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Sick of sourdough bread yet? 5 sourdough dishes beyond the basic loaf: empanadas, waffles, popovers, crepes and crackers

San Antonio Express News logo San Antonio Express News 8/12/2020 By Paul Stephen, Staff writer

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the coronavirus wasn’t the only bug America became obsessed with. Practically overnight, seemingly every American now flush with time and boredom started to bake sourdough bread.

Flour and yeast disappeared from grocery store shelves. Boundless boules and batards — both popular sourdough loaf shapes — spread faster than any virus on countless social media threads. Home-baked bread was back, and in a big way.

But like any new lifestyle we love to crow about on social media — a new fitness routine, the Whole30 challenge, selling essential oils — beginner’s enthusiasm sometimes outstripped the reality of the commitment that keeping sourdough starter alive demands. Many ghosted on their bready crush, seeking fulfillment elsewhere. But for a lucky masochistic few, a lifelong passion ignited.

“I killed my starter twice. It really was like feeding a pet,” said Katie Kinder DeBauche, the vice president of development at the Witte Museum. She was working from home and had played with sourdough a few times before.

She named her starter Dolores after the “Westworld” character Dolores Abernathy, who’s known for regenerating multiple times after death. Kinder DeBauche, made sure to keep a portion of Dolores as a backup in the fridge just in case. “I’d forget about her on the counter. She’s been reincarnated twice.”

San Antonio chef Dave Terrazas found himself laid off from his job with Mercy Chefs and getting familiar with yeast, flour and water at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak as well. From March into the early summer, Terrazas could be found in his kitchen stirring, kneading and baking up loaves of sourdough bread. He’d had an on-again-off-again relationship with sourdough before the pandemic.

But his efforts went onto a back burner once the heat cranked up. His starter, which never received a name, has passed on to the great, bubbly beyond.

“Once the garden season went into full swing around May, that was just so time consuming,” Terrazas said. He helped plant about a half-dozen gardens for himself and fellow culinary professionals. “The camaraderie and fun of building gardens kind of took over.”

For both, the sourdough adventure led to learning a lot about bread and what else sourdough starter can become.

The sourdough starter feeding process involves generating a considerable quantity of what bakers often call “discard,” or a portion of starter that’s no longer needed after a fresh feeding. That discard is loaded with a wide range of flavorful and aromatic bacteria and yeast. Many bakers throw it out, but that discard can be used to make countless other things.

Kinder DeBauche said she hated that waste, so she looked for recipes that went beyond the basic loaf.

“The best and worst thing that happened to me during the quarantine is sourdough waffles. It’s not so much the waffle that’s bad for you, but what you put on them,” she said with a laugh.

Terrazas also found the sourdough discard to be the biggest revelation of his quarantine baking efforts.

“Waste not, want not,” Terrazas said. “It would be a shame wasting a cup or 2 every day. It has all those flavors in it.” That flavorful waste product became waffles, empanadas, pasta and more in his kitchen.

Pasta, Terrazas said, was particularly interesting. Typically, pasta doesn’t contain any yeast or other leavening agents. The starter, he said, gave his noodles a bounce similar to traditional ramen noodles, which are cooked in water containing one of several kinds of alkaline salt to achieve their unique texture.

Playing with sourdough gave both Terrazas and Kinder DeBauche other creative and professional outlets, as well.

For Kinder DeBauche, baking became a way to connect with her family. Her great grandparents were immigrant bakers from Poland who settled in New Jersey. She’s documented the process of teaching herself to bake on her blog at katiesmidnightbakery.com. She’s also turned her baking exploits into a side hustle selling batches of Parker House rolls made from her family’s secret recipe.

Terrazas saw sourdough as a perfect educational vehicle. In the coming weeks he plans to launch an online program called Foodie Classroom. The website, foodieclassroom.com, will go live in coming weeks.

“Foodie Classroom will take the state standards for all the STEM classes and use food as a contextual element. Algebra can be used to upscale a recipe. Geometry can be used to calculate the area of a pizza.” Terrazas explained. “I’ll be filming videos in farms, gardens, parks and kitchens around the city.”

And sourdough will play a roll in that education.

“Part of the reason for the whole sourdough thing was Foodie Classroom,” he said. “Ninth grade biology is all about the life cycle of cells.”

If, like Terrazas and Kinder DeBauche, you want options for what to do with the starter discard, we’re providing you with some sourdough recipes that go beyond the basic loaf.

Paul Stephen is a food and drink reporter and restaurant critic in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Paul, become a subscriber. pstephen@express-news.net | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen

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