My husband Nathan and I had been married five years before adding our first addition to the family. It was a lot of responsibility adding something new to the mix.
We named her Stella. I’m not sure why, she just looked like a Stella to me. We were happy to have her and all the new experiences she’d bring to our lives.
At our first interaction we noticed she was bubbly and pale in color, and even though she smelled a tad off, that’s pretty typical for a sourdough starter, right?
A few days after bringing her home, we made our first recipe: multigrain bread. I looked through a few cookbooks my mom had given me and searched on Pinterest for a recipe that seemed close to what we wanted and ultimately settled on throwing something together myself.
However, I have a bad habit of straying from recipes and making things up as I go. I put in a little bit of this, and some of that. But, I made sure to write down quantities of each ingredient as I went. And as time went on, I changed the recipe a little more and the bread was better and better with each batch. I had officially created my own multigrain sourdough recipe -- in very unscientific fashion mind you -- but at least it tasted great!
As I began to share my success with friends and family, they shared their favorite recipes with me, too. Our favorite so far has been one for Sourdough Cheddar Crackers. Even though they still have a bit of butter and cheese involved, I feel like they have to be healthier than store-bought crackers. There’s no genetically modified grains, artificial colors or questionable ingredients you have no idea how to pronounce. And they taste so much better. We've also added starter to things like waffles, pancakes and biscuits.
What got me thinking about sourdough initially was when I read that “natural yeast converts dough into a digestible, vitamin-rich food that's free from harmful enzymes and won't spike your body's defenses,” in the book “The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast” by Melissa Richardson. I also read about how when you eat processed breads, most of the fiber is stripped and only leaves you with carbs and artificial fillers, making you feel full longer but only because it takes your body so long to digest it.
By that point I was totally sold and wanted to add sourdough into our regular diet, but was also nervous to get a starter and then have to keep it alive. It seemed so high maintenance.
After nine months as Stella’s mother, I can say it really isn’t bad at all. I feed her with about a cup of flour and a cup of water every few days. Leave her on the counter to grow for the day and then either use some of the starter in a recipe, or put her back in the fridge. The cool temperature keeps her from growing and fermenting any further.
For anyone looking at getting into baking with sourdough, the book I mentioned earlier has helped me a lot and I definitely recommend it. If you’ve ever thought about trying it, you should go for it. It’s way easier than you might think.
Annalise Braught is managing editor of The Bemidji Pioneer.