I haven’t written much recently because I have been in project management mode in preparation for our move from Chicago to Houston. Since mid January, we have purchased a new home in Houston, Dennis started a new job, we embarked on a renovation project involving a gut rehab of the kitchen, and have been preparing our Chicago home to go up for sale. It’s a lot of work staging one house to sell while decorating another, especially in two different cities that requires me to zigzag back and forth every other week. Managing contractors, plumbers, electricians, painters, real estate agents and decorators doesn’t leave much time for cooking. Not to mention our temporary accommodations in Houston are not as not as well equipped as my Chef’s kitchen in Chicago, which means we have been eating out a lot. Who would have thought a year ago when we were DYING to go to a restaurant that we would be sick of eating out!
On my last trip back to Chicago, I thought I better clean out the refrigerator and noticed the sourdough starter that I had been neglecting over the past several weeks. It looked pretty sickly, with a watery layer covering the gluey flour mixture. I opened it and gave it a sniff and it smelled pretty much the same as the last time I had fed it back in late February. After a quick Google search to inquire about how to tell when sourdough starter had gone off, it didn’t seem that it was exhibiting any of the symptoms of death (namely a red/orange streak or mold growth), so I decided to try feeding it to see if there was still any life in it.
I fed it and left it to sit out overnight and when I went to the kitchen to make coffee, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the starter still seemed to have life in it. It had more than doubled overnight, though did seem to be a bit less lively than when I had been feeding it regularly. I did a little more research and learned that it is suggested to feed “neglected” started more frequently until it doubles in 8 hours (or less), so I fed it again and left it on the counter while I went about my chores for the day. When I checked back later that afternoon, it had more than doubled in 8 hours, so it seemed that I hadn’t killed it after all! The only way to find out was to try making bread.
Since it was 9 pm on Wednesday evening and I was flying back to Houston on Thursday afternoon, it was now or never. I made a batch of dough and folded it over once. The recipe calls for letting it rest and repeating the stretch and folding process, so I went to wash my face and brush my teeth so that I could crawl into bed immediately. Truth be told, the second fold and stretch never happened as I fell asleep while waiting the extra 20 minutes since I was so tired. I woke up on Thursday morning to see the abandoned dough and the television still on, The dough had risen overnight, so I rather than discard it, I thought I may as well conclude my experiment and see just how robust this stuff is. I stretched the dough, prepared my dutch oven and preheated the oven.
When the timer went off after 25 minutes, I lifted the lid expecting that it would be a dud, but was pleasantly surprised to see the bread looked just like the success loaves I had baked since receiving the starter from my friend Jenny. I returned it to the oven for the remaining 20 minutes. It was nice and brown and although it was not as high as some loaves I had made, it certainly had risen and looked like a beautiful sourdough boule. As I removed it from the pot and placed it on the cooling rack, I could hear it crackling as the dough continued to expand. An hour later, I cut into it for the final test . . . it was delicious! I texted Jenny to tell her that i hadn’t killed the starter after all, to which she replied “it’s impossible to kill!” I brought the loaf to Houston with me and it made for a tasty avocado toast with an over easy egg for breakfast.