Food History

You Think 2020 Was the Year of Sourdough? Look Back to the Gold Rush

Starter was a lifeline in 1848, too.

January 15, 2021
Photo by Bobbi Lin

When the discovery of gold near Coloma, Calif., in 1848 ignited a massive influx of prospectors to the area from other regions of the United States, as well as Europe, Asia, and Australia, many arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. Among the few prized possessions brought along for the journey were jars of sourdough starter—the mixture of fermented flour and water used to make bread without commercial yeast—that held the promise of a full belly. To thousands of hopeful (and hungry) miners who risked it all in pursuit of striking it rich, those jars of cultivated wild yeast represented a semblance of stability and a taste of home, even amid backbreaking work and an uncertain future. Legend has it that the miners even hugged their starters at night to keep the cultures warm and help them survive.

Sourdough starter served as a lifeline to which the miners literally clung. Due to the sudden population explosion, farms couldn’t keep up with the surge in demand, rendering affordable food an elusive commodity in many parts of the state. Moreover, the discovery of gold excited locals, too: As California’s farm workers left their agricultural jobs to pan for gold, farms that had once supported the state's economy sat abandoned. Local food merchants, smelling opportunity as droves of miners rushed the goldfields, inflated prices on everything from fruit to flour: A single egg could command as much as $3 (more than $80 per egg in today’s dollars). Suffice it to say, many merchants struck more riches than gold miners; after traveling thousands of arduous miles to stake their claim to wealth, most hopefuls in the mining camps ultimately made little money. Faced with limited funds and resources, the miners could extend a small amount of purchased flour by mixing it with sourdough starter—a more affordable solution than buying a fresh loaf of bread.

"Sourdough starter was a way to turn something that was essentially shelf-stable into something that was a bit more delicious, but also more nutritious," Josey Baker, founder of Josey Baker Bread in San Francisco, told me over the phone.

Perhaps because the move to California introduced new bacterial inhabitants into their starters, many miners found that their bread took on a sharper sourness than they were used to—a tang that has since become one of the defining traits of San Francisco's renowned sourdough bread. As the city's bread fame grew, a rumor circulated that the strain of bacteria (found in the starters’ wild yeasts) responsible for San Francisco sourdough's distinctly tart flavor simply could not be produced anywhere else. Though this has been disproved—the bacteria has since been found in sourdough loaves all over the world—Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis remains named after the City by the Bay, a nod to the era that cemented sourdough as part of San Francisco's identity. The popular Bay Area chain Boudin Bakery actually got its start during the Gold Rush, later trademarking its signature loaf as “the Original San Francisco Sourdough.” All these years later, Boudin still makes its sourdough from a gold miner’s starter—though it was nearly destroyed in 1906, when a major earthquake forced an emergency evacuation: “Louise [Boudin, the bakery’s matriarch] grabbed a bucket of the original starter before running to safety,” writes Erica J. Peters in San Francisco: A Food Biography. “She instinctively protected the ‘mother dough,’ which linked Boudin’s bread back to its beginnings.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“After reading the novel Sourdough a couple of years ago I created my own starter (I call it Abby after the name of my community) and have kept it alive for almost 3 years now! It cam in handy during the early days of the pandemic when there was no yeast to be found. I use a technique to keep it very small, and either bake bread (with ripe starter) or make crackers(with “discard”) every couple of weeks. Those crackers become my go-to snack (dare I say comfort food) during these challenging times.”
— Karen K.
Comment

Following the Gold Rush, other Bay Area bakeries, like Parisian and Larraburu Brothers, became renowned for their bread, serving sourdough to the city for decades before eventually closing their doors. Today, San Francisco sourdough lovers still have plenty to choose from, with Tartine, Semifreddi’s, Acme Bread Company, and more working to maintain the city’s bread reputation. (Even the mascot of San Francisco’s 49ers football team—the beloved Sourdough Sam—pays homage to the city’s favorite bread.)


Nearly two centuries later, 2020 proved another period during which many pantry staples again became more expensive or difficult to obtain, though this time fueled by panic rather than the hardships of building a new life. When the pandemic became tangible to most Americans last March, grocery store shelves (particularly those holding flour and yeast) sat empty for several weeks in the wake of hoarders buying more shelf-stable goods than they needed. This snag in the supply chain meant businesses had to introduce purchase limits on certain items, and many shoppers left their local supermarkets without the goods they were searching for. During this period, sourdough starter once again emerged in mainstream popularity as an anchor in the turbulence, a way to create a staple food when the store-bought version wasn't guaranteed. Flour was conserved, stretched, and embellished into something comforting—even when the outside world felt anything but.

Perhaps humans have an inherent desire to spend more time in the kitchen when day-to-day comforts become uncertain. Indeed, the emergence of sourdough bread as a staple during the Gold Rush, paired with the thousands of loaves of sourdough baked during the pandemic, imply that times of unease force us to reclaim the sense of assurance that comes from making key foods entirely from scratch.

That intrinsic need extends beyond baking; the same impulse has encouraged many during the pandemic to experiment with windowsill gardening, practice at-home fermentation techniques, and embrace zero-waste cooking practices. Even home-cooking novices attempted to plant their own cucumbers and zucchini, then experimented with pickling and canning their pandemic harvest. After all, the process of self-reliantly putting food on the family table while minimizing dependence on outside sources can be deeply grounding, whether the motivation is attributed to practical need or temporary distraction.

Baker feels that such projects are more profound than a means to break up the day. "A lot of people were looking for that type of emotional experience of something comforting, something familiar, something that would allow them to feel connected to their ancestors and people from the past," he noted.

For many during the time of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, the act of nurturing a sourdough starter was a positive and rewarding activity that instilled a sense of routine, resourcefulness, and achievement (not to mention tasty sustenance). And for those who invested the time and effort to properly understand and care for their yeasts, the starters were a gift that kept on giving. "The loaf of bread is just one stop along the journey," added Baker, who uses starter in non-bread foods like pizza dough and pancakes, to name only two. "It's just so rich in opportunities.”

Of course, there’s a chance that pandemic-induced interest in baking, fermenting, and other economical kitchen hobbies may fade when the world returns to normal. However, tastes and behaviors, once forged, often do become ritual. After all, in San Francisco, the heart of sourdough continues to beat as strongly as ever, deeply embedded into the very fabric of the city. Perhaps, being born out of necessity is exactly why the city's bread has so firmly stood the test of time.

Did you try your hand at sourdough bread-baking (or another long-term food project) last year? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rubi McGrory
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Megan Zhang is a journalist and food writer exploring the intersection of culture and cuisine. Having grown up in several cities around the world, Megan sports an inquisitive set of taste buds and is insatiably curious about the tales behind what we eat. You can find her bylines at Bon Appétit, BBC Travel, and the Kitchn, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @meganjzhang. Megan also shares her travel stories and photography over on her blog, Voices in the Jungle, and she is the creator of Talking Through Walls, a digital publication documenting how individuals across the globe are grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic.

90 Comments

Rubi M. January 27, 2021
In the sourdough program in culinary school, I recall learning that the liquid alcohol that forms as a by-product of fermenting starter was called "hooch." This is where the slang term comes from, and that it was a commodity-- sold and traded as an intoxicant. I've tried researching this and have found nothing about it. Does anyone have any knowledge/insight?
I can tell you that one whiff of that liquid messes me up for a minute and gives me a crazy headache. I can't imagine drinking it.
 
divadmas January 27, 2021
It can't be that strong, fermented alcohol is self limiting because the alcohol kills off the yeast.
 
Anna January 25, 2021
Love a good sourdough, but honestly team yeasted breads!
 
Rebecca F. January 25, 2021
this piece encouraged me revive my sourdough starter! But I think my favorite part was learning about the mascot Sourdough Sam :)
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
He's championing SF sourdough to the football masses! :)
 
Alice P. January 24, 2021
I have been enjoying making sourdough (my starter is about 2 years old) but I don’t use typical flour. I have a real sensitivity to wheat grown in our country but I can eat Einkorn flour without issue. It is a non-hybridized wheat that is grown in Italy. It makes the most amazing sourdough bread as well as other wonderful baked goods. Check out jovialfoods.com. I don’t work for them or have any interest in their company...just a very satisfied customer.
 
Smaug January 25, 2021
This being a history article, I'd recommend the short Wikipedia article on einkorn wheat as am interesting read. According to that article, einkorn wheat flour "...lacks the rising characteristics desirable for bread" and is mostly eaten as bulgar; It has a good nutritional profile compared to other wheats.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
Thanks for reading and sharing, Alice!
 
divadmas January 27, 2021
I saw eikhorn flour in cooking show featuring a french bakery.
Eikhorn is grown and milled in us also, i know its in Washington state.
 
Alice P. January 27, 2021
I know it is also grown here but the one I get through jovial foods is organic. I don’t know how it’s grown here and prefer if it is not grown with the pesticides/glyphosate as is most other wheat in this country.
 
Faith C. January 24, 2021
I have been baking bread for 40 years and although I had yeast last year during the shortages I still was interested in sourdough. I started a starter and shared it with neighbors, I now have a 1 year old granddaughter who loves my sourdough bread. I bake weekly. Freeze some loaves, share some with neighbors and send it to my daughter and her family for my granddaughter. I love that I know all of the ingredients. I have also used it for pizza and pancakes and other breads.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
Love how versatile sourdough starter can be. Happy baking, Faith!
 
Ellen M. January 24, 2021
Sourdough started can be dried, which makes it easily transportable. It can be revived by adding water and flour. Quite possibly that is how people made the trek across the country with their starter. I had some dried started for several years and re-started it this summer.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 26, 2021
2020 rekindled a lot of sourdough love. Thanks for sharing, Ellen!
 
Amy M. January 24, 2021
I've had a sourdough cookbook sitting on my shelf for 23 years and never felt I had the time to deal with making a starter. But last March when I lost my job, voila la time! Mother Rye is a vigorous gal and I've been baking 4 loaves every week, which is still not enough for my mostly male household. I've had a great time creating my recipes: spent grain (with grain from my brewer neighbors), cinnamon raisin, and classic. I've got my recipes memorized and my routine down pat and I don't see myself ever stopping. And forgive me for also mentioning that I have not had constipation for almost a year now. Love love love this bread!
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
How lovely to hear the wonderful things you've been baking up! Sounds like Mother Rye is a gift that keeps on giving. :)
 
teukros January 24, 2021
Some of us spend time in the kitchen because we want our food to taste good?

And sourdough DOES NOT COME FROM SAN FRANCISCO! It comes from the local environment, wherever that is. In my case, my twelve year old starter was born in my apartment in Harlem, New York City. And even though I'm a nurse and during the pandemic I have been spending MORE time at work, not less, I bake two or three times a week, and it is all using my sourdough starter. Mostly loaves, pizza and pitas.
 
Smaug January 24, 2021
San Francisco Sourdough comes from San Francisco. The author specifically states that immigrants brought their starter with them, there's no claim that sourdough was invented in San Francisco.
 
Aileen B. January 24, 2021
I started baking bread, mostly white and whole wheat, at least 8-10 years ago when my husband's kidneys began to fail and he couldn't process preservatives in store bought food. A friend had gifted me her family's starter that was 100+ years old, and when I developed diabetes I revived the starter that had sat dormant in my fridge for years and began baking bread with it because there is no added sugar. I recently gifted some of it to a cousin, who gifted some to another cousin in the Bay Area. Now the starter has gone full circle and is back home in the Bay Area.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
Incredible to hear how one starter can go on to feed generations. Thanks for sharing, Aileen.
 
Megan L. January 24, 2021
My 13-year old started baking bread this fall, and I'm working very hard to encourage her since neither my husband nor I can eat wheat and I don't enjoy baking. She's using a starter that a teacher gave her, but she's also developing her own because the thought of yeast being the fruit of "our house and our hands" makes her extremely happy.
Unfortunately, she's been disappointed with her own starter because it acts like it's in junior high (growing and living awkwardly), and she can't quite figure out what's wrong with it. But she's also delighted by the irony, and in it there's hope for surviving 8th grade. It seems to me that every time she feeds and prunes she learns more, and she learns more thoughtfully too.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
Love the junior high analogy. So glad to hear she's learning a lot from nurturing her starter! I'm sure she'll get through 8th grade with flying colors.
 
nac263 January 24, 2021
This is a very informative and interesting article. After enjoying a sourdough sandwich just this morning, I have a deeper appreciation of what sourdough bread is. It's great learning the history of it.
 
nac263 January 24, 2021
Such an informative and very interesting article! After just recently enjoying a sourdough sandwich this morning, I give greater appreciation of what sourdough bread is. It's great to know the history of it as well and it feels like we are eating something so ancient in a way.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
Thank you so much! It's amazing how long the history of sourdough stretches back (way, way, way before the Gold Rush!).
 
Sourdogal January 24, 2021
I have 3 starters; all have been going at least 10 years. One supposedly dates from the Alaska Gold Rush, one was started with a packet of brioche yeast from France, and one is for buckwheat pancakes. I was a sourdough baker in Alaska, working in Denali, etc. I keep mine in the fridge in glass and pottery gasket jars with bails. Supposedly, people traveling the Oregon Trail, etc., dried sourdough by soaking a piece of cloth and drying it, then reconstituting it. I have a packet of dry sourdough from my favorite French strain prepared in a packet, just in case mine dies. One Christmas, I gave family different packets from Sourdoughs International in Idaho, some supposedly from original bakeries near the Pyramids, etc.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
How fascinating, thanks for sharing! (Sourdough packets are an excellent Christmas gift idea.)
 
Sharane C. January 24, 2021
I had a sourdough starter for more than 25+ years that I caught out of the air in NYC. It was delicious and made many a delicious loaf. Unfortunately, when I moved to Las Vegas, the person I was staying with threw it out because it smelled "funny". Now I have to start all over again.
 
Cheryl January 24, 2021
Ohhhh noooo. I have a starter from KAF that I've had for a couple years, it is excellent and very active...I would die if someone threw it out.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
So sorry to hear about your starter Sharane. It sounds like it lived a very fruitful life! And I'm certain your next one will, too.
 
Dharsi January 24, 2021
This is a wonderful timely article. I teach an enthusiastic group of 5th grade distance learners and they are right now growing their own sourdough starters. They are so engaged and excited to be weighing, measuring, recording, smelling, and nurturing their own science projects. I will be sharing out this article with them on Monday and I am off to search up some Food52 videos for when they are ready to bake their own first loaves and English muffins.
 
Smaug January 24, 2021
I'm afraid you won't find much on English muffins. There's a decent recipe for sourdough muffins by Donna Currie on Serious Eats (seriouseats.com)-I don't agree with everything in it, particularly cooking them without rings, and it's not a pure sourdough recipe, but the basic batter is pretty good.
 
MBE January 24, 2021
I started my attempt at sourdough starter in order to make better English muffins! It takes an overnight ferment and includes baking soda before baking but they are the best homemade English muffins I've made to date :-) Got the recipe from a friend and I've not found one like it on-line.
 
Smaug January 24, 2021
For what it's worth, here's the formula I use; 150g. starter (100% hydration), 210g. bread flour, 170g. milk/water (I usually use 1/2 milk- the main reason for milk in muffins is that they help browning when they're toasted), 2 Tb. butter, 1 1/2 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast). I've tried it without the added yeast- the muffins were good but not as high as I like; I like them about 1 1/4", considerably thicker than commercial muffins. I probably should work on my starter more. I use an overnight (or longer) ferment, and 75-78 g. batter/dough per muffin.
 
mizerychik January 24, 2021
Wild Yeast Blog's sourdough English muffins are fantastic and worth the effort. I haven't found one better.
 
Dharsi January 24, 2021
Care to share?
 
mizerychik January 24, 2021
I don't know if this will get deleted or not, but - https://www.wildyeastblog.com/sourdough-english-muffins/.

If it does, just search for Wild Yeast Blog and it's listed under their recipes.
 
Faith C. January 24, 2021
You may want to try crumpets instead of English muffins. I found a wonderful recipe on KAF website
 
Smaug January 24, 2021
The link certainly didn't last long. The recipe is interesting enough that I suppose I'll have to try it. I have some issues just from reading it- rings cost about $5 for 4. Without them not only can it dubiously be called an English muffin; muffins cooked in rings will have significantly more volume, and the straight sides allow them to split more evenly, without thin edges that will burn when toasted. I don't like the use of baking soda- it gives a different sort of rise from yeast, and I don't like it in something to be toasted as it's a really horrible taste if it burns. And finally, unless I miscounted something this is 85% hydration, almost as wet as the starter; my recipe is70% hydration and is much too wet for the sort of handling recommended. I've tried wetter batters with little success, but I suppose I'll have to give this one a shot- maybe all these isssues will resolve themselves. Well not the rings..
 
Kristi January 25, 2021
You can make rings from aluminum foil. Tear a sheet long enough to get your desired ring size, then make a ~1-2” fold on the long edge, and continue folding until you have a thick strip of foil. Gather ends together to form a circle and secure with a paper clip. I’ve used m/reused my home made rings several times to make crumpets.
 
MBE January 25, 2021
This one is very close to the one I use! Thanks for the link to this blog.
 
MBE January 25, 2021
?? what rings are you referring to? Wild Yeast blog doesn't use rings. And a bit confused as to if you are pro or con rings :-)
 
Smaug January 25, 2021
English muffin rings are very similar to plain round cookie cutters, but have a folded seam top and bottom. They are 3 1/2" across by 1" deep. They are available in packs of 4 for about $5 (some crazy prices from some sellers on Amazon, last I checked, but some normal ones too- I got mine at Sur La Table). It is sometimes possible to use appropriately sized cans with the top and bottom removed, but most American cans now are stamped out and won't work. As far as I'm concerned it's not an English muffin without a ring, though it could be a perfectly good hamburger bun. There are a lot of "ringless" recipes on the internet- presumably people respond better to recipes that don't require buying equipment. Side by side experiments have shown me that muffins made in rings achieve better volume and split and toast more evenly. By the way, an electric griddle is far easier than cast iron for cooking muffins, and generally better sized for cooking several. I set mine at 300 deg., 10 min per side, but I wouldn't swear to the accuracy of the temperature control. My recipe makes 7 muffins; I usually do one on a cast iron griddle just for practice- it can be done, but it's tricky to regulate the heat with just one, and cast iron tends to heat pretty unevenly so multiples are even trickier.
 
MBE January 25, 2021
I also have the rings I bought from Sur la Table! I found I only need to use only one. I take the dough and portion it into equal size balls and then press into a ring for a perfect round. Allow to rise for an hour and then "bake" on my electric lefse griddle set to 375°F. Makes perfect rounds and no waste from cutting as specified in many recipes.
 
mizerychik January 25, 2021
Whether you consider them hamburger buns or not, the recipe I suggested makes straight sided English muffins that rise well, split well, and have no problems with burning in the toaster. Because you cut the dough instead of making balls that are pressed into rings, the straight, cut sides are where the muffins rise, both during resting and in the pan.
 
Smaug January 25, 2021
Well, I have the sponge proofing so we'll see tomorrow. It would be quite extraordinary behavior for the sides not to bulge when rising and cooking, but we'll see. Also, just noticed that he(?) calls for 3" muffins, which is very small. A standard muffin is 3 1/2"- may not seem like a huge difference, but a 3 1/2 ' muffin is about 36% larger than a 3". At about 72g./ muffin (for the max 10 muffins) that would seem to make these very dense (unless they're an inch and a half high), though the high liquid content makes it difficult to say how dense.
 
MBE January 25, 2021
Looking forward to your results! I'm not due to make English muffins this week. Agree that 3" inches is small-the rings I press into are 3 1/2"
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
What a delicious-sounding science project! Best of luck to your 5th graders and their starters.
 
mizerychik January 25, 2021
I typically use a 3 1/2" as well, and I've never noticed that the recipe calls for only 3".

Sometimes I make them with oddly shaped Star Wars cookie cutters instead - R2D2 is particularly well suited as an English muffin - but I know going in that those are going to be less standardized.
 
Smaug January 25, 2021
Well, while I'm messing around maybe I'll give my old hippopotamus cutter a shot- probably too much detail for a yeast bread but nothing beats fun.
 
mizerychik January 25, 2021
I can't upload an image, but I changed my avatar to a picture of the Star Wars muffins. Leia, R2D2, and Admiral Ackbar.
 
Smaug January 26, 2021
OK, back from the griddle. For the most part worked a little better than I expected. I found the dough a bit wet for the suggested hand mixing- I put it back in the bowl and used a stiff silicone scraper, but a stand mixer would work fine- probably the paddle rather than the dough hook. It did firm up enough that rolling and cutting it (with lots of flour) worked OK. I measured the 1/2' thickness as close as possible with yeast dough- half the recipe made 5 3" circles and a small squiguette. The circles actually spread during rising to roughly 3 1/2 ", the sides are rounded and irregular but not too bad, only one of them might be a problem. I stuck to the recipe as nearly as possible, but I used corn meal rather than semolina and maple syrup rather than agave or honey. I use whole wheat in my starter, so some arithmetic was needed to balance the flours (OK- I like arithmetic). Handling the discs requires some care, but if you're used to high hydration doughs shouldn't be a big problem. The suggested frequent turns, while reducing the volume some, do help avoid scorching (a real problem with cast iron for this purpose) and keep the tops flat. They actually came out pretty similar in size to a commercial muffin- roughly 3 1/2"x 1". They're denser than I prefer, but once again, not bad. I think there are two big mistakes with the recipe, however- the baking soda is a mistake. Ideally your starter should provide all the lift you need, but if that's not quite enough commercial yeast would make a better boost; you could add instant yeast in the final mixing in the same place as the soda is added. Aside from objections I mentioned above, the sour in sourdough comes from lactic acid, which is neutralized by the soda. On top of that, the sweetener is added too late to be fully metabolized by the yeast in the starter; the result is a somewhat sweet muffin with very little sour to it. It's not a bad flavor, but not what I want from a sourdough muffin. I'd give the recipe a B- overall. If you're into trying things, I would recommend it as a fun project and learning opportunity but I don't think it's the answer for sourdough muffins.
 
Smaug January 26, 2021
ps the dough was soft enough that scraps could be rerolled without enough sprigback to be a problem.
 
BonEllen January 24, 2021
I too jumped on the 2020 sourdough starter bandwagon. After enjoying a few loaves, my interest waned and I noticed I was feeding it far more often than baking. I ended up ignoring the starter completely and the jar sat in the fridge untouched. Last week, after six months of neglect, I decided to see what would happen if I fed it. Unbelievably the starter vigorously roared back to life and produced some amazing bread!

I have absolutely no doubt the settlers’ sourdough starter survived the harsh journey described.
 
Karen K. January 24, 2021
I have never let mine go more than 2 weeks, so good to know!
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
I'm always amazed at how resilient starters can be! Enjoy the delicious loaves :)
 
Ron A. January 24, 2021
Like so many, I too got involved in sourdough this year when I found out that commercial yeast was not obtainable. I make one batch of pizza dough every two weeks, enough for two dinners for my wife and me (the pizza dough rises over night in the refrigerator). Since it's a fairly high hydration pizza dough, I just press it out on parchment paper with my fingers. I then bake it at 500 degrees on an inverted baking sheet for about 12 minutes and I've been pretty happy with the results. Since I bake so infrequently, the sourdough starter itself sits in the refrigerator and is fed once a week.
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
One of my favorite ways to enjoy sourdough! Thanks for sharing, Ron.
 
Phil January 21, 2021
There is a monestary in The Czech Republic that brews a peer. They have a pool in a building that contains all the wort. The building has small vents leading outside that allows natural yeast to get to the pool. It takes like 8 years for this monestary to create a batch of peer. If I remember right, the beer sells for around $70 a six pack.
 
Phil January 21, 2021
Damn spell check. It is BEER not peer.
 
Ron A. January 24, 2021
We're being a little harsh, aren't we?
 
Karen K. January 18, 2021
After reading the novel Sourdough a couple of years ago I created my own starter (I call it Abby after the name of my community) and have kept it alive for almost 3 years now! It cam in handy during the early days of the pandemic when there was no yeast to be found. I use a technique to keep it very small, and either bake bread (with ripe starter) or make crackers(with “discard”) every couple of weeks. Those crackers become my go-to snack (dare I say comfort food) during these challenging times.
 
Jen B. January 24, 2021
You seem to be a wealth of knowledge that many of us could benefit from your experiments and experience! If a book isn’t on your bucket list , perhaps a blog?! I know I would be first in line to learn how to make starter and healthy unique breads in general!
 
Karen K. January 24, 2021
Thanks. I just read a lot about how to start and maintain a starter online! This is the technique for keeping it small- you just have to plan ahead for baking as it needs feeding to make enough quantity to bake- https://www.baking-sense.com/2020/04/16/how-to-keep-a-small-sourdough-starter/
 
Jen B. January 24, 2021
Don’t you love the internet! Thanks for that link! I’m a beginner at sourdough, but I have been making a simple white bread roll for decades. Nothing nutritious or unique. Sourdough has so many possibilities! Thanks again
 
Author Comment
Megan Z. January 25, 2021
May Abby continue to produce fresh loaves for years to come! Thank you for sharing, Karen.
 
Susan L. January 26, 2021
I keep a very small starter. 100g. 40g x 2 for the two loaves of bread I bake weekly and 20g to feed and keep going. KA baking has a great tutorial for keeping a small starter. So much less waste or discard!
 
Smaug January 18, 2021
Slightly off topic, but I read somewhere that studies have shown that the bacteria in sourdough somehow make more digestive fiber available, a significant health benefit. Sources, however, were not specified.