sourdough pancakes

sourdough is a very cool thing. every time you use the sourdough you take some of the starter to use and reserve some to stay in the fridge and keep the original strain alive. the oldest known starter is in san francisco at boudin bakery claiming 153 years.

when i was at home in alaska this summer i had my parents give me some of their sourdough starter that they’ve had for over 30 years that was passed down by a woman whose family reportedly had had it for over 100 years.

here is the story of this sourdough as told by my mother (and edited a bit by me):

We got this sourdough in 1982 in Edna Bay. We got it from a couple whose names were Michael and Jan. They had lived on their steel sailboat and got the sourdough when they lived on their boat and anchored in Port Alexander, AK from an older lady who liked them and their kid, Morgan. They built a
round house with cement, firewood logs, and the ends of wine jugs for light (in addition to some windows) on the land they bought on the island.
Anyway, the sourdough from the old lady in Port Alexander was from her 100 year-old starter since she was the offspring of original fisher folk who settled there in the early years.
We kept it going for years, eventually increasing it from a pint to a quart as we had more kids. We used to take it with us if we left the house for long periods in the winter to keep it from freezing. I would wrap it in a clean diaper and then put it in a ziploc bag and in my pack when we traveled (no restrictions on liquids in carry-ons.) It has been to Connecticut, Utah, Seattle, and San Diego during those trips.
So since we’ve had it the sourdough moved from the float house to the house on land in Edna Bay, to Ketchikan and now to Portland.

so, while it’s a super cool story, age reportedly only adds stability to starters, not extra deliciousness. damn. but that means you don’t have to wait 100+ years to have a sourdough pancake. check out joy the baker’s five or so day tutorial here on how to start a sourdough starter (i’m setting you up with her starting page, you’ll have to navigate the progression) since i’m not about to forsake the ease i’ve had in being given this starter anytime soon.

so finally, here is the recipe i promised you at least a month ago when i got back from alaska. i've made these pancakes three times since then so i'm confident they'll work for you. the thing about sourdough is you don't really measure the amount you're starting with making recipes a little tricky. i've used different amounts and combinations of ingredients but this one worked the best.

sourdough bread will be coming soon. i only tried that once and it was a disaster. technically, the yeast already present in sourdough is enough to start and get bread to rise. it is more complicated than that. at least for my starter. upon consultation with my parent-experts, you at least need some baking soda to get the mix going, and my dad said he usually adds yeast. mother further added that the sourdoughs weren't working with the best of conditions in the "kitchen and usually just threw some starter in with some flour and water and put it in a pan. not the fluffy sandwich bread i was going for. anyway.. that will be coming as soon as i conquer it.

but the bread can wait, we have pancakes!

i make this recipe and it feeds two regular appetites in the morning. you may want to double the recipe but that means you'll need to be working with a larger starter. mine is currently in a 14 ounce jar and i'm planning on expanding it.

sourdough pancakes
makes 6 pancakes

1 cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
1 cup water

the night before: get your sourdough starter out of the fridge and empty it out into a bowl. stir in 1 cup flour, then stir in 1 cup warm water. do it in this order and separately to avoid lumps in the starter. cover with plastic wrap and leave out overnight. (be careful if your house is hot as high temperatures can kill starter).

the next morning the sourdough is ready to use. it may have bubbles on the surface or it may have separated with a tan colored water on top. give it a good stir as it gets thicker at the bottom of the bowl. pour some of this mixture back into a jar to be kept in the fridge and used as your starter the next time.*

with the starter you reserved for your pancakes add the eggs, sugar, and baking soda. mix well. add the flour next and mix well. finally, add the water and mix slowly until combined. while it feels a little awkward to be integrating the water into an already thick batter, it works best this way because it avoids the creation of lumps. add a little flour or water to adjust thickness if necessary.

heat a skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes. add 1/4 tablespoon butter and melt. pour batter into skillet (i like using a soup ladel). when the whole pancake is covered in bubbles on the top, it is ready to be flipped. the second side cooks much quicker and is ready when browned.

eat with liberal amounts of butter and maple syrup. i am a firm believer that all sourdough pancakes really need is butter but the real maple syrup takes it to a whole other level of delicious.

a note on sourdough: sourdough needs constant action. most people recommend using it once a week. you don’t want to use it more than that or the sourness becomes less pronounced. leaving it alone too long makes it lonely and it will not play nice next time you pull it out.

*if you want to increase the size of your starter you can pour all of this mixture into a jar and not use any for a recipe. you can also keep half and give half to a friend.

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