“Mom killed “Herman”! ” “I did not… I saved most of him”… “Quick! Grab a towel!”
Laugh if you will, but this is how weird our house is getting now that we have introduced a new “life” into our home. “Herman” is our sourdough starter. Hush. It’s not odd… lots of people have names for their sourdough starter. I looked it up. And, for the record, I didn’t kill him off when the measuring cup malfunctioned and “Herman” became a melting, stinky puddle running down the side of the dishwasher… some of him was already saved in the container! “Herman” lives on!!
Okay, okay, let’s back up a little bit. Goal for 2019… live a bit greener and a bit more simply. Subsequently, I see a post from a friend that she has some sourdough starter to share… yes please… let’s try something new! Visions of the simple homemaker baking bread, the sweet smell of yeasty goodness filling the air with aromas of days gone by. Simpler times when everyone got along and borrowed cups of sugar. And so a tiny jar came home to me — filled with half a cup of sourdough starter: “Herman” had arrived.
People have been making bread for years. All kinds of bread. I read somewhere that sourdough starters present today could be upwards of 300 years old. History tells us that some form of bread has been a staple in almost every culture. However, unlike the great pioneer woman, I bought mine in the grocery store, already baked, packaged, and sliced. Therefore, I was excited to try out homemade. Many health experts say sourdough bread is a healthier option for people who are trying to reduce their gluten intake. Compared to store bought white bread, it also has a low glycemic index and can keep your sugar levels down. How hard could it be? I was in –but– I had no idea how to feed, nurture or care for this new being. So, I had to look up the instructions, again.
Along the way I have learned a lot! Most breads contain a yeast. Sourdough bread is made when the dough is allowed to ferment in a “culture” or starter. The mixture of a naturally occurring yeast (referred to as a “wild” ferment) and Lactobacillus (a bacterial culture) that produces lactic acid. This lactic acid produces the “sour” taste of traditional sourdough. The long story is: you’ve got to feed the starter in order for the culture to thrive. This is usually done by adding flour and water, which the starter then breaks down into sugars etc, etc… basically a living science experiment all happening on my kitchen counter.
At first, I was adding too much flour, and my starter became very thick, almost glue like. The hubby complained about having to wash those jars… gooey glop for sure! Then I added less flour — which makes the starter a bit more sour tasting. Parenting yeast and bacterial cultures is a delicate balance. And heaven forbid you spill… years of history running down into clean forks! Oh! The Tragedy!
All these adventures to say this: we have enjoyed trying all kinds of sourdough starter recipes! We’ve decided we don’t like the pancakes. The bread is good… although I am still learning to get a good rise. I think our house is too chilly. Pizza dough has become a favourite, and we have enjoyed the family bonding experience of making our own pizzas. Cinnamon buns and pretzels were big hits and baked donuts are on the agenda! I will post all the recipes on my Pinterest boards for you to check out!!
I may not have become the pioneer woman of the gold rush, but “Herman” has forced me to slow down a little, to plan my rising times, and try new recipes for using up leftover starter. There is nothing like getting your hands all floured up and kneading dough. The whole family now has to participate in pizza night. I think the only one who is not so sure of “Herman” is the dishwasher. Sorry, darling. Be that as it may, it now comes as no surprise to me that our cultures have put such a significance on bread. It has deep symbolism in the Bible, too, many I am sure you are familiar with: hospitality, the bread of life, remembrance of Christ’s body broken for us at the last supper. Thanksgivings for our daily bread and the forgiveness of sins that can grow and multiply like the yeast and levain in a sourdough starter culture.
It’s a good reminder, isn’t it? How something so simple, so traditional, can contain such meaning. We forget to be thankful for our basic needs. We forget to take advantage of time. To be patient and wait for things to rise and flourish. We forget to appreciate the traditions of hard work, in this quick paced society. We forget that unless we are fed in proper proportions we become sour and fermented. Do we bless others through sharing our wealth and our hospitality? For now, “Herman” will continue to be fed and thrive on our counter… a reminder of so many more complex things!