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Do you have a long-neglected starter you'd like to resurrect? If you're fortunate enough to have some starter already, you may find in September that you haven't gotten around to using it for more weeks than you'd care to account for. Since it's been sitting there alone, unloved and unfed for so long, it may be looking pretty bleak with a lot of ominous dark liquid on the surface. If you're like me, you probably hoped you'd get around to using it to prevent it from getting to this sorry state, or you certainly would have made a conscious effort to freeze or dry it. But, not to worry. Your starter is probably just fine, though a bit groggy.
The absolutely easiest and fastest (it'll make a mix look like slow motion) thing to do with a groggy starter to see if it's suffering simply from neglect is to make crumpets. Crumpets sound like something you have in England in the afternoon with tea, which they are. But because they are actually a very simple and basic kind of pancake, they're a perfect thing to make with a sourdough starter for breakfast.
Take your starter out of the refrigerator, wrestle the top off your jar and stir all that evil looking liquid back into the starter until it's smooth. For each two people that you'll be feeding, pour 1 cup of starter into a ceramic or glass mixing bowl. Pour the remainder of the starter into another mixing bowl so you can give its container a good washing. Feed the starter in the second bowl equal parts of flour and water, cover it with plastic wrap and watch for tiny tell-tale bubbles to appear on the surface. When you see them, let the starter revive for at least 12 hours before you put it back in the fridge.
To the cup of starter you have in your other bowl, sprinkle over the surface 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and baking soda. Whisk these in thoroughly and watch what happens. Voom! Chemistry at work producing millions of carbon dioxide bubbles to leaven these pancakes.
If you have crumpet rings (about 1 inch high and 4 inches in diameter -- clean tuna cans with tops and bottoms removed will work fine, or you can order some proper rings from us), grease them lightly and place them on a lightly greased spider or skillet. Fill the rings with about 1/4 inch of batter and cook it over low heat until the tops are set and full of holes. Remove the rings and flip the crumpets over for a minute or two.
After they've finished cooking in the skillet, stockpile them and then pop them in the toaster to brown and crisp. Serve them with butter and whatever jam you've put up this season. You can also cool them, bag them, and freeze them to bring out and toast later.
If you don't have rings or cans, you can dispense with the ring idea altogether and cook the batter over slightly higher heat just the way you would pancakes. The texture will be chewier than traditional pancakes and, surprisingly enough, the flavor will not be not overly sour since the baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the starter. The beauty of these pancakes is that they contain no eggs or fat, so you don't have to feel guilty about eating them with a touch of butter and maple syrup.
Taking the pancake idea one step further, the flavor of these crumpets or pancakes, while quite delicious with butter, syrup or jam, is equally good with savory additions. Try adding a half cup each of grated zucchini, cheese, apple, chives or onion, or a combination of your own, and serve them with lunch or dinner.
Tip: Need some sourdough starter to get started? See our step-by-step directions for creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. Or, if you’re looking for a head-start, check out our classic fresh sourdough starter, a simpler path to fresh, ready-to-use sourdough starter.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 9, September 1991 issue.