sourdough starter, day 10 (starter on life support)

It smells like bread, but it couldn’t lift a feather at this point. After one strong rise (after the first feeding), my wee beasties seem to have gone to sleep. I’ll coax it for a few more days at two feedings per day (morning and evening), then dump it and start a new batch if I don’t see evidence of significant leavening action. This morning was more encouraging than yesterday evening, with more bubbles apparent in the starter but not as pronounced as Day 5.

It’s a tough call – when does one determine that the starter has given up the ghost? If it’s fuzzy; still smells like zombie purée after a week; has *no* leavening action apparent; or has weird-colored liquid floating on top, it’s ready for the garbage disposal. Other than that, a bready smell but no vavavoom should be salvageable in less time than it would take to nurture a new batch to baking readiness.

Does a watched pot take longer to boil? How about a micro-managed starter? Maybe they went on strike with all the Verizon technicians and call center workers in So Cal today. Gotta love solidarity.

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sourdough starter, day 5

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Corpse, with vanilla notes.

The scent wasn’t enough this evening to make me dry heave, but it wasn’t a pleasant smell in the least. It was, however, nicely aerated and a lovely, creamy color that indicates that the science of sourdough starter is chugging along on schedule. This Sunday may be too soon to bake a test loaf; by Tuesday, though, I should be ready to make my first leaven.

I continue to wonder what the hell the first person to bake naturally-leavened bread must have been thinking. This is a terribly unattractive process to the initiated. The first person to do it hadn’t the foggiest idea what the outcome would be, either. That first baker was either pretty fuggin’ hungry or pretty fuggin’ ballsy. Bit o’ both, methinks.

sourdough starter, day 4

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I came home to a sensory delight akin to opening a can of fresh zombie purée. Every time I get to this point (far, far too many times), I am reminded why I should be more diligent about maintaining my starter once it becomes a going concern. Oh, it *looks* all innocent and bubbly and innocuous, just a cheerful little colony of bacteria building a natural leavening machine. But don’t you be fooled; get too close (say, close enough to feed it) and it will make you yak like your worst enemy just gut-punched you. That said, it is one of those experiences that should be endured once, like It’s a Small World. So, go ahead, chum – give ‘er a sniff.

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tip – basic layer cake: cost

The cost of the basic layer cake, per layer, is tied to the type, quality and quantity of ingredients you put into it. Based on where I do my shopping (Fresh & Easy in Long Beach), one layer of the basic layer cake costs me $1.28:

  • $2.99 for one dozen jumbo eggs
  • $2.99 for one pound of butter
  • $2.99 for five pounds of all-purpose flour
  • $0.98 for one 8oz container of baking powder
  • $0.79 for one container of table salt
  • $1.99 for one half-gallon of whole milk
  • $2.99 for one four-pound bag of hippie, tree-hugging granulated sugar
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    sourdough bread – ye olde-fashioned waye

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    I love good bread. I didn’t grow up eating it, save on special occasions; we were pretty cash-strapped in my younger years, and my mom didn’t inherit her grandmother’s Nebraska-hewn, farmgirl baking skills. I ate a lot of shitty bread, the bland, machine-extruded monstrosities that delivered nutritional content of dubious origin but filled a hungry belly. I ate a little really good bread, served in restaurants with linen napkins and chilled plates for the salad.

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