Sourdough (and other Lockdown Clichés)

If I'm honest (which I am, mostly), I'll admit that the whole Covid-19 nonsense, uh, pandemic, has really not affected me so much. Since I haven't a job-away-from-home to go to, school-age children to contend with, an out-of-work husband to entertain (yes, I have a husband; however, his work has been mostly uninterrupted), or an enthusiastic social life to maintain, it's been pretty much business-as-usual for me—the only hardship I endured was not having my grandbabies around daily. Heck, we had already started cutting our own hair ages ago, and hadn't even completely run out of toilet paper before the initial dust settled.

That said, I realize that my rural Canadian life is indeed a sheltered one, and I am keenly aware that serious hardship has and still is affecting much of the world to a more serious extent. My thoughts and prayers remain vigilant in that regard.

However, for the purpose of this blog, back to lockdown clichés . . .

The sourdough bug first bit me back in December last year, months before we heard of covid-19 or realized there would be such a thing as a shortage of bakers yeast. My neighbour gifted me a starter from the stash in her freezer. "It's easy!" she said. "You'll do fine!" she said. And so I did, though eventually killing that first starter by way of ignorance and neglect.

With that first starter and several youtube tutorials, I somehow learned to make a basic loaf of bread. And then, because I would have nothing to do with that thing called 'discard' (cringe!), I added pizza crust, banana-date loaf, flatbreads, bagels, and bread pudding (redeeming the less-than-perfect loaf), to my sourdough repertoire.

Then, the dreaded virus found its way to the western hemisphere, managing to not only confine us to our homes (thankfully, most of us came back out with the first warm days!), but also bewitching us into hoarding toilet paper and yeast. My husband, usually the bread baker around here, was nervous on both counts. So I cut a couple old t-shirts into 6x6 inch rags and googled How to start a sourdough —and the rest is history still in the making.

Now, I consider sourdough to be more of an art than a science; however, a few important formulas around feeding and storing a sourdough starter are necessary in order to keep it alive and thriving, and this I eventually learned from Melissa at Bless This Mess.

I have, by now, acquired the feel of adding flour and water to my starter (referred to as feeding); recognized when the starter is at its peak rise; and determined when the shaped loaf will be best left to proof on the counter, in the oven with the light on, or even in the refrigerator.

Indeed, the whole process has become pretty much second nature—which is not to say that I no longer end up, on occasion, with a loaf coming out of the oven at 9 or 10 p.m., but that I have merely gained the will power it takes to resist slicing into it at that hour.

While my mainstay, for practical purposes, is definitely the basic loaf and bagels, I occasionally manage Melissa's cinnamon buns or double-chocolate muffins, completely inspired by my sweet-tooth hubby.

So, there you have it—a Sunday lock-down rant from the Hen House, brought to you this evening by the sourdough loaves in my kitchen, fresh from the oven and calling my name.

And at 9:47 p.m., no less.