November 24, 2008

Learning the Science of Sourdough in San Francisco

Today I am traveling again, but this time for pleasure! This year my mom’s side of the family is all congregating at my grandma’s house just outside San Francisco. I have been coming here for as long as I can remember, but the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge or the smells of Fisherman’s Wharf still excite me every time.

My mom has three brothers and her oldest brother, my Uncle Paul, has flown the furthest to be with us on this Thanksgiving. He lives all the way in the South Pacific in the Kingdom of Tonga! He lived most of his adult life in the San Francisco area, but after retiring as a paramedic, he decided to move to this tiny island kingdom. The one thing he could not leave behind was his favorite, worn out cookbook filled with his favorite San Francisco sourdough recipes! He has been feeding and developing his own starter for quite a while, and now he is going to treat us with countless goodies!

A day in the life of Sourdough...

The starter:


1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 cups flour


Combine 1/2 cup water (85-90 degrees) with yeast in a small glass or plastic bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. In a glass or plastic bowl, use a wooden or plastic spoon to mix dissolved yeast mixture with 2 cups of warm water and flour. Cover container with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area for 24 hours. Stir at least twice during this time period. Starter should be slightly bubbly and give off a delicious sour, yeasty aroma. The consistency will be that of a light pancake batter. Cover container and let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours before using.

This recipe will make your sourdough starter, and from this starter you will create your sourdough batter. The leftover starter may be continuously fed for months and years. Like a fine red wine, it just gets better with age.

Proofing the batter the night before:

(look at those's alive!)

Some of the sourdough starter is added to additional flour and water. The amount needed for the desired recipe is removed and the rest is chilled for later use.

1 1/2 cups Sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water (85 degrees)

Remove sourdough starter from your refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the starter into a warm 2-quart bowl. (Return remaining starter to refrigerator.) Add the 1 1/2 cups flour and the 1 cup of water; mix well. Since all flours are different, add only enough water to make a batter the consistency of a light pancake batter. Cover bowl lightly to prevent drying and let sourdough batter stand or "proof" for 8-12 hours at 85-90 degrees. When the batter is properly proofed, its surface will appear bubbly and it will exhibit a strong, pungent sour odor. After proofing, measure out the amount called for in the recipe and return remaining batter to the starter pot. Stir and refrigerate.

Sourdough batter is the basic ingredient in all sourdough recipes. It must be made approximately 8-12 hours before use.

Mmmm...Pancakes! Get 'em while they're hot!

The sourdough batter adds flavor to these pancakes made also with milk, eggs and melted butter.

2 cups proofed sourdough batter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted

Prepare sourdough batter 8-12 hours before making pancakes. Sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Beat milk and eggs together. Mix dry and wet ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes. Gently mix melted butter into pancake batter. Cook pancakes on a lightly oiled hot griddle. Flip when several bubbles form on top of pancakes.

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