Ask Wren: What’s sour and fluffy and bubbles all over?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Making sourdough anything seems like a mystery, requiring advance planning and a special brew. But the ancient Egyptians were creating sourdough bread in 1500 BC, and they didn’t even have running water. This is something anyone with a large-ish bowl and a place to put it can attempt. Sourdough imparts a tangy flavor to whatever it’s used in. Thanks to modern refrigeration techniques it’s easy to have on hand.
Word on the street is you have a family recipe for sourdough waffles. What is a “starter” and where did it come from? I’d love it if you’d share the story with me.
Caramie Schnell, Edwards
The sourdough waffles I make come from a starter my Grandpa Bruce created 36 years ago on the hearth with warm water, potatoes, yeast and flour. I’ve always moved it with me wherever I go, including a 6-month stint in Mexico and a summer in Yosemite spent in a VW Vanagon. It’s hard to kill.
I keep the starter in the fridge and bust it out the night before I want to make waffles. If I haven’t messed with it in a while it gets sluggish. All it needs is warm water, flour and some time to do its thing. The only hard part is remembering to save out a cup in the morning (the starter for the next batch) before mixing in the rest of the waffle ingredients.
As for the waffles, they crisp up on the outside and stay fluffy and tangy on the inside. Gramps always sprinkles in pecans, and I sometimes add blueberries. You can also make pancakes out of the same batter, no modifications necessary (from an oil standpoint, this is more of a pancake batter than waffle batter).
The batter keeps in the fridge for a couple of days, losing loft as time goes by. If you have extra, make up waffles and use them as the bread for PBJs. It makes for great pocket food on the hill.
If you don’t have your own starter – and few people do – give me a shout and I’ll give you one.
Grandpa Bruce’s Sourdough Waffles
The night before:
1 cup starter
2 1/2 cups flour (I like half whole wheat)
2 cups very warm, but not full-out hot, water
Mix together in a bowl, cover with a towel, and let sit overnight. A warmish spot is best, though not essential. Make sure there’s room in your bowl for it to bubble and rise – Grandma Wanda used too small a bowl once and came downstairs to find it all over the kitchen floor. (She’d doubled the recipe.)
The next morning:
Save out a cup of starter, and put in fridge.
Add to bowl:
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup evaporated milk (I’ve subbed regular milk before, with decent results)
2 Tablespoon oil
Stir until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle sugar mixture over starter mixture, and fold in gently, allowing yourself maybe one mini burst of energetic stirring just to make sure. Then leave the bowl alone for 5 minutes. Do not even look at it.
When you return, it will be bubbling like a witch’s brew. Now it’s time to make waffles. I use roughly a half-cup of batter in my “Five of Hearts” skinny waffle iron. Belgian-style wafflemakers will of course require more batter.
It would be a crime to serve them with anything other than 100 percent bona fide maple syrup, preferably from Wisconsin.