San Francisco starter
You might think at my age I could have put away the little boy in me, but it is not, and probably never will be, the case. My first memory of bread was as a little child I would go with my family to the local bakery and by a 12 dozen or baker's (14) dozen loaves of balloon bread, day old, for a dollar. This was back when a dollar was worth a dollar. We would eat it all in a week or less, and go back again for more. Mom didn't think much of that bread, but we kids were little and didn't know any better. What it meant to us, another of the average poor-but-don't-know-we're-poor families, was that we could eat all we wanted. To young mouths even that bread was good. But Mom wanted better for her children so she started making whole wheat bread each week. Well, we thought that was a tragedy, because it wasn't as much like cake as the other was... But we got used to it, then loved it, as we grew up on it.
I learned to bake bread watching her. I made the same bread because that was what bread was supposed to be, and there really wasn't anything else until much later when stores stocked what they called whole wheat, which by our taste was full of sawdust for filler. Somewhere along the way I learned about sourdough and wanted to make it. Eventually sour bread was available in stores and I liked it. It was white and had some flavor (flavour for you other English spellers), but could never make my own starter. I could have been a moonshiner, but not a sourdough. Then sometime in the last 6 months I got some dried starter from Friends of Carl and successfully reconstitued it and made acceptable bread. Then after reading a little, and visiting the SF bay area to get some of the bread I remembered from a trip long ago, I made some really good sourdough bread.
For much of the last two weeks I have been working in Napa, CA and took the opportunity to revisit SF to buy some lined bannetons from TMB Baking/SFBI. I couldn't let myself spend the insane prices for the ones available locally in stores, but $8 for these seemed like a good compromise to making my own from wire mesh fabric (I made one, wow, what fun!). The folks at San Francisco Baking Institute were really busy preparing for an event on the weekend and were really pressed for time, but after a little chat they opened up to myself and another home baker/bread lover who will likely never be professional bakers. And what a repository of interesting and exciting baking hardware! Great people.
The other really exciting part of my trip was the acquisition of a chunk of SF starter from a bakery in SF. It smells like SF starter, like SF sourdough bread... I tested its ability to stay alive as I kept it without refrigeration for long periods of time as I drove north to the Portland area late last week. When I finally got it home and refreshed it, it GREW!. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles. But I didn't have time to bake with it. There it sits, chilled out, waiting for me to return from another trip to Napa to finish my work there.
But next weekend I will finally get to prove to myself how much difference the starter makes in bread flavor, and over time, whether a starter remains true to its nature, or takes on the charateristics of the location where it takes up residence. But at this point I know there are real differences between my Oregon Trail starter from FofC and my new SF starter. Besides the smell and acidity, it feels different...
That's my story,