A Legendary Sourdough

IMG_0731Legend has it that it all began with some wild Yukon yeast blowing in the wind and landing in a bowl of flour and water belonging to none other than a prospector by the name of Jack London.  From this sourdough sponge, he baked bread that inspired a literary marvel, originally titled, “The Fermentation of the Wild.”

Failing in his fortune seeking and suffering the effects of scurvy, London left the Yukon only after gifting his sourdough to his favourite dance hall girl, Scarlett D’Angelo (likely not her real name).  She maintained the sourdough with tender care, employing it most effectively in a flapjack she appropriately named, “The Hangover Basher.”  Her cure for the common hang-over was legendary, earning her a place of high regard among many a tippled prospector.

With the gold rush winding down, she left Dawson City with a fortune thanks to this sourdough magic.  Taking up residence in her abandoned place of residence was a young bank clerk by the name of Robert Service.  His meagre salary from the bank barely afforded him enough to eat, so he supplemented his diet with bread baked from this inherited sourdough.  There is no need to tell the reader of what became of Robert Service, who left the bank and was then hounded by literary fame and fortune. 

From this point, the sourdough was passed on through a number of keepers, including Bonny Thompson, a hairdresser who lived briefly in Dawson City before moving, along with the sourdough, to Estevan, Saskatchewan where it resided for the next five decades.

Upon Bonny’s death, her will was read, and such was the first instance in recorded history in which a sourdough was mentioned in a will.  It remained in the family, moving about the country until ending up in Red Deer, Alberta where the dough was granted an honorary degree by Red Deer  College.

Sourdough Pizza Crust

1.5 cups of sourdough starter

1.5 cups of flour (I used whole wheat, but you choose.)

5 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

These quantities are estimates.  Variations will occur depending upon the personality of your sourdough starter.  Is it a stick-in-the-mud gooey, or a sloppy sloshy slurry or somewhere in between?

Just a warning on this crust.  It’s not your average doughy, squishy, melt-in-your-mouth type of crust.  It’s got character, which means you have to really sink your teach into it and chew for all you’re worth.  The reward is a tasty chewing experience like no other offered by the pizza chains.

  1.  Mix all of the ingredients adding extra flour or oil or whatever it takes to give you a pizza dough consistency.
  2. Let is rest for 30 min. or more.  It won’t really rise during this time.  You’re just giving it a bit of time to recover after the trauma of being transformed.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 500 F.
  4. Roll out the dough into a pizza shape of your choosing onto a sheet covered in parchment paper or a generous application of spray oil.
  5. Bake the crust only for 7 minutes.
  6. Take it out, brush it with oil, then add whatever toppings you wish.  The toppings I really like include tomatoes, mushrooms (all rolled in oil), goat cheese and dried herbs like basil or oregano.  There are, as you know, an infinite number of possibilities for toppings.
  7. Return the pizza to the oven.  The baking time will vary (as everything seems to involving sourdough), but I baked mine only for an additional 8 minutes and it was done.  The crust starts to really brown or maybe even tend to black, then you know it’s ready to go.
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Dual Personality Rolls

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Pictured Above:  A Savoury Roll.  No photo was taken of the sweet alternative as they were devoured before a camera could be raised.  

Sweet drowns out inadequacies.  Savoury is openly honest about shortcomings.

Sweet is a comb-over with a Kool-aid dye job.  Savoury is bedhead with a few passes of splayed fingers.

Sweet is a pickup truck with over-sized tires and a gun rack.  Savoury is a bicycle with a basket and no fenders.

Sweet tap-dances, Moonwalks and heal slides.  Savoury does the Downward Dog.

Sweet delivers an uppercut.  Savoury delivers a back rub.

Sweet is a tsunami of pleasure that overwhelms your senses and leaves you flattened like a lifeless bag of bones in its aftermath.  Savoury is a subtle tap on your shoulder that makes you take notice, but doesn’t knock you off your feet.

This recipe is for one roll, two fillings (not at the same time, however).  You choose which you are: sweet or savoury.

Sweet and Savoury Sourdough Rolls

(Adapted from the Unskinny Boppy)

The Rolls

1/2 cup of butter (cool in the fridge)

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

1/2 cup of sourdough starter

1 Tablespoon of white sugar

1 cup of milk

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

The Sweet Filling

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/2 cup of softened (not melted) butter

The Savoury Filling

Aged cheddar (or other strong-tasting cheese)

French’s mustard

Instructions

You’ll need about 8 hours or so to make these. (But don’t worry, you’re not working on them the whole time.)

  1. Cut the 1/2 cup of butter into the 2 1/2 cups of flour until it’s pretty much reduced to a sandy texture.
  2. Mix in the 1/2 cup sourdough starter, 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 1 cup of milk and make into a dough ball.
  3. Cover the dough ball and let it rise for about 7 hours (although I’ve gotten away with less).
  4. Knead in the 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  Add more flour if needed until you have a smooth dough ball.
  5. Roll out the dough into a 1/4” thick rectangle.
  6. Spread either the sweet or savoury filling over the dough.  For the savoury, spread enough mustard to cover, then grate enough cheese to cover.
  7. On the long edge, tightly roll the dough up until you have a long tube of dough.
  8. Cut slices (and here’s the contentious part) between 1/2” and 1” thick.  (You decide what your preference will be.)
  9. Place flat on tin foiled or parchment papered tray.
  10. Cook in 400 F oven for 20 to 30 min.

The savoury rolls are great with soup, while the sweet cinnamon rolls are best eaten on their own all at once in a session of pure gluttony.