adventures in sourdough

Let the adventures of dabbling in sourdough begin! I was poking around websites last night and just reading about bread trying to understand what this process of yeast and fermentation was all about. In a nutshell, or at least what I understood is that its a process of yeast “burping and farting”. Let  me elaborate…(this is my non science mind understanding the science behind it)

Flour and water is mixed together to make a starter. Starter? So, the enzymes in the flour (lactic acid bacteria aka lactobacillus) break down the starches into sugar aka glucose. Yeast likes glucose, and there are wild yeast spores in the air that be harvested right in your kitchen. Yeast eats the sugars in the flour and releases carbon dioxide bubbles as a byproduct which help the bread rise. That would be called fermentation. The enzymes are what produce the sourness of the bread because they release lactic acid. The lactic acid lowers the acidity of the starter creating a habitat in which other bacteria cannot thrive. Yeast however, can handle it.

In the days before store bought yeast, this is how bakers captured the spores to make bread. Based on where you live, there are different strains in the air which is why sourdough may taste differently from place to place. San Francisco is famous for the delicious yeast spores. mmmm….taste the air!

Anyways, enough of that. I want to start making my own sourdough, but often starting a culture from scratch for a first time baker (well, I have baked bread before but always with store bought yeast) can be a little risky and tricky to get it started. So how is one to begin? The best way is to get a tiny bit of already started starter and feed it some flour and water and let the baking begin. So, thats exactly what I did! Carl’s Starter from Oregon Trail Sourdough gives away free starter for the cost of a self addressed, stamped, envelope.

Basically, someone named Carl (who has passed away) had been nurturing and using the same starter for about 165 years (since 1847). He would often give it away, and so to preserve his legacy, it is still being shipped across the world for anyone who wants it. Its really exciting to think that what I will be using to bake bread not only is extraordinarily old, but how many people are connected through spores of yeast and flour and water. I mean, yes the original start is probably highly diluted by now, but there is always a teeny tiny bit of it left which is now spread through the world into peoples homes all over.

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