I can’t say the theme of this post was entirely my own idea. In fact, very little of this post was due to my own independent thoughts and motivations. But I did do the grunt of the work for the content to follow and, in the meantime, covered the counters, my clothes, and the floor with flour, so that’s got to count for something, right?
It all started with the blossoming of a I’d-do-just-about-anything-for-you friendship with a skilled baker at one of Anchorage’s finest bakeries. The reason you need to understand the extent of our unwavering devotion to one another is that everyday gal pals don’t just throw down a couple Benjamins and take off work to spend their birthday and the long Labor Day weekend in Nome. But that’s exactly what she did, bringing along some sourdough starter with her.
Since moving to Alaska three years ago, I’ve taken to baking bread somewhat frequently. But, oddly enough, I’ve never baked with the staple Alaska ingredient for bread: sourdough. So, with my state-appropriate starter, I got to work. Unfortunately, after baking the first few loaves, I lost momentum and reverted back to baking just one loaf every few weeks. The first vacant Sunday morning that I planned to bake another loaf, I realized my sourdough had deflated quite a bit, becoming “inactive.”
Thankfully, sourdough (both the starter and the crusty Alaskan type) is resilient. While the unfed starter wouldn’t bring the “oomph” to a loaf of bread that it normally would, inactive starter can be used to add flavor to doughs that don’t require as much in the way of rising. If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, that’s only because, after a brief freak out thinking that I had killed my precious sourdough starter, I went online and did a bit of research. In doing so, I not only learned how to revive my starter, but also what to do with the seemingly lifeless yet surprisingly pungent paste in front of me.
As I mentioned earlier, the inspiration for this post wasn’t entirely of my own making. A few weeks back, I received an email from a colleague down at Anchorage’s public radio station who mentioned she had started a blog, cleverly titled the “Cinnahunt,” in search of the best cinnamon roll that the big city had to offer. She asked about the local selection in Nome and offered to feature a guest post. After reading through all of her posts in one afternoon and laughing aloud to almost every one of them, I thought “hey, I can do this.” I may not be as clever or as good at producing radio as she is, but, gosh darn it, I can bake.
And bake I did. I found a recipe from King Arthur Flour for buttery sourdough buns, which they touted as a perfect recipe for inactive starter. I swapped their suggestion for paprika and filled the inside with plenty of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I also mixed up a simple cream cheese frosting recipe that I usually freestyle, adding 8oz cream cheese, 1 tablespoon of butter, vanilla extract (1-2 teaspoons) and then enough powdered sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth (for me, it’s about 1/2 cup).
So how’d they turn out? Well, they didn’t last more than a day in the KNOM volunteer house, so I’m happy.
P.S. Speaking of KNOM vols, another inspiration for this post was Mitch’s post from earlier this week in which he recounts his experience making the perfect omelet. While his phone was too full and his tech-saviness lacking (#sorrymitch), I was in the kitchen when he crafted the egg dish, I can vouch in that it truly was perfect.