During these strange times, my family had no problem buying flour (we picked up a dainty 25-pound bag at Beachy’s Bulk Foods in Arthur), but yeast still seems to be at a premium.
We’ve tried a few different solutions, including making completely unleavened bread (it was a matzah recipe, and while they were crunchy and warm, they didn’t become a staple). We’ve finally, like so many others, adopted a sourdough starter. It’s like a pet — we regularly divide and feed it, and make careful measurements of its growth.
Making sourdough bread has been a learning process, and it’s not for the impatient. We start feeding the starter at least two days before we’re ready to bake. We mix up dough the following day, and bake the day after. The recipe we’re following calls for cooling each loaf for four hours. The results have been mixed: We’ve gotten two decent loaves and two sets of heartbreak. One didn’t rise at all, and one rose too much the second day, then lost all its oomph.
The pleasant surprise: Before feeding, you have to discard a portion of the starter to keep it from becoming too acidic. You can throw it out, share it with a friend or bake one of what seems like a million recipes created just for this purpose. You can make crackers, scones, popovers, pizza dough and more. My favorite so far: Sourdough pancakes.
This recipe, adapted from a version I found on a blog called “Tastes of Lizzy T.,” calls for both baking soda and powder, which I was nervous about. But I swapped in some whole-wheat flour and added some ground flax meal and the results were hearty yet fluffy. These pancakes are great fresh, of course, but also reheat well in the toaster. The leftovers pair well with a teaspoon of peanut butter spread on top.
If you don’t have a sourdough starter, ask around. People who have them love to share. The friend who provided ours originally bought her starter online. Or if you’re really brave and patient, you can create your own sourdough starter. I know someone who has done it, but I would never attempt it at my house.
You can use whatever flour you want, of course, and if ground flax isn’t your thing, use 2 tablespoons of canola oil.