Last Sunday I finally redeemed an imaginary voucher given to me by a very real (and very handsome) person for my birthday in June. It’s been a long time coming. The reward was a class at the Brooklyn Kitchen, a kitchen supply store and so much more in Williamsburg. The class I chose was one on sourdough bread in the French tradition. Very simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and a leavening agent. Sourdough breads are leavened by wild yeasts, and catching the little buggers is the first step. Making a “starter” is as simple as mixing some unbleached, unprocessed flour with some water and waiting. In a little bit of time, the natural bacteria and what not in the flour will prove an edible arena for the competition of all sorts of yeasts. And one will win out and will be your delightful friend for the next few months, or next few years, as is the case of my bread instructor.
He’s had “Concord” for 8 years now, and often gives little bits of him away to his students, which I was lucky enough to be one of. I took home a bit of Concord and have been keeping him healthy and happy and full ever since. The wild yeast just needs daily replenishings of flour and water so they can keep digesting the sugars, and doing what they do best: producing CO2 and acetic acid. And that’s what brings us sourdough! The bubbles are what give the crumb of the bread a delightful porosity (though that too depends on the density of the flour), and the acetic acid (vinegar, basically) gives it the noticeable tang for which the sourdough is named.
Along with the starter, I received several important tips on making an extraordinary loaf of bread (if extraordinary only by its incredible ordinary-ness), AND a recipe for sourdough pancakes. Given that the starter itself is very near to pancake batter in consistency, and consists only of flour, water, and yeast, it’s the perfect way to start a batter for pancakes. You only need a few additional ingredients to bring it all together. Via my instructions below, I’ll help you get on your way to a good (maybe?) sourdough starter, and see if we can’t have you guys making these delicious pancakes too!
1 C sourdough starter (see below)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
a splash of melted butter (less than a Tbsp)
a splash of maple syrup (less than a Tbsp as well)
1 C unbleached flour (try half unbleached white flour and half whole grain flour for a potentially more pro-biotic environment)
1 C water
To make the starter: combine flour and water in a glass jar or tupperware container, and cover with a rag. You can add more flour as necessary to give it a thicker texture if necessary. Leave on your counter in a warm, dry place for 2-3 days. Check on it periodically to see if the culture’s caught, which you’ll be able to tell by visible bubbles showing up on the surface. You can let it sit another day or two if it seems lifeless. Once there are bubbles, you want to throw about 80% away, and replenish it with more flour and water, bringing it back to the same consistency. This is food for the yeast, so it can continue to stay alive and produce more CO2. You should repeat the process of discard and feeding every day until you’re ready to use it. I could write for hours on the intricacies of this act, but if you feed it and notice it start bubbling and activating again a few hours later, than you should be good to go. Wait until at least 5 hours after feeding it (that’s why the pancakes are so good to do right in the morning!) so it’ll be hungry and ready when you need to call upon its yeasty services.
To make the pancakes: take 1 C of your smelly, gloopy starter and whisk it together with the rest of the ingredients. It should have started out looking like weird pancake batter and ended up looking like normal pancake batter. Fry in a pre-heated cast iron skillet for about a minute on each side. Serve with a pat of butter and plenty of maple syrup.
These are going to be unique. There is basically vinegar in them, and they have a distinct saltiness and tang that are remarkable to find in a pancake. And dousing them with butter and maple syrup just bring it all together.
Hit me up at email@example.com, or in the comments, if you have any specific questions! It’s a unique and certainly fallible craft, so let me know if you try it and need any tips! I’m no expert, but I’ve got some great resources and a few sourdough loaves under my belt.
Enjoy the treat!