Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Not-So-Brief Recap, Before We Continue

First of all, I didn’t know what “starter” was. And I sure never thought about making bread by hand.

After all, I had a bread machine already, didn’t everyone? But then my neighbor gave us some homemade rolls as a thank you for picking up her paper & mail while they went back home for a visit.

Wow, they were like little clouds of puffy deliciousness. I begged her for the recipe, and she said she couldn’t give it to me, that I needed some of her aunt’s “starter” to bake them with. What? Well, then, can’t I have the recipe for that? No, she said, she would bring me back some starter the next time they visited home. That was at New Year’s. I got the starter after Spring Break.

"Starter” is a gloppy concoction that you keep in your refrigerator and use instead of yeast from the store. Different starters have different strains of yeast and thus taste differently, resulting in different tasting bread. (The most famous being the sour twang of San Francisco sourdough bread.) And I call my starter a “sourdough” bread starter because it functions as one, but the bread that I make with it doesn’t have a sour taste to it at all. It reminds me of the yeast-y cloverleaf rolls at the Luby’s Cafeteria at Steck in Austin, growing up. Yum. Plus, it’s a no-knead bread. That means zero kneading! Time does the work for you, instead of your mixer or your muscles.

Trouble is, I can’t get any more if I needed to. My neighbor moved back home, so if for any reason my little bread dough starter died, I’m doomed. Game over. I don’t know how my friend’s aunt got it or made it, or how many decades it goes back, but it’s a good Southern starter, and I have felt privileged to have it. So you can begin to imagine how precious my little pitcher of liquid gold is to me.

Then the unthinkable happened. A little over a week ago, I nearly accidentally killed him. You see, normally I would turn my oven light on, let it get a little warm and cozy, and put my starter in there to wake up and eat all day long. Well, I was cooking something else that day, and went to pre-heat my oven, and I forgot that my starter was in there. Yikes! Thankfully, it survived, or at least enough of it did to multiply itself back to health.

So, I am very excited about today’s bread experiment. On the one hand, it would be nice to not have to feed and maintain a starter, or worry about keeping it alive (AKA not killing it). Also, making bread with my starter is a 2-day process. I have to feed him and make dough one day, shape and bake the dough the next. I can’t just wake up and decide to have fresh bread that night. I have to plan ahead. Plus, I can’t just e-mail someone some starter. It’s difficult to pass along to someone who wants it, whereas I could give anyone a recipe.

But on the other hand, anything else would have to be really, really, really incredible bread for me to burn my bridges and throw my starter completely away. It makes seriously good white bread. In fact, Mr. Man won’t eat store-bought bread anymore. It will be very hard to beat. I sorta hope PW’s recipe wins, because it would be easier on many levels, but it would be a bit sad to throw my little starter out.

(I think I’d get over it, though!)  :)

Lucky Dog


  1. If you should ever 'kill' your starter, contact me. I can help you get another one started!

    I can send you instructions if you're interested!

  2. Thank you so much!!
    That is so sweet of you!