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During the pandemic (known as DTP), the Italy Insider gave me a gift of a year of Master Class. A brilliant idea, and I explored lessons from Mexican cooking to writing. I watched Thomas Keller make the fussiest roast chicken ever and chortled at Gordon Ramsay’s not very helpful antics – he is very proud of his body build. Dominique Ansel actually gave very detailed pastry lessons. But the prize for me were the lessons from Apollonia Poilane about her breads. I watched her videos over twenty times, seriously. I, too, became a pandemic cliche and went down the sourdough starter rabbit hole. She used yogurt in hers, and after fiddling with a recent book on sourdough starters, I think I prefer hers.
That said, although there was a mild interest evinced in my loaves, English muffins (which aren’t English) and another author’s quite complex pancakes recently, someone here pulled out his favorite cookbook and announced his verdict. While he was moderately amused by my ritual devotions to twice daily discards and feedings of my current starter (not the Poilane one) he thought the pancakes were better with the ersatz starter from his politically incorrect cookbook published forgivably in 1971 – Sunday Breakfast – A Cookbook For Men. And, you know, jokey male writing aside, tasting both pancakes, I think he’s right!
I have not tried making bread with this quicky starter, but the pancakes, waffles and biscuits were pretty damn good. Here’s the breezy recipe for Craig Michael’s sourdough starter verbatim:
Take one package of powdered yeast and mix it in a medium sized bowl with 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup warm water. Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place in your kitchen for at least 3 days. Stir it around a little bit when you get the urge. When it smells sour, it’s ready.
Put the starter in a small pot. The type used for cheesespreads works well, however any small jar will do. Do not fill the jar (or pot) over 3/4 full. Place it in your refrigerator and it will keep forever. If you use it occasionally and it doesn’t get moldy, you may well have this starter for the rest of your life.
No instructions on how to maintain the starter for the rest of your life. He just assumes you will be making one of the three following recipes frequently, You will pour off a portion of your pancake batter to create a renewed starter. My husband usually pours off about 1 1/2 cups when he makes his pancake or waffle batter. He then pops it in the fridge and usually forgets about its existence for a couple of weeks, checks to see if it is moldy (it never is) and if there is still a sour smell, he uses it again. I, being the nervous type , have suggested that one should at the very least follow the instructions from trusty King Arthur Baking: weigh 113 grams each of starter, flour and warm water and repeat this ritual every 12 hours. He rolls his eyes, and tells me that if it doesn’t work, he will just make a new one. He even questioned my twice daily waste of sourdough discard. I must admit to a few pangs, watching the discard slowly slide down the kitchen sink drain. But he does love these sourdough discard crackers, which I make frequently
Manly Sourdough Pancakes and Waffles
So setting my starter hand-wringing aside, here are the instructions for these really, really good pancakes:
Pour 2 1/2 cups white all purpose flour and 2 cups of warm water into a large mixing bowl and then add all your sourdough starter, and mix with a spoon until it is somewhat smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and set this out in a warm place overnight. You are, in essence, creating an enlarged sourdough base.
The next morning, you should see a bubbly, somewhat risen batter (depending on the strength of your neglected starter). One night the batter rose out of the bowl, and oozed out under the plate onto the counter. Remove about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of this batter to be your new starter. Return it to the jar, cover and store in the refrigerator. Proceed to neglect it.
Add one egg and 2 1/2 tablespoons of cooking oil (we use sunflower oil) 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 3 tablespoons of sugar to the remaining batter and mix well. Heat the griddle over medium high heat. I grease my griddle with butter each time. I use a 1/3 cup ladle, but you can make these pancakes even smaller. You can also freeze leftover batter, which is better than freezing the pancakes.
To make waffles, you will add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the batter and follow the instructions of your waffle maker. These waffles are more lacy and softer than my other favorite, Lenotre waffles. They, too, do not freeze well, so again, better to freeze the batter.
A Biscuit Footnote
The author’s version of sourdough biscuits is a surprising success. In this case you take 1/2 cup of the sourdough starter and mix it with 1 cup whole milk and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly, cover the bowl and keep at room temperature until it has doubled in bulk. My kitchen is cold, so it took over 2 hours. The author advises that you can actually start the biscuits when you start the pancake batter.
Turn this dough onto 1 cup of flour on your counter. Add 1 teaspoon each of salt, baking powder and baking soda to 1/2 cup of flour. Mix well and sprinkle or sift over the dough. Mix the dry ingredients over the soft dough with your hands, kneading lightly to get the correct consistency. A bench scraper is helpful here. Lightly roll to about a one inch thickness. He then instructs you to cut your biscuits and dip them into cooking oil. I dipped mine into melted butter. Then place them close together in a nine inch pan – he recommends a square one, but I placed them in a round cake pan. Pre-heat your oven to 375F and allow them to rise for half an hour before baking them for about 30 minutes.
I was shocked that these worked! And the biscuits are really a cross between a classic biscuit and a Parker House roll. Below is a recipe card that outlines the ingredients and steps for the starter, pancakes, waffles and biscuits, which the manly cookbook did not provide.
- 1 package (7gr) instant yeast
- 1 cup (120gr) all purpose white flour
- 3/4 cup (177ml)warm water
- Container of the above starter
- 2 1/2 cups (313gr) white all purpose flour
- 2 cups (473ml) warm water
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup (59ml) milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Add to the above pancake mixture
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1/2 cup (118ml) sourdough starter
- 1 cup (237ml) whole milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 cups (313gr) white all purpose flour
- 1teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- cooking oil (or in my case, melted butter)
- To make the starter,
- Mix the powdered yeast with the flour and warm water in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir to mix - it does not have to be completely smooth - cover the bowl with a plate and store overnight in a warm place in your kitchen for three days.
- Stir it occasionally during this period, and when it smells sour, it's ready.
- Put the starter in a small pot with a lid but do not fill it more than 3/4 full, and place in refrigerator.
- If you use it occasionally and it doesn't get moldy, you may well have this starter for the rest of your life.
- On the night before you want to serve them: in a large mixing bowl, combine all of the sourdough starter with 2 1/2 cups flour and 2 cups warm water.
- Mix with a spoon until somewhat smooth and then cover it with a plate to set out overnight in a warm place.
- The next day, your batter should be smooth, somewhat risen with some bubbles on the surface.
- Remove a portion of this batter to be your next sourdough starter (1- 1 1/2 cups) and add it to your sourdough pot and refrigerate.
- Add the egg, cooking oil , milk, salt, baking soda and sugar to the batter and mix thoroughly.
- Heat your griddle over moderately high heat and grease the surface (you will grease the surface with each new set of pancakes).
- Spoon the batter on the griddles for whatever size pancake you desire - smaller is better.
- Flip the pancakes to the other side when you see little open craters forming on the top side of each pancake.
- Flip pancakes onto a warm plate on the stove and continue until batter is finished.
- Simply add two more tablepoons of cooking oil to the batter and follow the instructions on your waffle maker.
- Remove 1/2 cup of sourdough starter (before you make pancakes or waffles) and add it to a mixing bowl.
- To this you will add 1 cup milk and 1 cup flour and stir together.
- Cover the bowl and keep at room temperature to rise until doubled in bulk.
- Turn this dough onto 1 cup of the flour spread out on your counter.
- Add the sugar, salt, baking powder and soda to the remaining 1/2 cup flour.
- Sift this over the top of the dough and then with your hands and a bench scraper, lightly gather and knead the dough until you have a soft loose shape.
- Gently roll or pat the dough into a 1 inch thick round.
- Cut out your biscuits and dip each one into some cooking oil (melted butter is my preference).
- Place close together in a 9 inch pan.
- Set the pan full of the biscuits to rise for 1/2 hour while you preheat your oven to 375F.
- Bake for about 30 minutes; the tops should be a light gold color.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.
After the pandemic, think I’m the only person who still doesn’t like sourdough. Seriously. It leaves my mouth (and gut) feeling and tasting sour. Why do people want that? I also hate char on anything. So there’s that too. Why do you want something that tastes burnt? I DO appreciate a classic cookbook though, and frankly anything that got men to cook in the 70s can’t be all bad, can it?
That is truly funny!I never liked the famous San Francisco Sourdough bread that was sold in grocery stores here. It did have an unpleasant tang to it. Other ones that I have had and a couple I have made did not not have that almost vinegary flavor at all though. And you are right, if Craig Michael’s book got a guy to make a meal in the 70s, then that was a good thing!
People who love a nice char on their steaks and burgers don’t think it tastes burnt. Likewise, a Chinese stir-fry such as Beef Chow Fun is vastly superior if the cook is able to achieve a nice singe on the onion edges and also on the wonderfully chewy thick slices of fresh rice noodle. When I do this dish at home, I heat a cast iron griddle over high heat and prepare the ingredients I want singed on saild griddle separately and then add this to the wok with the beef at the right moment. There is nothing better than… Read more »