Sourdough has always been part of my life. As a person born and raised in Alaska, I have the credentials to call myself a Sourdough. Sourdough was part of the Alaskan gold rush, and people who came over at that time all had sourdough to get them through the winter. It was a nourishing and forgiving food. The starter would be revived with a little warmth water and flour, and make the flour rise into biscuits, bread and pancakes to keep the gold miner alive. An old Sourdough is the word for an experienced Alaskan.
I had made sourdough pancakes, and diverse baked products.
It always confused me to find “Sourdough Bread” in the California bakery section. Except for a slight tangy taste, this bread was indistinguishable from the French loaves beside it, which was the opposite of the tough sourdough I knew from my childhood.
But something made me decide to try making this fancy sourdough bread this weekend.
Have you noticed a new interest in DIY home crafts? The hippies used to do this. I looked up on the Internet how to make ARTISAN sourdough bread.
I wanted my daughter to learn to appreciate the glory of wild yeast sourdough.
So I brought her into the process, having her take a deep sniff of the starter, inhaling the yeasty scent. She saw the first mix, when I took the starter out of the fridge and added it to the flour, water and sugar the night before. Maybe six tiny bubbles decorated the surface of the started.
But in the morning, the whole mess was a foamy mass! Here Veronica got a second noseful, along with a sincere WOW. This was really science. This was alive, and THIS was how the ancient romans made bread.
Just like we were going to!
But oh my lord, this recipe was complicated! It was a three-day project! I had started it the night before but we still had hours and hours of small tasks to complete this artisan frenchy sourdough bread.
First we mix it, and then there were complicated restings, and single kneadings that had to be spaced out by a half hour each time over the course of 3 hours.
I confess, I had better stuff to do. I lost the vision when we stopped to have dinner with Veronica’s Grandma.
After I got her to bed, I looked at this half-tended mass of dough. What had I gotten myself into? Had I ruined this sourdough bread I had talked up so much to my daughter?
But this frou frou Frenchy bread wanted so much touching and tending! No way a real Sourdough would have put up with this nonsense.
I started at the shaggy risen mass.
No way was I throwing this away! My daughter was going to find out what happened with this project, no matter if it failed.
Besides, THIS was sourdough. Sourdough is tough and it’s alive. It’s forgiving. I narrowed my eyes at it, and gave it a little sprinkle of flour (NOT in the recipe) and began the slow half-hour-at-a-time kneading process the recipe called for.
I cleaned up the kitchen, and tending this dough. Per the fussy recipe, I set it in specially prepared dishes to rest in the fridge overnight and we all got some rest.
In the morning, there was even more fussiness to back the dough blobs. Preheat the pan, then cook it for 20 minutes. Then turn down the heat for ten minutes. THEN take the lid off and cook it for 25 more minutes. Then turn out the loaf and DON’T CUT IT YET!
We must wait again for 2 hours for it to fully be ready.
I only have one pot with a lid that can do this bread baking duty. Veronica woke up at the PERFECT time to see the first loaf be tipped out to cool, and then sit with me through all these dance steps to get the second loaf.
We sat on the kitchen floor and talked about family things. And I looked up at the first loaf that was cooling.
It looked right. I couldn’t know for sure until I cut it open.
“Veronica, knock on the crust. It’s supposed to sound hollow.”
She rapped her knuckles on the hard top, and pulled her hand away with a shocked face.
It HAD made a satisfying hollow thump, but “what’s wrong? Is it too hot still?”
“No, it’s really HARD.”
Yeah, that crust could slow a battering ram.
We cut it open after church, and it was not disappointing. Chris said, “This is not as sour as sourdough from the store”
“That’s because the stuff from the store has nothing to do with sourdough, except maybe some flavoring! THIS is real living sourdough.”
The bread itself was elastic and felt nourishing, just like sourdough does. There is a little something extra happening when life itself, in the form of the wild yeast of sourdough, cooperates with me.
I was so glad that I trusted this living organism sourdough to forgive me for not following the correct procedure from the recipe.
I did what I could, and I didn’t give up. We had a family adventure along the way.
Once again, sourdough is giving me lessons about life and survival. Show up. Keep trying. Do the simple little action, even if it’s not exactly the right time.
It will work out.