Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sourdough and other changes

I've spent the last 10 days or so tackling the challenge of raising a sourdough starter using only wild yeasts and lactobacilli in the air.The first two attempts failed miserably, and quickly. But being the stubborn sort, I wasn't about to give up that easily. On the third effort I actually had a mixture with bubbles in it by the 2nd morning.  Success!                                                             

As directed, I carefully weighed out the appropriate amount of starter using a digital
scale, added the exact amounts of water and flour and returned the jar of stuff to my room. Since it was bubbly, I didn't want to toss any of it, so I put the rest into another container and left it on the cupboard shelf in the kitchen. I did add a bit of flour to it.

By the following morning, the 'neglected' batch in the kitchen was far more bubbly than the 'coddled' batch in my room. Eventually, both ended up in the cupboard since that is infinitely easier, but I still kept two batches going, measuring the one carefully every morning and then feeding, and feeding the other one by feel.  As the days went on, sometimes one would be frothier than the other. I gave up the measuring because the 'neglected' jar was still usually better than the weighed batch. Sometimes, when one was frothier than the other, I'd mix them together and then reallocate into the two jars.

Yesterday, both were the frothiest yet -- lots of big bubbles throughout, showing on the sides and bottoms of the jars. Naturally, I didn't get a photo of that because I thought surely there'd be another opportunity. I added a bit of flour and when I went back upstairs an hour or so later the smaller of the two had totally erupted and overflowed onto the shelf! It wasn't all that full, but it was lively. Both were really lively, but have not regained that liveliness. The bottom photo above is how one of the batches looks right now, after a morning feeding and a few hours of fermentation. The other jar is a bit behind, but getting there. The top photo is of the 'neglected' batch after the first day, I believe.

I've satisfied myself that I can do it, and I've learned a lot about sourdough starters and baking in the process. If I were going to use it to bake something, I need to keep up this feeding routine for a few more days to make it nice and strong. But, realistically I will not be using it to bake with anytime soon because the process simply requires more space (counter and refrigerator) than I have available to me here. Nor do I want to bother keeping this healthy and alive for months without using it. So, the experiment is ending. I know I can do it now, so when I get a home of my own (hallelujah, that day will be!) I can make another one. It was fun and I loved the challenge.

Another reason for stopping now is that on April 1 we were given 60 days notice to vacate the premises because the owner is going to place it on the market! It'll be inconvenient to make a temporary move, certainly, but I can't say I'm sorry to move from this place.  Things seem really tense around here -- I know my roommate is annoyed by my morning-person movements and sounds (although I keep those to a minimum). She got angry in an email then later told me not to worry about it. Now I get the sense that she's angry again. Mind you, my biggest early-morning noise is the squeaky floor of my bedroom as I walk across it for a very necessary trip to the bathroom! No running water or other noises. It would help if she didn't stay up all night and want to sleep until noon, at least, every day. So -- I'm uncomfortable because I hate the idea that the simplest and most necessary things I do are bothering her. Hard to know what's really bothering her because we still rarely see one another. She's always smiling and gracious when we do meet, but there have been a couple of explosive, angry emails from her -- one last fall and another one a couple of weeks ago.

So -- it's off to find a new place to live. Not wanting too much excess baggage to take with me, such as a hungry sourdough starter. And I may need to settle for a temporary place where I have less cabinet and refrigerator space than I have now!

That's what's going on here today. Not exciting, but not totally dull, either. And I think it's time for a nap -- need to catch up on sleep since there was precious little of it last night.

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