Sourdough in the time of COVID-19

Because apparently, I missed having something be The Boss of Me

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Who knew that sourdough would be A Thing during Quarantine?

(Which you probably already know by now means “40.” You’re welcome. That’s all I remember about it, although it has something to do with Lent, WHICH IS OVER.)

(And yes, I got my half-price Robin’s Eggs and Cadbury’s chocolate eggs – but M&Ms were not on sale so I was cranky about that – at Walgreen’s the day after Easter, which was super easy because I was about the only person in the store.)

(And now I remember – I have remembered several times – that if I eat too much candy, it makes me feel sick to my stomach.)

Anyhow. I knew everyone was baking bread because suddenly, everyone has time and is bored.

Which means there is no flour and no yeast to be found.

And that means that people have turned to sourdough.

Which I was not going to do because – eh – I have yeast. I have flour.

And even if I didn’t, I live in Wisconsin, where everyone already bakes so the grocery stores already keep supplied for that.

And – I just checked. Plenty plenty plenty of flour and yeast in my local grocery stores.

But in places where people don’t usually bake, I guess it’s a problem?

I know the King Arthur Flour website is out of yeast. And my friend in Houston can’t find King Arthur flour in the store. (I don’t know about other brands.)

So what do you do when you can’t find yeast?

You make sourdough!

Hahahaha. I kid.

You find a friend who has sourdough and you get some from her.

If you want to make sourdough from scratch, it’s a dang nightmare.

It involves putting organic grapes in cheesecloth and immersing them in water and flour and singing to them every night at 11:00 p.m. and sacrificing the tongues of nightingales and hummingbirds and ripping out your liver and re-growing it by morning.

And not just that, but according to Nancy Silverton, I am supposed to feed my starter three times a day. And part of that feeding involves THROWING AWAY MOST OF THE EXISTING STARTER.

Nancy clearly is not from Wisconsin.

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So I was not going to make sourdough from air and fairy dust and unicorn breath. And then throw most of it away.

But then I saw that my bonus daughter, M, had some sourdough. And I was intrigued. She was telling me all about what she had been baking with it.

She dried some and mailed it to me, along with letters and cartoons that our Bonus Grandchildren had written and drawn for us – cats and tacos are Big with kids this year – and it sat in my cupboard for two weeks while I thought about Things.

Then I was ready.

I found the King Arthur Flour instructions on rehydrating sourdough and sort of followed them.

So there is this demanding schedule of feeding with weights of water and flour and the water is supposed to be at 78 degrees (Nancy, not King Arthur, cares about the water temperature, but they both WEIGH THE WATER AND THE FLOUR) and all I can think is, “Didn’t sourdough start by people scraping some of the flour from the chinks in the walls of their log cabins?”

Even regular sourdough – the kind you don’t start from the yeast in the air (which sounds like a great band name: The Yeast In The Air) – is a bit of a wasteful tyrant. King Arthur only wants me to feed once a day but they, too, have me throwing away a lot of starter, although at least they offer suggestions of what to do with the discard, like making sourdough chocolate cake.

(Which I did.)

(With a double recipe of cream cheese frosting.)

(Which Mr T thought was Too Much Frosting until he saw the cake and realized I WAS RIGHT.)

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So of course I had to google about the log cabins and how picky is sourdough REALLY and I discovered that I was close. Close enough.

This truly is not rocket science. I mean, I am sure that if I were running a commercial bakery, I would be all sciencey and would want everything on a schedule so I could scale and control. I would be All About Process.

But in my own house? With my own baking?



For now, the sourdough is in the fridge, which should cool its hunger. (Ha.)

And I have made some bread.

And will make more today.

But after that, sourdough is not my boss.


PS Those of you who can’t find flour and yeast? Try the Amish stores. The intersection between “People Who Have Just Started To Bake Bread” and “People Who Shop At Amish Stores” is probably zero. The Amish stores have flour and probably have yeast. Just saying.


6 thoughts on “Sourdough in the time of COVID-19

  1. Killed sourdough many times years ago, and won’t be killing any more now. Fortunately, I seem to live in the land of non-bakers so if I really wanted to … I could. But, i don’t. Hope things are going well for you all.


  2. I am also held in thralldom by my sourdough, which has learned to live in the refrigerator and like it. We have detente. Just yesterday, I took a cup of the starter and made crumpets – King Arthur’s recipe (starter, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 3/8 tsp. baking soda) – and they were divine, done in 15 minutes, and not so many that two people couldn’t finish them with a cup of tea. Before, I found myself baking even when I didn’t need the bread because my starter had built up beyond container capacity (I just plain refused to throw half of it away) – now, I know there is something very easy, not too fattening, and sort of fun to do with it. The saga continues.


  3. Under no circumstances should you throw away the discard of ripe starter. Make crumpets, eat them with honey and butter, and thank me later. Use King Arthur’s recipe. Alternatively, make King Arthur’s sourdough cinnamon buns. If you are super lazy, make discard crackers. But do not throw away ripe starter just because you are feeding your starter. Keep that shit and use it.


      1. You will not regret it. I use discard that isn’t ripe, and use a teaspoon of yeast to supplement.


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