Today we’re talking about baking. Specifically, sourdough.
Yeah, I know.
In my defense, I was doing it before the pandemic (although not, I note for the record, before it was cool.) I have the marks against my TSA record to prove it from all the times I flew back and forth to Michigan with my little sourdough starter baby in a jar in my carry-on.
“That’s a gel, ma’am,” they’d say, unscrewing the lid after testing it for bomb residue.
“No, it’s my son, and you’d better hand him back right this minute!”
I lost my son somewhere in the chaos of 2013-2014 and I hope he’s happy out there, wherever he is.
Anyway, now I’m starting again because there’s time, and I fucking love bread to an Oprah degree.
This new son is named Stanislav. From his conception until today, he’s been confined to a too-small jar due to a severe jar shortage. Every time I fed him during his growing phase, he would overspill the top by morning. I’d wake up to find Stanislav having crested and overflowed his bounds.
Like a proud mother, I would gaze up on my large son with pride. He’s a growing boy! He needs one more cup of flour today.
I removed all but a half-cup of Stanislav, then fed him his cup of new flour. I stirred and stirred and stirred and stirred when I fed him, like Mme. Defarge knitting her hit list, consistent and silent. Sometimes I had to stir all the way through a conference call.
I began finding little crusts of flour everywhere, all over my clothes and all over the floor. Sorry, Ian.
In time, Stanislav grew yeasty enough to start making loaves from. One knows one’s son has reached this milestone when a teaspoon or so of the sourdough starter floats in a cup of water. For several days, I looked at Stanislav’s bubbly largeness and thought “surely, today is the day.” But the starter would plunk to the bottom of the cup like a laptop thrown into a swimming pool. I tried not to show him my disappointment, but fed him and gave him another 24 hours to try.
When he first passed the float test, it was like watching my baby take the first step. Ian and I toasted Stanislav’s bright future.
On the day I made my first loaf with him, I burned several of my fingers in the process. But when we returned from our fortnightly grocery trip we each carved off a slice and ate it side by side as the trick light flickered overhead and rain poured in a torrent outside. A storm as wild as the determined little yeastie beasties that made this bread rise. Electric like the electricity Dr. Frankenstein pumped into his monster to make him rise.
Thrive, my boy.
Tune in next time for more baking topics, including “What will happen if I substitute out half of these ingredients because I do not have them on hand?” followed shortly by “Why do these cookies taste weird?”