It’s the first of the year, and we have a new pet. We know a few friends and family who have adopted dogs during the pandemic. We know others who are growing vegetables; we have tried that too.
Our new pet has a personality of its own. It is a little bit unpredictable and we never know how “it” is going to react. If we treat it with care and feed it a little every day, it will give back to us a thousand-fold. Literally. I also heard that if we go on on a road trip, we can take this pet with us. Road trips and new environments will give it a little extra character. Can you guess what it is?
Tada! Introducing: François Straus, our new sourdough starter.
François is actually a very common name in France, and this is a French-style sourdough bread starter. I also used a Straus Creamery whole-milk yogurt to get this going. It’s not a very original name, but it will tell you about François’s origins!
I hope that I can keep this up in the year 2021. I expect if the days get too busy, I may have to refrigerate François and put him into hibernation, and then feed him promptly when we return, but hopefully this won’t happen too often.
You see, my family loves bread. I confess, we could not buy into the gluten-free trend. It can’t be helped. When I’m extra lazy, which is often, I buy a few baguettes and artisanal breads. A large pain au levain from Whole Foods is $5 to $7. When I buy one of these, it gets devoured within a couple of days. Given this price tag, it makes sense for me, and for my family, to spend some time to make a few loaves of bread.
We especially love baguettes with yellow butter, brie or blue cheese. But baguettes are fussy things to make and require several carefully timed kneads and rises to get right. I have had a few affairs with the famous NY Times no-knead bread (recipe tbd) which are a bit more laissez-faire. A friend of mine also introduced me to a softer style boule, which is also very good and can be made in a Dutch oven as well. So, we are no strangers to bread-making, but up to this point, I have ignored sourdough starters for the simple reason that you have to maintain it and keep it alive. While I saw many Facebook friends make impressive loaves with sourdough starters, I tried not to pay too much attention.
So why did I finally decide to take this on in my incredibly busy life? It’s because I am taking a MasterClass from Apollonia Poilâne. She uses a French sourdough starter. I love the French style of cooking especially, so I gave in.
Sourdough breads, so I’m told, can take longer to become stale. Over a period of time, you can experience the different stages of the bread, from completely fresh to where you may want to add a bit of butter, or make a toasted sandwich (called a Tartine). I’ll keep you posted on how François is doing from time to time, and the loaves of bread we make with each generation.
If you are lucky enough to find a friend who can gift you a starter, give it a try. There are likely many recipes online, or try MasterClass out for yourself.