Alaska Sourdough vs. New York Sourdough

Let the competition begin!

I am giving this sourdough starter thing one more chance. Please bare with me. I’m obsessed with making sourdough for two reasons: 1. Because I feel like a magician. Making bread appear–out of thin air!– in my mind is akin pulling a rabbit out of a hat. 2. Because I know it was done in the past, so I am determined to figure out how it was done. My mother thinks that some 19th century knowledge, like wild yeast starters, have just been lost to the ages. But I’m determined to rediscover it. So off I go to grow some pet yeasts.

This time, I’m attempting to make a yeast starter using two different methods. The first is courtesy of my friends Kristina and Chris in Alaska, who discovered a local woman who makes bags of pre-packaged yeast starter. They cornered her with questions on my behalf, and purchased a bag of her started as a gift to me.

I don’t know what the ingredients in her dry starter mix are, but I followed her instructions added a 1/4 cup of luke warm water and 6 ounces of beer. I had a Sam Adams Boston Lager in the fridge, so I poured half of it in a mason jar (I poured the other half of the beer in my roommate), and mixed it thoroughly with the dry ingredients . I placed the cover loosely on the mason jar, and set it on my windowsill to warm up and catch some yeast. In three days, it should be ready to roll.
The second method I’m trying is from The Science of Cooking. It’s slightly different than other wild yeast starters I’ve tried: you take a small mound of flour and mix it with a little water until it turns into a paste. Continue kneading it, 5-8 minutes, until it become a springy ball of dough.
I tossed that in a mason jar and covered it with a damp towel. In a few days, it should start to get yeasty, and I’ll add more flour. It will hopefully catch some New York yeast, so I’m calling it New York Sourdough.
A little ball of love.
So, we’ll see what happens. I learned recently that the bacteria present in sourdough is actually named Lactobacillus sanfrancisco, after the gold mining region in which sourdough bread was born. The Boudin Bakery is the oldest in San Francisco:

“In 1849, the Boudin family struck culinary gold. Wild yeasts in the San Francisco air had imparted a unique tang to their traditional French bread, giving rise to “San Francisco sourdough French bread.” Today, the Boudin family’s initial recipe lives on in the hands and hearts of our expert bakers, with a portion of the original mother dough still starting each and every sourdough loaf we make.”

They still use the same recipe as they did in ’49, and little molecules of 1849 yeast are still awash in their starter! Awesome! I am really looking forward to visiting the bakery someday.

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