Monday, August 29, 2011

Savor the Sour(dough)!

In eight years, I feel like I've adapted to the Midwest pretty well. I admit that I had a hard time of it at first, but I've come to love (almost) all things Milwaukee. I've learned to appreciate cheese beyond Kraft singles. I've discovered that there's more to sausage than Ballpark hot dogs. I've come to crave frozen custard on a level that far exceeds ice cream. And yes, I've even acquired a taste for some beer.

But as a native San Franciscan, there are a couple things from home that I'll never, ever be able to replace. The first is Giants baseball (sorry, Brewers fans) and the second is sourdough bread. I don't want to talk about the fact that the Giants are four games back in the NL West right now (no need to rub it in, Brewers fans), so let's talk sourdough instead.

See, the relationship between sourdough and San Francisco is like the perfect harmony between peanut butter and jelly. You can't really have one without the other. Like meatballs and spaghetti. Or burgers and fries. Or Paula Deen and butter. Sourdough anywhere else just simply isn't sourdough.

Given this, I've always wondered how sourdough, started on my own, would behave in Milwaukee. Well, I didn't technically start it on my own, but I did put sourdough to the test this weekend.

I've probably mentioned Boudin, San Francisco's original, and arguably most authentic, sourdough bread on more than one occasion. On one of those recent occasions, my co-worker Dave said, "I make sourdough pancakes for my kids every weekend." Excuse me? Sourdough pancakes? Where have you been my whole life? Even hailing from the great City by the Bay, I've never had a sourdough pancake. And until this co-worker shared his starter with me, my life was not complete!

Since that fateful day when Dave delivered that little jar to my desk, I've researched starting sourdough and all of the other delicious things you can do with it. Unfortunately, I've yet to come up with a definitive "this is the best way to start starter" source, so I'm going to refrain from linking to any of them right now. But suffice to say the process goes something like this: Combine flour and water (or maybe milk), and possibly some sugar. Let it sit on the kitchen counter for a few days, stirring regularly. When it smells funky, it's probably ready to go into the fridge. Add it to your favorite recipe, like the pancakes below, and continue feeding it weekly.

That's obviously not a tried and true method, so don't do that at home. But once I've worked it out for sure, I'll let you know. Until then, I'll be taking advantage of Dave's starter (which has apparently been going strong for several years!). You can read about to my new weekend ritual ... and maybe a few sourdough variations in the weeks to come!

If you're a local friend, I'd be happy to share some of my starter with you. This recipe makes a big batch, and there's no way Bill and I can eat so many pancakes every weekend (even if Bill did declare them the most delicious pancakes he's ever had!). Just leave me a comment, shoot me an email, or tweet me a tweet (@jenmabey), and I'll gladly set some starter aside!

Sourdough Pancakes
1/3 cup sourdough starter
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda

The Night Before
Remove sourdough starter from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours. In a large bowl, whisk together starter, flour, and milk. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

In the Morning
Uncover starter mixture (it should have risen and be somewhat bubbly) and whisk well. Remove 1/3 cup of starter, place in a jar, and put back in the fridge. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Whisk in vegetable oil and baking soda.

Heat griddle over medium-low heat (it's ready when a few drops of water bubble and disappear when splashed on the surface). Spray with cooking spray. Ladle liberal amounts of pancake batter onto griddle and cook, about 1 minute per side. Savor the sour!


  1. Hm... the idea of your sharing the sourdough starter is intriguing! IF you throw in a (relatively) easy recipe for making sourdough bread, I will totally take some off your hands! :-)

  2. I love a good sourdough bread, so a sourdough pancake sounds amazing.

  3. BTW, these pancakes are also amazing with blueberries or chocolate chips folded into the batter. We've been experimenting :)