A Klondike-Style Sourdough Pancake Recipe

Make the perfect main course for a special winter morning’s breakfast with this Klondike-style sourdough pancake recipe.

| November/December 1985

  • 096-014-01-sourdough-pancake
    The key to successful sourdough cookery is to acquire and maintain a healthy starter sponge—the living, growing yeast culture.

  • 096-014-01-sourdough-pancake

From the Alaskan goldfields comes this Klondike-style sourdough pancake recipe, a hearty main course for a perfect Christmas morning breakfast. 

Sourdough bread is thought to have originated about six thousand years ago, when some early baker discovered that wild yeast spores, floating in the air and landing in a flour and water mixture, caused fermentation that made the dough rise. Throughout history, conserving a small amount of starter (flour, water, and live yeast) for making raised baked goods was common practice, and it's known that Columbus carried a sourdough pot on his voyages to the New World. California gold rushers were dubbed sourdoughs because of their attachment to their pots, but it was the prospectors in the Alaskan Klondike who were truly dedicated to the fermented mix. Wild yeast is dormant in cold weather, and without their precious pots, the miners would have had only hardtack to supplement their meat and fish diets throughout the long Yukon winters. Since sourdough was the basis for breads, biscuits, cakes, flapjacks, and other goodies, the prospectors guarded their starter pots with the same protectiveness as they did any gold they might find.

The key to successful sourdough cookery is to acquire and maintain a healthy starter sponge—the living, growing yeast culture. You can purchase sourdough starter from mail-order supply houses, but the fastest, most satisfying, and most economical way to obtain it is to grow your own.

Sourdough Starter Recipe

To make sourdough starter from scratch, place two cups of tepid water in a plastic, glass, or earthenware bowl (metal causes a chemical reaction that can kill the yeast), mix in one yeast cake or a package of active dry yeast, then blend in two cups of unsifted all purpose flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and allow the blend to ferment overnight in a warm place, 85 degrees Fahrenheit to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring at least once with a non-metallic spoon. The next morning the culture will be frothy from the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast, and the flour and water you added will have been consumed.

The starter will now be ready to bake with, but to store it for future use, refrigerate it in a covered nonmetallic container. Stir it occasionally (once a day isn't too often), and if you won't be using it for a long while, feed it once a week or so by removing and discarding about half the sponge, then stirring in a cup of flour and a cup of warm water. Let the starter ripen overnight as you did in the beginning, and with each "replenishing," the starter will grow a little healthier and a little sweeter.

If you should happen to leave your refrigerated sponge unattended for a long period of time—say, several months—it's likely to turn into a sour-smelling, slimy goop with a brownish syrup floating on top. No problem: To make up a fresh batch, simply pour off any unsavory parts, measure the creamy slurry that remains, and mix in equal amounts of flour and water (for example, a cup of starter would take one cup of flour and one cup of water). Even if you have as little as a tablespoon of usable starter, you can add a tablespoon each of flour and water, let that stand overnight, and gradually build up to the quantity required.



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