Feeling a bit sour

Posted: May 20, 2017 in The Shrinking Head Bakes!

A couple of months ago I took a class in making sourdough bread.  Wonderful class, mostly because we were sent home with some sourdough starter of our own!  Sourdough starter is how wild yeast is cultivated to be used in baking. According to the Kitchn, wild yeast already exists in all flour, so you really just need to bring it alive by adding flour and water and waiting a few days. It actually requires a bit more care than this, and many people find the initial raising of the starter to be too much work. If done successfully, however, the process creates a kind of gooey, stretchy, slime that is then added to typical bread ingredients to make sourdough breads.

I was over the moon to skip the difficult part! The instructor gave clear and straightforward instructions on how to care for the sourdough starter once we got home.  He said this was 30 year old starter. Really established starter. You couldn’t kill it if you tried, he said.  You could feed it chlorinated water and bleached flour and it still wouldn’t die.

I killed it.

I followed the instructions.  To. A. T.

I killed the un-killable starter.

I thought about contacting him for a second chance, but after initial attempts to find an email address failed, I gave up.

A friend said she had sourdough starter starter.  Some powdered stuff she had gotten from Alaska (Alaska?).  She’d had it for a while, had never gotten around to trying it, but said it didn’t have an expiry date so I was happy to try it.

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I tried.

It started out really well.  I followed the instructions, put it in a warm place.  Things appeared to be progressing exactly as described.

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But as the hours passed, something was happening.  The smell that was developing was appalling.  Nauseating. Certainly not the “delicious, sour, yeasty” smell described in the instructions.   One website said starter would be pungent, but this smell was how I imagine the corpse plant to smell.

I waited.  My partner said try it anyway. Lots of foods smell bad but taste good, he said.  I personally have NEVER experienced this.  Blue cheese smells bad AND it tastes bad.

I waited.  I stirred.  And by the end of the first phase of instructions things had gone from bad to worse.  The starter died.  Deflated, separated, and died.  So it would appear the smell actually was the smell of impending death.

Honestly, think this is probably more to do with me and my apparently homicidal tendencies toward sourdough starter than a problem with the product.  It really did start out fine.

I’ve signed up for another class on sourdough in a month.  It will be my last kick at the can and if it doesn’t work then, I will simply have to stick with regular bread.  I just can’t justify the senseless killing of sourdough starter beyond that.

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