“So what do you think of the crust?” I ask.
“It’s probably one of your best, yet,” Stan says.
“Really?” I respond, hungry for more compliments. I’m shameless when it comes to the food I make. I want to hear my family gush, explode with gratitude, and generally fall over themselves while commenting on the delicious fare. Stan’s comment (considering it comes from him) fits this category. It’s extra gratifying to hear today because I went free-style with the sourdough starter, adding a cupful of flour here, some oil there, and a dash of salt for good luck; it was basically an all out shot-in-the-dark.
I relate this to Stan and he summarizes, “You mean you just whipped it up with the flour and water that’s been rotting on our counter for the last week?”
Belén stops, mid-chew and looks as if she’s swallowed a hairball. “Rotting?” she repeats.
I correct the terminology quickly; words are powerful after all. “It’s called fermentation.”
Stan’s got my back on this one. He explains how tons of food we love is fermented before we eat it… cheese, yoghurt, wine…
“And chocolate!” I add. “They have to ferment the cacao beans to make it!” (Thank you, Hershey Park)
Belén takes another bite of her pizza and then says, “Oh yeah, fermentation. That’s much better than rotting.”
I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free sourdough for years. My first attempt was in Bolivia when I soaked whole-grain brown rice for a few days, ground it up by hand, let it sit for a few more days, and then threw it in the oven. The result was edible. Very spongy, unlike anything I’d eaten before, but edible. A couple years ago I started looking at gluten-free sourdough techniques on-line and they seemed way too finicky. I checked a few months ago to see if anything had changed and my internet search was just as overwhelming as I’d remembered it; too much fine print and too many precise instructions. So I decided to do it my way.
1. Combine equal parts flour and liquid. I used whatever I had in my pantry: teff, sorghum, brown rice, white rice, a bit of starch, etc and kefir. You can start with water, but I wanted to give my bacteria a head start so I used kefir for the first few feedings.
2. Let sit on counter, adding equal parts flour and water everyday, or when you think of it. (If it starts to smell too alcoholic, it’s starving. Feed it.)
3. Use as a base with pancakes, bread, pizza crust, etc.
You know that quote about cooking being an art but baking a science? Well, this puts baking squarely into the artistic realm. I’ve abandoned my recipes when it comes to pancakes, pizza crusts and biscuits and it’s much more fun. And tempting. Normally, I wouldn’t even suggest pancakes on a school day, but when I see that bubbling little bowl on my counter I can’t help but reach for the skillet. It’s like a girl waiting to be picked up for the prom. (Is that metaphor a bit much? I’ve never been to a prom–my high school graduation party was in a hockey rink–but I can imagine.) The point is, once that starter get’s going, it’s irresistible.
For some reason, I’ve avoided regular pancakes during this pregnancy. They gross me out. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the baking powder or soda? I’ve been eating mostly crepes, when I’ve wanted something pancake-y, until these beauties started showing up. This morning I made a batch with 1 cup starter, 1 cup flour, 2 eggs, salt, pour of oil and a 2 tablespoons sugar. I don’t really measure, but work with what I have until it resembles a batter. The same goes for pizza dough: take out some starter, add more flour (maybe a little more starch if your mix is all whole grain) to thicken, an egg if you want, extra salt, herbs and plenty of oil. Spread on a pan with a spatula, bake for 15 min at 425 to brown, add toppings, then bake until done.
With a full stomach,
*This post shared on Real Food Wednesday