feed the Bern

From the NYT article, Sourdough Starter: America’s Rising Pet

Today I’m introducing you to our latest pet, the sourdough starter we named Bernie. I held off telling you about Bernie because I realize, even as I am typing this post, what a cliché hipster I’ve become. But whatever. Bernie lives!

Every day or two (or once a week, when I refrigerate him), I feed Bernie a heaping tablespoon of flour and stir. And that’s it. Easier than pie. If you’re a microbiology-loving nerd like me, you should totally try this at home too. It’s right up there with sauerkraut and honey wine with how easy and fun it is to make. I probably only use my starter to make bread or pancakes twice a month, so I end up throwing a lot of Bernie down the drain (if anyone wants to get some of mine, I’m happy to share!). But I no longer have a package of store-bought yeast in my house, and that is an amazing feat. I get my yeast from the air, y’all.

Today I’m making a loaf of sourdough using the easiest recipe imaginable. No kneading! It takes a grand total of 10 minutes of work and cooks in a Dutch oven, which is like making your own bread oven at home. So cool. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • First read this NYT article, “America’s Rising Pet,” about sourdough starters
  • You can either get starter from someone else or make your own starter using articles on the Internet as a guide (here’s an example I like on the King Arthur website), or if you want to commit fully to falling down the fermentation rabbit hole, buy a Sandor Katz book. We have the original Wild Fermentation, but I’ve heard the much bigger and fancier Art of Fermentation is also great.
  • Original No-Knead Bread recipe, with a quick video, is here. Modified recipe using sourdough starter is here.
  • I haven’t watched Michael Pollan’s Cooked documentary series yet on Netflix, but after hearing an interview with him…somewhere…I’m looking forward to it. The NYT article refers to an episode that includes a discussion of sourdough. Pollan is generally too prescriptivist for my taste, but I do respect and honor him as having sparked my interest in home economics back in the days of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

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