I bought a sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour in Vermont during my visit in February. This was before I knew the severity of Coronavirus, back when I lived a life of lighthearted joy, following my heart to far away baking classes taught by my idol, Gesine Bullock Prado. It was shear bliss to meet her and spend time in the school, Sugarglider Kitchen, attached to her home in the hills of Vermont. Why Sugarglider, you ask? “Because they can hold all the tools,” she says. The school is everything you could ever want in a kitchen… natural woodblock counter tops, clean stainless steel shelving, a natural stone floor, white walls, huge windows, tons of light, and an industrial oven large enough to bake several sheets of eclairs at a time. Not to mention that it was chock-full of every utensil or ingredient imaginable.
I was able to snag a ticket to 2 of her classes during a moment of what can only be described as serendipity. The stars aligned for me during a very hectic day at work, when I had no back up and was at my wit’s end. Client after client needed me to help them, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing, the dogs wouldn’t stop barking (I was filling in at the front desk at the animal hospital I manage). I got the email during the only moment of quiet in the day, and jumped on the chance without much thought. If I hadn’t checked my phone at that moment, or run to grab my credit card as quickly, or if I had maybe taken a few moments longer with that last client, none of this would have happened. I had missed dozens of other class alerts. These classes had been a dream of mine since I read Gesine’s book, Baked from Scratch, back in 2009. I don’t know how or why it worked out this time, but I took the Eclairs class and a class titled “You Tart!” and am so very grateful to have finally made the time to accomplish this dream.
I walked into a cheery bright kitchen and was greeted by Gesine herself. Looking around the room, I was clearly the last to arrive. The instructions said not to show up more than 10 minutes early, and I am very conscientious. All those assholes probably showed up while she was still cleaning, and were a huge inconvenience to her. Or so I tell myself, so I don’t suffer from the worst kind of FOMO (the kind where you miss out on literally anything with your idol). Anyway, the eclairs were shockingly a total breeze. My partner was awesome, and super friendly. The tart class was a lot harder, and the people were less fun. One dude kept asking asinine questions while constantly referring to Gesine as Chef. He was also always by her side making sure he could see exactly what she was doing. I mean, I get it, but calm the fuck down. There’s 10 of us here, not 100.
I think Ray took a selfie on everyone’s phone.
Gesine’s husband kept sneaking in with bomb-ass cappuccinos, and I kept catching a glimpse of the chickens in the yard. These people are living the fucking dream for real. Their house is out of a story book, and it seems like their lives are, too. I know everyone is only human, and everyone struggles, but just let me believe this. It gives me hope.
The perfect kitchen space with empty cappuccino cups.
Messy but delicious.
Caramel tarts that I have yet to make again, but SOON.
After each class, I requested photos with Gesine and then Ray (her husband), too. They were both so gracious and lovely. Ray took so many silly photos, and Gesine posed for so many photos. It was just a goddamn delight to be in their presence. I learned an immense amount of baking skills, and was able to start making tarts the moment I returned back to my big city life. I’m confident that I could make eclairs as well, but I care less about them. Tarts are more interesting to me.
I posed with my tarts in my hotel room. That’s normal, right?
Gesine recommended that I check out the King Arthur Flour School and Store up the street from her while I was visiting. That’s exactly what I did, and I stumbled across sourdough starter in a tiny fridge tucked into a corner. T has been talking about making sourdough since I’ve known him. He tried to make his own starter, but failed miserably (it smelled really bad). So I picked up a little container of starter, not sure what would become of it. I clearly had no idea that it would become 100% my responsibility and require twice daily feedings initially. I also didn’t realize we were on the cusp of a pandemic that would wipe out the King Arthur flour from all the stores near me. So now I’m feeding it with bleached flour because that is all I could find. I bought 50lbs of it because I didn’t know when I’d find more and it was a hell of a deal. (insert shrug emoji)
The thing they don’t tell you about sourdough is that you end up with all of this fucking wasteful discard during the feeding process. I refuse to throw any of it out, so I end up baking it into all kinds of things (muffins, pizza, brownies, you name it). My favorite thing to make with the discard are these biscuits. I mean, look at them. Look at all of their flaky, buttery glory. They’re easier than cookies to make, and can be baked fresh for a weekend breakfast in the amount of time you have to wait for your fried potatoes to finish cooking.
I follow this King Arthur recipe to a T, except for the fact that I always double, triple, or even quadruple it. The fact is that it DOESN’T MAKE VERY MANY. Okay, you think 6 biscuits sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t go that far with 2 people eating egg sandwiches or biscuits and gravy for every meal. Plus, I almost always have 2 good sized tupperware containers of sourdough discard needing to be used up. This recipe uses a good amount of it, without needed to give up much of my precious flour that is so hard to come by during this fucking godforsaken pandemic. Also, gifting them to friends is fun! Do a little contact-less drop off, and you will bring joy to their day.
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour (King Arthur if you have it, because it’s the best)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes or grated
1 cup (227g) sourdough discard (unfed starter)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add in butter, and mix/mush with your hands until it forms course crumbs. Add in the starter and mix gently until mostly combined. Turn onto a floured surface and bring it all together with your hands. Press into a round that is about 1/2″ thick and use a sharp knife or biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits. I used a english muffin round, which makes huge-ass biscuits that make my belly happy. They don’t rise all that much, but I think that is because the cutters I use aren’t sharp. They are flaky and delicious regardless. Place about 2″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in the upper third of you oven for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden. I almost always under bake them by accident. As long as they’re not doughy in the middle, who gives a fuck? Eat with all the fucking butter, maybe an egg, maybe some sausage or bacon. They’re also a great substitute for toast when making avocado toast. because I’m an older millennial, and I’m taking it up a notch.