Folks, I'm back from Alaska after an amazing trip to Cordova where I learned all about salmon and the thriving fisherman community but more of that to come soon this week. But before we talk about fish, let's talk about Alaskan sourdough. I had no idea until the past week that Alaska has a thriving sourdough culture community. Many families can trace their starters to the first settlers! How cool is that!
I've always found it interesting that sourdough bread culture is historically popular in countries where the weather is cold like the ones in the Scandinavian region. So when I met Diane Wiese, a matriarch of a prominent fishing family in Cordova, I was fascinated and eager to learn what I could about the local food. We talked about fish (mostly salmon), cooking it, smoking it and among other things, sourdough. So how did the first settlers keep these cultures active and growing when the weather is so cold for the better half of the year? According to Diane, they used to treat their starters like gold (and rightly so) and often slept with their starters in little jars, to keep them warm at night.
Diane gave both Molly and me, each a jar of her starter the day we left along with a couple of recipes. But one of them stood out immediately and it was a recipe for a cake upon which this recipe is based. I do deviate a little bit from Diane's recipe by letting the batter ferment a little before it goes into the oven to bake. The cake has a soft pudding like texture while still being airy and has a sweet thin crust that reminds me a little bit of sourdough bread but a little softer.
My kitchen notes:
- Sourdough - some of you might have your own sourdough starters, you can use that here if you have it trained to ferment all-purpose flour. I prefer to train the sourdough starter with different types of flour, so they adapt well to the nutrients in the flour.
- You can make your own starter at home by using my recipe here but substitute with whole-wheat flour with all-purpose flour.
- Hydration - 100% - equal quantities of flour and water added to an equal amount of starter (1:1:1). Example - 100g starter to which 100g flour and 100g water are added. Use filtered water because it is free from Chlorine and other potential chemicals that can inhibit growth of the microbes.
- Flavorings - I used vanilla besides cardamom here and they both work great with the cherries.
sourdough cherry cardamom cake
(adapted from Diane Wiese)
Makes one 9 - inch cake
3 oz (65g) unsalted butter cubed at room temperature plus a little extra to grease the baking pan
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
seeds of 2 green cardamom pods, cracked and ground
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup (113g) sugar
141 g 100% sourdough starter [See notes above]
2 cups fresh or frozen cherries, halved and pitted
2/3 cup (85g) all-purpose flour plus 2 teaspoons flour
In a medium-size saucepan melt the 3 ounces of butter on medium-high heat and cook until it starts to brown. Remove immediately from the stove and pour it into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the milk followed by the yogurt, and cardamom, by hand. Then whisk in the eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the sourdough starter and 2/3 cup of flour until smooth. Cover the bowl with the cake batter with a clean kitchen towel and leave in a dark, warm spot of your kitchen to ferment for 2 hours.
One hour before baking, place a wire rack at midlevel and a pizza stone or baking steel and preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a circular 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper cut to size and grease lightly with a little butter. Keep covered in the refrigerator.
After two hours of letting the batter ferment, toss the cherries with the 2 teaspoons flour and fold them into the cake batter. Transfer this batter into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour until the center is firm to touch and the surface is golden brown. A skewer/knife when inserted should come out clean through the center of the cake. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then run a flat knife between the outer edges of the cake and the pan to help release it and let it cool on the wire rack for 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature.