Sourdough Pancakes: Four Meals in the Four Corners
Sourdough likely originated in Ancient Egypt at around 1500 BC, and was probably the first form of leavening. Sourdough was the main bread made during the California Gold Rush, the Klondike Gold Rush, and the Colorado Gold and Silver Boom of the late 1800′s AD.
The bread became so common that “sourdough” became a general nickname for the gold prospectors — especially in Northern California. Conventional leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda were less reliable at the altitudes and temperatures faced by the prospectors. The sourdough starter had to be kept warm to survive and the miners frequently carried a pouch of starter either around their neck or on a belt.
Nancy grew up in Pennsylvania near the Amish country, and she has been using a sourdough starter to make pancakes for many years.All sourdough recipes begin with a starter — a mixture of flour, water and a little sugar. Sitting at room temperature, wild yeasts in the air and on the grain settle into the mix. The fermentation that occurs after a few days gives the starter its sour smell. Then it’s ready to use, for years if treated with respect.
Starters are usually passed through families and from friend to friend. Nancy offered me some of hers to take back to Austin but I didn’t think it would do well being packing with my luggage on the plane.
1 cup of sourdough starter
2 cups of water
3 1/2 cups of whole grain flour *see note below
3 large eggs
4 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup of coconut oil, or melted butter
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
*Depending on the thin or thickness of the starter, you may need to use less or even more.
Three to 24 hours before you want to eat, combine in a large bowl the starter, water, and flour. Make sure that you have plenty of room for this mixture to rise. If it is a very hot day, beware of leaving it too long as it will ferment very quickly.
After the soaking period, add the rest of the ingredients, and combine well with a whisk. If you want thinner pancakes you can thin with water or milk. Drop about 1/4 of a cup of the batter on a lightly oiled hot griddle (over medium to medium-high heat) until the the top starts to bubble, and the bottom lightly browned. Flip the pancake and cook until the pancake is lightly browned on the other side.
Serve with real maple syrup, butter, fresh fruit, and/or jam.
While Sourdough was the standard for bread making for hundreds of years, it was later replaced by the use of barm from beer making. Barm is the foam formed on the top of liquor when fermenting. It can be used to leaven bread or set up fermentation of a new batch of liquor. In Colorado, it’s often used for the latter.
Colorado produces the most beer of any state in the U.S. and there are four operating breweries in the city of Durango. That’s a lot considering the population is 16,000 — of course that doesn’t count the thousands of tourists that stream in every summer to ride the train.
Brooke took me to Steamworks Brewing Company in downtown where we enjoyed $3 pints of six of their beers while waiting for her dad to finish up work and join us there for dinner. They were all really tasty and included Steam Engine Lager, Lizard Head Red, Prescribed Burn, Mai Bock, Hefeweisen, and the Third Eye PA. I’d recommend every one of them except maybe the Hefeweisen (it tasted too bananna-ey) and the IPA (I’m not a fan of all those hops).
We sat out on the balcony and enjoyed the gorgeous view of the mountains and the cool air brought in my an afternoon rain shower. While we relaxed, the restaurant was setting up for a group from the Homebrewers’ Institute, a group studying advanced brewing techniques at Fort Lewis College in Durango. We must have caught the group enjoying one of their “post-school activities” including tours of breweries, dining at brewpubs and beer-friendly restaurants, and meeting with local home brewers and craft brewers. I wish I could have studied beer when I was back in school!Tags: beer, durango, pancakes, sourdough, Steamworks