So Much More Than Just Bread

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I must not be reading the correct news outlets, because I only recently discovered there has been a resurgence in bread-making, particularly sourdough bread. As someone who has made sourdough bread on and off for years, I think this is fantastic! We’ve found it to be more digestible than store-bought breads (even the fancy breads), as well as better tasting than most. But many of the articles seem to stop there, and not everyone enjoys loaf bread. So what else can you make with that bubbly sourdough starter?

My first sourdough creation after loaf bread was pancakes. These are a staple around the farm now – perfect for egg sandwiches, a quick PB&J snack, or in a breakfast casserole. While the bread dough is rising, I’m cooking a batch of pancakes on the comal. My recipe calls for water, but if I’ve made cheese recently, I will substitute whey. Either one makes delicious pancakes.

The next “not loaf bread” idea was thanks to my friend Jennifer. She has small children, and it became a chore to keep cutting bread for them to eat. Her solution? Don’t make a bread loaf, make ROLLS. I felt such a fool – why didn’t I think of that?! For her, rolls were perfect – the kids could pull off a roll for their snack, no knives needed, and no crumbs to clean off the counter. She uses glass pie plates, but if you have a glass casserole dish in the cupboard, that would work just as well. Make your bread dough as usual, but instead of placing the dough in a loaf pan for the second rise, pinch off pieces, roll into balls, and place in the greased dish. Continue for the second rise and bake as your recipe instructs. They can be made larger for hamburger buns, or smaller for dinner-style rolls. Simple as that!

That got me thinking – what else can I make? Enter the internet and a “sourdough (bread item)” search. Holy wild yeast, Batman, a whole new world was opened up to me. Cinnamon bread (I use my regular sourdough bread recipe, stretch it out to a rectangle coat with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, roll up, cut, let rise, bake. Even with a powdered sugar icing, they are not as overly sweet as many store-bought cinnamon rolls are.

Looking for something dessert-y? Try sourdough gingerbread. Using blackstrap molasses gives this cake a richer flavor. I haven’t gotten to make the recipe I have for sourdough chocolate chip cookies yet, but it’s on the list.

Pretzels, muffins, tortillas, cakes, donuts, naan…the list may be endless! Some articles indicate otherwise, but I’ve found sourdough to be quite forgiving. Forget to pull your starter from the fridge the night before? Feed it in the morning and pop it in an oven with the light on. Lost track of time and didn’t take the dough out of the warm place after 3-4 hours on first rise? My friend Jennifer has left it in the oven for the entire day, and it still made beautiful bread. Mix and match your flours – my favorites are spelt and wheat. When mixing the dough, I use organic white and spelt/wheat in equal amounts for a different flavor (only use white flour when feeding your starter, or else everything after that will taste like the “other” flour!).

Sourdough isn’t scary. It is time-consuming, but in small doses. For regular sourdough breads, my plan of attack is as follows – wake up the starter, go do things. Make the dough for first rise, go do things. Punch down and form the loaf/rolls for second rise, go do things. Turn on the oven for baking, go do things. When it’s finished, you now have fresh bread/rolls for supper.

What has been your experience with sourdough? What have you made besides bread that I need to try?