A few years back my mum was handed a rather unusual Christmas gift by one of her crochet buddies. We were all rather confused by the small, non-descript Kilner jar filled with frothing greyish paste. The lady who handed it over said it was to be treated like a pet – fed regularly, kept warm and dry and generally looked after. The feeding was especially important, she warned – we should set up a timer to make sure we didn’t forget or our pet would succumb and die. All very intriguing, this gift would turn out to be much more of a responsibility than we could have imagined. We had been given a sourdough mother.
We watched her over a few weeks and, as instructed, fed her with the required mix of flours before leaving it alone for a few days. Rather disconcertingly, she started to bubble up more before dying down flat – we were concerned. Had we managed to kill off the newest member of our family before we’d had the chance to get to know her properly? It all turned out to be find in the end, the mix was kneaded with love and the dough turned out as a rather lovely, if wonky, sourdough loaf. We were amazed. It was pure magic. This little jar had given us the gift of bread, a gift – it would turn out – that would just keep giving.
The little jar became voracious, demanding more and more feeds. It was some time ago so I’m not sure if I’m misremembering, but I could have sworn we were making about three loaves a week at its peak. This was all getting a little out of hand. As a family we love bread and sourdough is most certainly delicious, but we were starting to have to eat it with every meal in order to keep up with the fantastic production our youthful mother was capable of putting out. She certainly was generous.
Unfortunately, however, this wasn’t to last for long. As tragic as it sounds, we went for a long holiday and left our newest family member behind. When we got back she was there, still bubbling weakly. We thought there’d be hope, that with feeding she could be revived once more to bring back our glut of loaves. Over the course of a week, production began once more and we did see new loaves appearing. But they weren’t the same, they were dense and bitter – the mother had given up on us, she was tired. Eventually she went to the place of eternal rest, bless her bready soul.
But hope is not lost. Over the next few weeks, I hope to rekindle her charitable spirit. I am embarking on a quest to bring a new sourdough baby into the world. This little one will take some time to gestate, it will probably be a month or so before we get any results but I’m so excited to see what will happen!
For the starter baby I’ll be closely following the sourdough mother recipe laid out by Justin Gellatly in his fantastic (if not vegan-friendly) Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding. The recipe is vegan with no added dairy or animal products and will hopefully set me up for fabulous bread for years to come! I have huge faith in my little sourdough baby, I have a week to find her a suitable name, at the moment I’m thinking Demeter – goddess of the harvest, goddess of bread. But she’ll have to bring me some results first, I’ll be putting her through her paces.
The rhubarb will apparently act as the catalyst necessary to get things going. I cook very rarely with rhubarb so hopefully I’ve got it right and not included any of the poisonous bits. Here’s hoping.
Ingredients for Day One
30 g rhubarb, finely sliced
100 g water
50 g strong white bread flour
50 g wholegrain rye flour
Put the rhubarb in a pyrex bowl and cover with the water. Add in the flours slowly and stir with a fork to make a thick (and grey) paste. Use a spatula to make sure all the flour from the sides is incorporated. Cover loosely with cling-film and leave in a warm place for 24 hours, with fingers crossed!
I cannot tell you how excited I am to see how this will all turn out. Catch up with me tomorrow for an update!