Inheriting a Sourdough Starter
A sourdough legacy begins
I feed the sourdough starter in the mason jar with Einkorn flour, stir carefully yet thoroughly with a chopstick. Over the course of the day, it will rise, alive as it is.
This starter has lived two years at my father’s house and has produced hundreds (probably more) of wonderful loaves. Each time he bakes, he sends me pictures of the process and the final product, as if priming my interest in inheriting his wisdom.
My first loaf, I keep it simple. After one day of leaving it to rise, agitating it every few hours, and one day in the fridge, I preheat the oven to 450F. I work the dough, tightening its surface, into a circle, then slice across it with a paring knife.
This creates a future space for the bread to rise, I’m told, more predictably.
I’m learning how dough becomes bread. A new art form. A little more science in my life. My hands getting used to how the dough wants to be held, when to clean the baker’s tools. A little dough left in a bowl to dry rapidly becomes a friend of cement.
He tells me that the best time to mix nuts and cranberries into the dough is right before it goes in the oven. I’m learning baking bread is a balance of timing and patience. I’ve watched him move quickly to shape a loaf, transferring it to a dutch oven or stone slab, then rapidly closing the oven, trapping in the heat.
This time, it’s my turn. I lower the loaf (on parchment paper) into the dutch oven. A timer is set for thirty minutes. We leave it be. Next, it’s time to remove the lid of the dutch oven. This is when the crust takes on its color.
Fifteen minutes later, a loaf I never could have dreamed of making emerges, golden and bright. Lofty and soft, with a crisp crust. Later, I would finally taste the most balanced bread I have ever made. A perfect texture thanks to a slowly aging, yet robust starter and a process streamlined by years of experimentation.
Today, I fed the starter again, anticipating with excitement the next time I get to bake. I think I’ll be eating a lot of sandwiches this week.