For the last month or so I’ve had fears that Henry, my sourdough starter, was going into decline. I tried to resurrect him, but to no avail. I had found an old recipe for herbed sourdough rolls that I wanted to make, so I decided to experiment with the starter and see if it was still viable. For an extra measure, I add a pinch of instant yeast, hoping that would kick-start the rise. Well, after going through the fermenting-shaping-proofing-baking process, I ended up with a dozen hocky pucks. I knew, then, that Henry was nearing his end.
I did try one last ditch effort, with assistance from Mary aka Breadchick (The Sour Dough), to try and revive Henry. But even that didn’t work.
However, during the revival process, I decided to experiment. I noticed that there were 3 distinct layers to Henry – the thick bottom layer of the flour-water mixture, the thin liquid layer (Hooch, as Mary calls it), and the thinner, top bubbly layer. With nothing to lose, I carefully scraped off that top bubbly layer and placed it in a clean container. I then proceeded to feed it once a day for the following week, building it up and observing how the bubbles formed, dispersed, and remained. Each day was more encouraging – the starter bubbled appropriately, but, more importantly, the main body also was bubbly.
Yesterday was the test. Once again, I made the herbed sourdough rolls with a small addition of instant yeast for luck. This time there was success! Son of Henry will now take his rightful place. The rolls have a pleasant sour taste and are as good as I remember them. My next effort will be to make the rosemary raisin bread again, and if SOH does well, I will be pleased and will be able to relax (only a little).
As for original Henry, I guess he will have to be permanently retired, but at least his legacy lives on.
Sourdough Fresh Herb Rolls
1 ½ cups starter
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped, mixed, fresh herbs (chives, parsley, basil, etc.) or 2 teaspoons dried
2 cups unbleached flour
Mix starter, salt, sugar, and melted butter; beat egg slightly and add. Mix in herbs and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead until smooth, adding additional flour as necessary. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 2 hours. Deflate dough; form into rolls, and place on a cornmeal-dusted sheet pan. Let rise until doubled; brush tops with melted butter to prevent drying.
Bake at 400º F. for 12 to 15 minutes.
Makes 12 large or 18 small rolls.