I’m a huge fan of sourdough. In about six weeks I’ll probably start up the New Zealand Rye starter I have sitting on my desk. I’m deliberately putting it off – both for my own sanity and for the viability of that dehydrated starter. I just know that the likelihood of it staying vigorous and strong right now isn’t very good. But we’re still eating pancakes, breads, and tortillas – mostly those that can be cooked on a griddle since turning the oven on doesn’t make a lot of sense when it’s 95 degrees outside. I soak or ferment pretty much all of our baked goods, and have for a few years now. They’re just so much easier to digest and, frankly, tastier this way. And since my preferred method of souring grains via a sourdough starter isn’t happening right now, I’m soaking in cultured dairy – specifically milk kefir. Here’s the how and why. Milk kefir is one of my favorite kitchen items. Not only does it make us feel good when sipped straight from the jar, it also turns our baked goods into tender, soured, light-on-the-tummy meals. I prefer it to yogurt for souring due to the higher count of bacteria and yeasts. If you’d like, you can even use milk kefir as the leavening to your yeast bread. Right now, though, I’m mostly doing what one would call “quick breads”. These are the ones that utilize baking soda or baking powder to lighten them. Here’s how I convert any recipe to sour them:
  1. 12-24 hours before serving, I mix the flour or grains and the milk kefir. Milk kefir replaces an yogurt, buttermilk, or even water in a recipe. It sours the grains and even leavens them a bit via the enzymes, bacteria, and yeast present in the kefir.
  2. Once soured, I mix in any additional liquids, such as butter or eggs, salt, sweeteners or flavorings, and finally baking soda or baking powder. Over-mixing  – if dealing with wheat flour -can be an issue because you have previously mixed the kefir and flour together. So I try to only stir until just combined.
  3. Then I cook as directed.
I find that the pre-digestion and hydration of the flours makes for a lighter baked good – both in terms of flavor and digestion. And with this heat, I’m not sure I could keep a sourdough starter fed frequently enough to accomplish what the kefir can. And besides, I’m already making kefir for daily breakfasts and snacks anyway, so it just makes sense for now. Not that I’m not looking forward to cooler days and a healthy sourdough starter