May 8, 2010

PROPER CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR STARTER:

Was That Blob in Your Kitchen Born in the Gold Rush?: Bakers Obsess Over Pedigree of Yeasty 'Starters'; Some End Badly (KATY MCLAUGHLIN, WSJ)

Marni Witkin normally feeds Happy twice a day. Once, she forgot to feed him for three straight days, and he looked distressed.

"I'm not necessarily a good pet owner," says Ms. Witkin, a Los Angeles Web site editor. After a few extra feedings, Happy was back to his bubbly old self.

Happy is no ordinary pet. He is a sourdough "starter"—a blob of wet flour, colonized by yeast and bacteria—that lives on her kitchen counter. Home bakers increasingly are using starters, which bring more nuance and flavor to bread than store-bought packages of yeast. Each time bakers add some starter to a batch of bread, they leave some behind. It grows on a diet of flour and water.

The recession and high unemployment have left people with less money for restaurant food but more time for ambitious baking recipes. Baking-supply company King Arthur Flour saw an 11% spike in flour sales in its last fiscal year. The Fresh Loaf, a baking website that discusses sourdough, now attracts 1.25 million page views a month, more than double the number two years ago.

It takes dedication to keep the burbling goo healthy, and home bakers can develop a fierce attachment to their starters. Many give them pet names, keep them growing for decades and worry about their health.



Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2010 7:50 AM
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