Although I still have plenty to do for Christmas, I woke up this Saturday obsessing about the next Saturday holiday. New Year’s Day will be our 7th annual Sourdough Waffle Open House party, and I didn’t know if I had a viable sourdough.
Deep in the recesses of my basement refrigerator, my starter sat neglected for a full year. Each time I’d gone to fetch the olives, miso, or pickles I store there, I glanced at the murky sludge in the jar. I hoped my ignoring it until needed was a form of benign neglect.
Reviving sourdough starter
This morning was reckoning day. I trudged to the basement before I’d had coffee, even, and returned with my arms wrapped around the gallon-sized jar. Half of the contents was liquid as gray and ominous as a thundercloud.
I poured it all down the drain. Then, I poised my nose over the opening for a tentative sniff, expecting an aroma worse than spoiled milk.
Lo and behold, the slurry left inside the jar smelled sweetly tart like apple cider vinegar. It was so surprisingly pleasant, I sniffed again.
Hope spurred me on. I scraped a wooden spoon across the surface to excavate the non-moldy culture dwelling below like a scientist extracting a core sample. All I needed was a teaspoon to learn its fate.
Dead or dormant sourdough starter?
I had spooned the clean culture– was there a vestige of life in it?–into a pint mason jar when Molly and Cece raced into the kitchen to “help” me. All three of us took turns stirring in warm water and bread flour. I stirred with extra vigor to bring oxygen to those yeasts as needy as patients on life support.
The wild yeast sprang to life in an instant. The starter bubbled. It had lived through another year.
There will be sourdough waffles this New Year’s Day! Here’s my go-to waffle recipe adapted over many years from Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery.
Whole-wheat Sourdough Waffles
Start this recipe the night before for morning waffles or in the morning if you'll be having them for dinner. Made with white whole-wheat flour, the batter is thick and elastic producing scrumptious and full-flavored waffles.. This method is based on Nancy Silverton's in Breads from La Brea Bakery and adapted by me over the years. For best results, use a sourdough starter that you've fed within the past three days. (The longer in advance the more tang the waffles will have.)
- 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter "fed" within the past 3 days
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups milk whole or skim
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 1/3 cups stone-ground white whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 cup uncooked 8-grain cereal
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Whisk together the starter, butter, oil, milk, maple syrup, white whole-wheat flour and 8-grain cereal in a large mixing bowl until well-blended. Cover securely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
Uncover the batter, which will be thick and have bubbles broken all over the surface. Whisk in the eggs, salt and baking soda.
Heat an electric waffle maker to its highest setting. Ladle enough waffle batter onto the bottom plate to come within 1 inch of the edge. Close the top plate and cook the waffle until it stops steaming and the surface is nut-brown, 3-4 minutes.
This recipe makes 1 quart of batter. If there is extra batter, cook the waffles, cool and freeze them in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month. Reheat in a toaster or low oven until hot and crisp.