all the time. I’m pretty sure it did NOT have a name. And then I have no recollection about how the starter met its end or when or why the bread fount stopped. So between my sister cultivating her own sourdough starter from scratch recently (no thank you, it’s not LOCAL wild yeast, haha) and the offer on the Buy Nothing group, and these memories, I figured it was time for me to adopt my own.
For the first week, Bert lived on our counter, and I started tracking his feedings. Since I can’t be trusted to keep my own bullet journal going for a whole week, the feeding tracking lasted about 2 feedings.
I tried following feeding schedules. That lasted for about 2 days. Now I am working on a schedule of taking Bert out of the fridge on Wednesday, and feeding him Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday morning and late Friday night in order to bake a loaf for Saturday evening that can be a gift or eaten, and maybe another on Sunday evening to last the week, before putting Bert back in the fridge until the next week.
Despite the wealth of online advice and timetables, somehow, I can’t figure out how to reverse timeline a loaf of bread through 2 feedings and 3 rises. And I tried logging the cycle for a loaf of bread, but the logs on the BertBread 1, 2, and 3 are fraught with inaccuracies on timing. I can’t even be trusted to write down the time that I did something, never mind proofing bread for a specific amount of time. I still have a learning curve for being able to visually evaluate both starter and dough, learning how to shape bread dough, and determining which factors will lead to a better crumb. (The crust and flavor of all 3 BertBreads have been pretty great. It’s that wild LOCAL yeast, man.)
I’m also feeling the typical guilt about discarding starter and have looked up recipes for sourdough pancakes/waffles and crackers and crepes and banana breads (which I haven’t made yet, but there are 4 bananas tempting me from the kitchen counter right now.)
I guess all I need now is time and practice, and assurance that a sourdough starter can in fact survive in a house of growth by hands-off parenting. Maybe a good fridge proofing technique. Oh, and more hours in the day to get to the gym to burn off all this bread that I am happily eating with my cultured butter. Next step, churning and making my own butter. Yes, I can do that.
Anyone local want a sourdough starter?