Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meet Sparky

As you all know, my wife has been on a baking jag for a while now. We've had White Bread, Rye Bread, Harvest Grain Bread, and most recently Oat Bread. Did I tell you she got a bread maker too?

The next logical step is Sourdough Bread. Enter Sparky.

Sourdough starter is like a child, it needs to be fed, watered, and nurtured. When you get yours from King Arthur Flour, you are required to name it, just like you would name a child. We named ours Sparky. Why, you ask? Who the hell knows.

Sparky is a descendant of a starter that began its life over 250 years ago. Sparky arrived at our home via UPS yesterday in the container below and came all the way from Vermont. A very long trip in a very small container for a Sourdough starter.

Of course, having made that long a trip, Sparky needed to be fed. Once fed, Sparky requires time to digest dinner. Actually Sparky requires 12 hours to complete his (Why his? Why male? I don't know, doesn't Sparky sound male?) first meal.

This is what Sparky looks like after the first meal. Then you have to feed him again. He's gotten pretty hungry after that long trip. But first, you have to divide him in half, then feed him. What do you do with the halves? One you feed, the other one, you can give to someone else or just chuck it into the trash. Seems a little cruel huh. Cut your child in half and throw half into the trash. I know we've all wanted to at one time or another. That's the price you pay for being Sourdough starter.

Now Sparky has been fed the second time and is happy, as far as Sourdough starter is concerned. Then you put him in his own Sourdough Condo and then in the refrigerator. This is Sparky's condo.

Ok, so now you're ready to make bread. First you have to take Sparky out of the fridge and feed him again, but this has to be done at least 12 hours before using him. But before feeding him you must, again, take a cup out and throw it away or you can always put it into a container and put it into the freezer (Sparky freezes well) just in case something terrible happens to the original Sparky, you have backup. Sparky is a fragile child. Once fed, he has to sit for an additonal 4 to 12 hours.

Once you use the amount of Sparky you need for the recipe, you have to feed him again and allow him to sit at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours. Then back into his condo and back into the fridge until next time.

Seems like a lot of work, but remember, Sparky is part of a 250 year growth and has many relatives out there being fed, split, discarded, or given away, and used for Sourdough Bread.

Part of California history is Sourdough bread. I'm sure you've all heard of San Francisco Sourdough. Going back to the gold mining days (1849 & 1850), if a person had sourdough starter and could make sourdough bread (a staple of the gold miners), that person was sure to make loads of money. The gold miners weren't the ones making a fortune, it was the merchants who sold them supplies and the ones who fed them.

So, I would suspect that Sparky will get his first workout this weekend. I'll try to get a picture of the first loaf of Sourdough bread and give you a review. Sorry you won't be here to share, but you'd probably have to fight me for it anyway.

This morning I took a drive up the hill to see what the lakes looked like. That post will be for tomorrow.

Till then.



  1. Sparky seems to be a very demanding child. Hope the results are worth it.

  2. I would love to see the results of Sparky's work.

  3. " (Why his? Why male? I don't know, doesn't Sparky sound male?)..." I know a lady named Sparky...and it fits her. When we were OTR trucking and ended up in Vermont or Maine we didn't get out of there without taking some real maple syrup and preserves with us.

  4. Haha. We too are on a bread making kick. Never tried sourdough, we'll put it in the lineup. JGR

  5. I like making country loaf style bread, been too afraid to mess with sour dough. I hope sparky doesn't let you down.