Sourdough Starter

October 7, 2011 • Alaska Eats, Alaska from Scratch, Breads, Kitchen Tips, Recipes

Weather: 40 degrees, rain, yellow leaves are falling
What I’m listening to: Celtic Bagpipes

Perhaps the most significant thing my home turf (Northern California) and Alaska have in common is a rich gold-mining heritage. The California Gold Rush (1848-1855) and the Klondike/Alaska Gold Rush (1896-1909) both brought with them one culinary masterpiece that has shaped both areas for generations: Sourdough. While California gold miners were called “49ers,” Alaskan miners were called “Sourdoughs.”

The summer after I graduated from college, I worked in an historic mining village turned fishing resort in the beautiful Eastern Sierras. I managed the little fisherman’s cafe there, and as a part of my job, I had to faithfully maintain the sourdough starter that resided in a ceramic crock in the kitchen. I learned to tend to it and feed it and to never use metal utensils or bowls with the precious sourdough. And, every morning, the owner would come in for the breakfast shift and make Sourdough Pancakes. I have craved them ever since.

And, now I live in the land of Sourdough. When I flew up to Alaska for the first time, I ordered Sourdough Pancakes for breakfast and this vast, cold, new place seemed instantly familiar. So, in my quest to become a true Alaskan, I am revisiting sourdough in my own kitchen. I know it seems intimidating and high-maintenance, but this Northern-California girl is here to tell you that good sourdough is a treasure.

Sourdough Starter

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour

Pour the water into a two-quart glass, ceramic, or melamine jar or bowl

Add and dissolve the sugar and the yeast in that order

Stir (always with a wooden or plastic spoon) in the flour gradually

Cover the jar or bowl with a clean dishcloth and place it somewhere warm. Watch out! The starter will grow exponentially the first day and may overflow your container, so watch it closely.

Let it work anywhere from 2 to 5 days, stirring it about once a day as it will separate.

When the bubbling has subsided and a yeasty, sour aroma has developed, stir your starter once more and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. I use a tupperware container, but hope to get a crock soon. The starter should have the consistency of pancake batter.

Feeding Your Starter - Refrigerated Starter is relatively dormant once chilled and only has to be fed about every two weeks. Add 1 cup flour and 1/2 warm water and stir to combine. Cover and allow to sit in a warm place for 24 hours. Stir again and refrigerate.

Utilizing Your Starter - Follow recipe instructions for the amount of starter to use. Then, replace the amount of starter you took out with an equal amount. For example, if you made waffles and used 1/2c starter, replace with 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 warm water. Cover and allow to sit in a warm place for 24 hours. Stir again and refrigerate.