During this extended stay-at-home, many folks are exploring cooking, baking, brewing, fermenting, and other such hobbies. I know I have; unfortunately, my exercise has not increased apace, something I plan to change today.
One thing I cook with is sourdough starter. Recently, I’ve not done much with it except make a little side money. For years, I would bake bread, use it as the sponge for an incredible three-day pizza dough, and make sourdough pancakes. Those are my favorite; when things go well, they have a sharp flavor that is addictive. Since I put an extra egg into the mix, they are a good source of protein to offset some of the carbs and oil.
I’ve worked my starter a lot by heating it frequently, often to the point of death for the yeast culture, then tended it as it recovered. Repeated cycles have brought out a nice, strong sourdough flavor. Also, it’s a very active culture, often bubbling ominously on its own within the first couple of days of being activated. I’m a big fan of wild yeasts, so I keep the top of the jar open, covered with just a thin white handkerchief. This allows built-up carbon dioxide to escape, and allows wild yeasts floating in the air to join my colony of yum.
I’m sure you’re wondering what I meant by “side money” and “activated”.
I sell my sourdough starter on Ebay for fun, and business is hopping these days as more and more folks are looking for something to do that enhances home life. By hopping, I’ve sold 7 in the past week, and that’s after a two-month lull. It’s not making me rich by any means, but a little extra $ here and there is always welcome, and I enjoy spreading my love of sourdough, just don’t ask me how to bake a good loaf. My recent efforts have been sad, deflated, and uninspiring.
Once you get sourdough starter, it’s either a thick liquid (from a friend, often given in a glass jar) or it’s dry. I sell dry starter – I used my dehydrator to dry out a large batch of the liquid, and I ship these small packets of the pulverized remains. Occasionally, I pull a packet out of the fridge and activate it according to my instructions to ensure that it is still viable.
Narrator: It is always viable, it’s amazing stuff that will likely outlive us all.
Activating dried starter is as simple as adding it to warm water and flour (and a bit of sugar for day 1) and letting the colony grow. Each day you add more flour and water and in two weeks, you’ve got a full-flavored starter ready for action. Of course you can use it sooner, but the fuller flavors begin to shine after 14 or so days of growth. It is a live culture and needs flour and water to keep going, so folks tend it every day or two, keeping these starters alive for years-to-decades. You pour off part of the existing starter (or use it!) to make room for the additional flour and water otherwise you end up with a house full of starter!
Funny story – I was coming up with a name and chose “Hott Stuff” because I’m goofy and I used heat to stress the culture and encourage more of the super-yummy heat-tolerant yeasts to develop and take over. When I setup my initial Ebay store, I made some errors and so had to call support to get things sorted. The lady was gracious, but asked me the login name and I had to say “Hott Stuff” and almost giggled myself to death. She laughed too and had fun teasing me with “Mr. Stuff”, and “Oh, Hott…”. Turns out, since this is a hobby business linked to a gmail account and my personal PayPal account and not a full, incorporated one with documents, EIN, and bank account, the approach I’d chosen was wrong. She helped me change my account, laughing all the way. I still feel the residual cheek-blush as I type this.
So, on the off chance that you or someone you know is looking for a good, easy sourdough starter, please take a look!
Open thread. I won’t be around, in my bouts of free time today, I must put some seeds and seedlings into their containers and the furnace repair folk are coming soon. And quiche won’t make itself, now will it?