It’s always exciting to armchair-travel and cook with a new book, especially while we hunker down. Emma Laukitis and Claire Neaton — siblings and fishermen known as The Salmon Sisters — grew up on a homestead in the Aleutian Islands and have offered up a love song to the state with their new cookbook, “The Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing, and Living in Alaska.”
Along with some notes on commercial fishing methods and musings on observing the natural world from a boat, the simple but enticing recipes include everything from pickled salmon and rhubarb custard pie to cardamom-date waffles, fiddlehead-walnut pesto and octopus patties.
But where to start? Since I’ve gotten lots of questions about (stress) baking in general, and with and without commercial yeast, in particular, I decided to try some recipes using sourdough starter.
If you’re like many of us, intimidated by a “starter,” have no fear; it’s basically a way to cultivate the wild yeast around us — it lives in the air — and wrangle it for use in baking, adding texture and deep flavor to breads, cakes and more. There are many variations of sourdough starters, with some having been passed down for generations. If you want to make your own, the sisters include one in their book. (Or try this one from King Arthur Flour.) While you’re on the site, they also have great tips on how to add sourdough starter to bread, cake, etc. And don’t worry about having to feed and nurture your starter constantly.
As to the culture of sourdough, Emma emphasizes, "Alaskans are used to hunkering down, thanks to our long winters in the North. The sourdough crock in our kitchen is a reminder that there is life around us even when the season is quiet, something to nurture that nurtures us in return.”
Now that I’ve wrangled some wild yeast (thanks to my neighbor for sharing), I’ve been making sourdough pancakes regularly; they cook up tender with crisp edges. The first time I made them, I halved the recipe and still had some leftover for the next day. I’ve also made more savory versions, reducing the sugar by half and increasing the salt a bit, adding some fresh herbs into the batter and serving the pancakes with smoked salmon and roe. Next up, I have my eye — and palate — on a recipe for sourdough chocolate cake with chocolate-butterscotch frosting!
The Salmon Sisters’ Winter Caretaker sourdough pancakes
Makes 20 medium pancakes (Note: the recipe can be halved)
The night before serving:
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 tablespoons sourdough starter
1 teaspoon sugar
In the morning:
1/3 cup milk, preferably whole
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain salt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. The night before cooking, whisk together flour, water, starter, and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. Cover with a clean towel and set somewhere (preferably warm) overnight.
2. In the morning, remove two tablespoons from mixing bowl and refrigerate for your next batch. To the remaining sourdough mixture, add milk, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, and baking soda just until combined.
3. Heat a cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium heat. Melt butter or bacon grease in pan and ladle 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form and pancake turns golden brown, about one minute; flip and cook for one minute more, edges should be crisp and golden brown. Repeat with remaining batter. Leftover batter can be covered and refrigerated up to one day; remove from fridge at least 10 minutes before using.
Recipe adapted with permission from “The Salmon Sisters Cookbook: Feasting, Fishing, and Living in Alaska” by Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton (Sasquatch Books)
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