Sourdough starters have become a “thing” lately, in this ‘Time of Corona’ when dry yeast has become in short supply. Maui overnight became ‘homesteaders’ – tending gardens, baking and cooking again, learning new survival skills, teaching their children to grow food, or make a loaf of sourdough bread.
Sourdough takes time to ferment so it’s a perfect slowing down exercise rich in culture, spanning five-thousand years of people using a mixture of wild yeasts and bacteria to ferment grains. Originally all bread was sourdough, with its slower rise.
The Sudanese, make a flatbread kisra with fermented sorghum, the Ethiopians use wild yeast to make injera (teff), Nigerians ferment millet to make ogi a cereal pudding, while idli are savory breakfast cakes, made with rice and lentils in Southern India. The everyday stories of starters may surprise you. Often they represent a lineage of bakers. Miners in 1850’s California were called ‘the sourdoughs’ because they each carried their own on their person. This starter is why San Francisco sourdough is so famous for its flavor today. My first starter, that was sixty years old, had its origin in Alaska carried by a traveling doctor. Recently, on a FB page ‘Quarantine Café’ a woman was sharing her great aunt’s 125 year old starter in Santa Cruz, leaving bags for people to pick up. The oldest starter here on Maui, I’ve heard of, is a 150-year old Russian starter.
I have taught many people how to use a sourdough starter to make breads, pancakes, pizza, focaccia, and biscuits. Before the pandemic I was teaching a class twice a month, including a free starter. I am planning on continuing as soon as we are able. Please contact me on my FB page, KitchCraft for class announcements and my line of seasonings and services. Until then enjoy my sourdough biscuit recipe:
1/2 cup butter, or vegan substitute, cut into small chunks
2 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 Tbsp. sugar or honey
1 cup milk or cultured milk (yogurt, milk kefir, buttermilk) or vegan substitute
3/4 tsp. salt 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. baking soda
This recipe needs at least 7 hours before baking the biscuits to prepare the dough for a long fermentation.
1. Cut (or grate if frozen) the fat into the flour until it is in small pieces. Stir in sourdough starter, sweetener, and milk until a soft dough just comes together. Cover and place in a warm spot to rise for 7-12 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
3. Combine salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a very small bowl until evenly mixed. Sprinkle mixture over the fermented dough and knead into a cohesive, soft mass.
4. Roll dough out 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2-3 inch biscuit cutter and place snuggly in a 10 inch oven-proof skillet.
5. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown on the top and bottom. Serve hot with preferred dressings. Enjoy!
Image Credit: Sierra Knight