Monday, December 17, 2012

adventures in sourdough

One of my major Someday When I Quit My Crappy Job projects was homemade sourdough. Who’s ever looked at their counter and seen something resembling this gurgling up at them?

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It is SO FUN.

Except.

Like so many out there, I’ve internalized the ancient Greek great grandmother kind of thing that says “DO NOT WASTE FOOD”. It’s powerful, and frankly I think wasting food is just morally reprehensible.

However, when making proper sourdough, waste is an inherent part of the process, or the euphemism in the recipes that coaxes you to “discard” half of the starter before you “feed” it. I ask you, once you’re humanizing it enough to talk about “feeding”, how on earth can you just casually then dump it out? Moreover, you are putting a LOT of flour into the dough, on a DAILY basis.

So the gist of it is, rather than taking half the starter and throwing it out, I just started a new starter. Obviously this will multiply verrrrry quickly which is where I found myself as I prepared to make eight. Yikes.

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So fortunately for me, the King Arthur website, which’d been what got me hooked on this idea through their quite helpful sourdough tutorial, had recipes for “unfed starter”. I called my best friend, a savvy and experienced starter maker, and she skeptically told me that any starter under two or three weeks old wasn’t going to do much.

But I looked at my sourdough, just a few days old, bravely bubbling.

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And frankly, it was odorous enough that I knew something was happening in its innards and I just sort of wanted it out of my kitchen.

And this fabulous and incredibly easy recipe for sourdough pretzels had a little added yeast in it, that I figured would pep up my starter, immature though it was.

And guys.

I AM SO IN LOVE WITH MAKING PRETZELS!

Things I love about making pretzels:

1. It prevents sourdough starter waste (Duh. The whole premise for this post). I am going to start Sourdough Starter Waste Awareness. It’s going to be a thing.

2. Rolling it into perfectly even 18-inch tubes is lots of fun. You can twist it in the air, you can do a twist-y pull-y thing on the cutting board that makes you feel like you are a pastry chef with magical hands that finesse perfectly even tubeys.

3. The recipe is sooooooo forgiving. I didn’t have dry milk so I just put in liquid milk instead of water. Worked beautifully. In one of my many batches (oh, just wait) I forgot to add the oil to the dough so I just mixed it in after it had risen. The dough didn’t care.

4. Making it into perfectly pretzel-y bows is fun. And you can involve your whole family (my mom’s off work, my sister’s home from school, hurray! We also all went to Zumba together!). My sister is particularly skilled at making the bows. They look like ribbons for AIDS, breast cancer, or another serious issue like sourdough starter waste awareness. (Please take that in the joking spirit in which it was intended, and recognize that sourdough starter is a trivial issue I am being snarky about but food waste is a BIG DEAL and even making a small difference in your own home can radiate outward into your social group and have a significant impact. Maybe only buy one bag of prebagged lettuce this week. Put your bread in the freezer if you’re not sure you can eat it all before it molds. See how it goes.)

Back to my project. Even pre-baking, they already look like real pretzels!

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4. Brushing it with sugar water to make it shiny is fun.

5. Sprinkling it with salt is fun. And kosher salt is pretzel salt enough, in my book.

6. It smells awesome coming out of the oven.

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7. I have TONS OF STARTER which means I’ve been making TONS OF PRETZELS.

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8. Word on the street is that sourdough has a lower glycemic index than regular bread. Who knew? Word on the street is also that sourdough is better for those afflicted with Irritable Bowel syndrome. Who knew?

9. Pretzels contain lots and lots of carbs, and as everyone knows, carbs are the best.

10. If you are related to me you are getting pretzels for Christmas.

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11. I am not a ballpark mustard girl at all- count me in for snobby Grey Poupon. But imagine my SHOCK to realize that I HAD HOMEMADE PRETZELS AND ALL I HAD TO PUT ON THEM WAS GREY POUPON.

It’s actually good. It’s okay.

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12. My sister has accompanied the pretzels with fig jam and marinara sauce. She reports good results.

13. VARIATIONS GUYS! Basically once you know how to make pretzels the sky is the limit. Auntie Ann’s is at every mall and airport in the world, yet I know no one who buys Auntie Ann’s. This has to mean something. GIVE ME PRETZEL SUGGESTIONS.

14. Oh what’s up, cinnamon sugar pretzels.

+6 T sugar and a heavy dumping of cinnamon in the dough
-salt on top
+cinnamon sugar on top, duhh

Chewier than the other ones. Like a portion-controlled incarnation of a cinnamon-raisin bagel.

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15. EVERYONE’S FAVORITE. Parmesan Pepper Pretzels- delicious and alliterative.

+black pepper!
+lots of Parmesan cheese!

Cheese bubbles cheese bubbles cheese bubbles!

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Pardon the pictures, as I have yet to take these out of the oven during daylit hours. There are more in my future, but suffice it to say that this recipe is worth a gander.

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16. I have a blog. Which enables me to poll the net.

What flavored pretzel shall I make next?!

1 comment:

Rana Nigon said...

I've always wanted to try to make pretzels, especially the cinnamon ones! Can't wait to try.