72 hours ago I knew basically nothing about sourdough bread or starter kits. Crazy how fast things can change — and I have Brooke Dorsey to thank. I was introduced to Brooke via Instagram, through April Russell, whose bread recipe I shared earlier this year, just three days before flying home to visit my family in Texas. I love serendipity!
Brooke and I are a lot alike — we are “TMI kind of people” as she calls it, a little bit OCD, results-oriented, admittedly kind of needy, and we both prefer baking to cooking. I knew as soon as I walked through her front door I’d be learning a lot from her. She immediately started telling me about how happy making sourdough bread has made her.
A close friend of hers, who she met in 5th grade, gave her the starter after they reconnected on Facebook (thanks Internet!) and realized they were very much alike. This specific sourdough starter came all the way from California and began in the 1950’s. That fact alone blew my mind. People have been baking bread from the same sourdough culture for more than 60 years, and since receiving it from her friend in February Brooke has shared it with about 8 of her friends in Texarkana.
She says it’s even changed some people’s lives. Her friend Ali has a son with Type 1 Diabetes, which means he’s had to eliminate bread from his diet, but one day Brooke came across an article about sourdough and people on low glycemic diets. She told Ali to check it out and that she’d bring her a starter. Now she’s able to make sourdough loaves for her son!
Brooke doesn't come by her baking skills honest. She can remember from a young age always being told she was an old soul or born in the wrong time period. Her mom didn’t teach her how to bake or sew or be the maker that she is.
“If mom made cookies it was broken off the tollhouse roll. Sometimes we do that here, but I’m really determined for my girls to love to do things like this,” she said.
Brooke has seen two movies since her daughter Ruby was born 15 months ago and she and her husband just went on their first date in months a few nights ago. Baking the sourdough has become a sort of escape for her. With two young children it's hard to have something of your own. Teaching herself how to feed and grow her sourdough starter and bake her own loaves and bagels, all while remaining patient enough to teach her daughter Ellis how she can help in the kitchen, is no small accomplishment.
I learned so much from Brooke. I'll sum all it up here:
- You either feed your starter or you grow it. If you're just keeping it alive and you don’t need it for anything in the next 24 hours then you feed it. To feed: 2tbsp unbleached bread flour + 1tbsp filtered water. Dumped directly into your glass jar and stir. To grow (to bake): 1cup same flour + 1cup filtered water, mixed in measuring glass then pour in and stir up. Both are per one cup starter. So if you only had 1/2 cup in your jar you would halve them. Basically the more often you mess with it the happier it is. At one point Brooke had it so active it literally blew the lid off the jar!
- Rice flour is everything. Sourdough will break down the regular flour you use to dust your pan while your bagels rise. Use rice flour and the bagels wont stick to the pan and fall apart when you transfer them to the boiling water.
- Name your bread knives. Brooke named hers Rosie because the handle is made of rosewood.
- Humidity effects the way your loaves come out. For sourdough, the humidity makes your bread better because it works air into your dough. The more air the better.
- It's alright to squeal at your successes in the kitchen. Not many people can make perfect bagels, and if you can — congratulate yourself!
- DO NOT wash the wooden spoon you use to stir your starter. You're killing the good bacteria and in turn, you are killing your sourdough!
- Keep your starter in a glass bottle, and try to store it somewhere dark and about 68-72 degrees.
- There is an integrity to making the daily bread for your family, and I'm now inspired to do the same.
* Download a printable PDF version of the recipe here!
To make the everything seasoning that Brooke made to top her sourdough bagels you'll need:
- 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
- 1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
- 1 tsp. dried minced garlic
- 1 tsp. pretzel salt or other coarse salt
Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer to small bowl, add the rest of your ingredients. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature in a dry place away from sunlight for up to 3 months.