Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Sourdough Experiment Part III – It was Murder!

My initial success with the sourdough bread encouraged me to try to make some more.

But things went awry. Badly. Murder or suicide. Call in CSI:SoCal!

I won’t try to blame outside events on this gruesome situation. It’s easy to do when you are still in shock. Mourning, as it were. The lost potential of all those little bacteria.

The outside event that took up a lot of time was this jury duty, which I have mentioned recently. It’s not the jury duty per se, but having to fit all the other things in around the jury duty. In the end, the warning signs were there. I should have noticed the murderous glint in the perpetrators eye, the malicious sneaking around after everyone else had gone to bed. But I was too rushed during the day, and too tired at night. Lame excuses, I agree.

The sourdough starter died. That is for sure. A limpid, murky pool of liquid. No bubbles. No live bacteria. Nothing but a bad smell. Which I was forced to wash down the drain.

I thought for a long time about how this had happened.

For survival, you need air, water and warmth. Pretty much in that order.

Air seemed to be everywhere, so I focused elsewhere.

Did I not mix the starter correctly? Wrong proportions of flour and water? No. I remember measuring everything using my kitchen scale.

Did it suddenly get too cold for the starter to grow successfully? That was my theory for a while, as the temperature had dropped a bit that week. But still, were talking temps in the 60s and 70s instead of the 80s. Not really winter’s frosty chill. So that theory waned.

I was back to incorrect measurement of flour and water. As the starter had separated into a layer of damp flour, with a layer of brown water on top. Maybe too much water had sort of asphyxiated the little bacteria. The water layer preventing them from getting the necessary air.

Finally, long after the fact, the true circumstances of the ‘murder’ became clear to me.

And in the end, murder it was. Murder by suffocation. The little bacteria were slowly starved of air until they died en mass. Shudder!

With this starter, you are supposed to ‘feed’ it every day by adding 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water, stirring, and setting it in a warm place, loosely covered. I did this feeding in the evening, just before bed. Setting the container lid slightly ajar, and the container on the top of the fridge, as that is as warm a place as any.

After I had done this, the murderer came by and simply snapped the lid down on the container. Sealed it tight. Every night. It remained sealed until the following evening, when I opened it, not even consciously realizing it was sealed, and ‘fed’ it. This continued for a few days, until the little guys had all died. And I was left with a gooey, very dead mass.

The judge declared unintentional ‘bacteria’-slaughter, and let the perpetrator off with a warning. There’s justice!

So now, wiser and hardened by the grim experience, I am at it again. A new starter. And through my vigilant guarding of the starter, it is clear that bacteria are multiplying at a ferocious rate. This stuff could lift the Titantic. More sourdough bread is on the way!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though I realize you were trying to be clever and amusing about your failed sourdough, the only thing I got from this is that you dumped rotten started into everyone's drinking water. Gross!

9:32 AM  

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