I’m seriously considering starting a sourdough culture. (Yes, the Corinna Chapman book got me again.) Actually, it would be more accurate to say, I’m seriously considering *attempting* to start a sourdough culture, since I gather this is easier said than done.
At the moment, I’m considering logistics. I know you have to feed your starter regularly, but books (and websites) differ as to how often. Then, of course, you have to be prepared to bake bread regularly – but how regularly, exactly? A loaf a week would suit me just fine, but I have a horrible suspicion one needs to bake a bit more than that, otherwise your well-fed starter will grow and grow until it consumes baker and oven and all. And baking more than once a week doesn’t seem practical when you’re talking about something with an 8 hour rising time, though I suppose I could always get up early, start the dough, and then bake it when I got home from work. Actually, that has a certain attraction to it.
Then, of course, there is the intrinsic appeal of starting your own sourdough culture from scratch, versus the slightly more certain method of buying a starter that actually works. On the one hand, who wouldn’t like the idea of sitting your bowl of water and flour somewhere and seeing what interesting and delightful yeasts it can pick up from the atmosphere? On the other hand, we have cats, and our home atmosphere is, shall we say, rich in cat hair (honestly, there are days when they just sit there and waft fur at us without having to move). I shudder to think what a yeast left partially covered in the kitchen for a week would collect.
I’ve been eyeballing dry starters such as the one at the Sourdough Baker, which sounds as though it would fit my baking frequency needs. Alas, it also sounds more than slightly tricky to get going, especially for someone like me, who has never even seen a sourdough starter before and thus isn’t all that certain what she is aiming for. I’m also deeply tempted by the Wild Sourdough book, which you can buy with a starter culture. Except that it seems like cheating to buy a book that tells you how to make the culture, and then buy the culture too.
On the other hand, maybe cheating is the sensible thing to do here. Only, what happens if I manage to keep the ready-made sourdough flourishing and then want to make one of my own? I have visions of a Michelin-man-like dough monster taking over my kitchen, and it’s probably a bad idea to invest in a pet that I’m secretly a little bit scared of. I already have cats trying to run my life; I’m inclined to draw the line at being bossed around by pets who aren’t even members of the animal kingdom (yeast is, apparently, a fungus, which only deepens my suspicions).
Decisions, decisions. I think I am going to go through with this. I’ve been hesitating over sourdough cultures for years, but I’m actually a reasonably competent cook these days, so perhaps now is the time after all. Indeed, I went looking for organic rye flour at the supermarket on the way home from work today, with plans to leap boldly into the world of yeasts and cultures, but was thwarted by a Product Unavailable sign. Perhaps this is a sign that I should get the Wild Sourdough starter after all?
Whatever my next step may be, odds are you’ll be reading a lot more about bread on this blog in the near future…