|most recent loaves,|
August 20, 2016
near Bonanza Creek,
near site of the old Dyer claim
We flew from Cleveland to Seattle (where we spent the night with my great college friends, Claude and Dorothy Steele; he was teaching at the university there), then a flight to Juneau, Alaska, followed by another flight in a small plane from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska, a plane that was piloted by a young man who looked--oh, about Steve's age. Maybe younger.
In Skagway we rented a car and drove nearly 450 miles over the Coastal Mountains and into the Yukon, all the way to Dawson City, which lies at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers, the center of all that Gold Rush activity.
In Skagway, we stayed at the Golden North Hotel, the oldest hotel in Alaska, and spent some time in and out of the local shops, looking for souvenirs--and for things I could use in class in subsequent years.
In one of the shops--and I wish I could remember which--I bought a little package of dry sourdough starter, a product that came with a little book of recipes. I knew that Northland veterans were called "sourdoughs," and I thought it would be fun to make biscuits or something to take into class when we were doing Wild.
I had no idea.
Okay, back to 1986 ...
When we got home from Alaska--just before school started--I decided I'd give the sourdough starter a whirl--you know, just to see?
I remember--I think?--that I had to mix it with flour and water and let it stand overnight. And when I came downstairs that first morning and saw it had doubled and was bubbling away, I felt (as I know I've written before) like Victor Frankenstein--It's alive! It's alive! (He doesn't say that in the book--just that 1931 film ...)
But the first time I baked with it--a failure. The dough didn't rise much (later, I learned that I'd not given it enough time), and the resulting product was HEAVY. But I ate every damn bit of it, and Steve and Joyce pretended it was good, too.
I didn't give up. It worked better the next week--and the week after--and pretty soon I got rid of conventional yeast and, ever since, have done virtually all my baking with sourdough (scones and baguettes not included). My routine is pretty fixed: Saturday night, about 9:30, feed the starter; Sunday morning (after 7) put two cups of starter back in the container, bake with the rest.
I make, among other things: traditional multigrain (no more all-white now) loaves, round loaves, pizza, sandwich rolls, biscuits, pancakes and waffles, a Christmas tree bread, corn bread ... that's what I'm coming up with off the top of my head.
You have to feed and use the sourdough about every week, so it's a bit like having a pet in the house, one that needs periodic attention. Even love.
Every now and then, the sourdough reminds me who's in charge. If I don't do things right, it jars me by behaving poorly (like a surly teen). This doesn't happen often, just enough to keep me humble.
I should add that I'm not all that adventurous with it. Just practical. Bake what I need and love. I'm not interested in devoting hours on end to preparing exotic or excessively complicated recipes.
So ... this has been going on for thirty years now. Thirty years! Working with it is just part of my life now, and I would miss it horribly if I could no longer do it. We give a lot of the products away--our grandson Logan is especially fond of it. The neighbors get some. Family (when we travel). The freezer is sometimes jammed with it.
Anyway, Happy Birthday to Sourdough Dyer, age 30, going on forever.
starter in container on top;
a recent loaf below
*I've written other times in Dawnreader about my two trips to the North. Google them if you want to read about "other" adventures.