I get the sense that sourdough starters are starting to come back into fashion – for the most part, it’s the bakers and chefs who nurture their bubbling little jars, texting each other about feeding schedules and storage advice. I started some new starter earlier this summer – the batch I had, with a backup tucked away in the back of the freezer, finally gave up due to neglect.
I got them going, and then left town – and on the way back from Tofino, we detoured through Edmonton, popping in to Prairie Gardens farm in Bon Accord, where chef Blair Lebsack and Caitlin Fulton of Rge Rd cook farm dinners, they teach classes using the wood-fired cobb oven – pizza, charred salads with tomatoes, arugula and beans and beans from the garden, things like charred greens, braised leeks and Brussels sprouts, roasted herbs, quick pickles, bannock, cooked on a stick over the fire, pastry for spiced apple empanadas and galettes. Christine Sandford is one of the chefs who cooks out at the farm, and she came to make us pizzas with sourdough crust topped with paper-thin yellow zucchini and edible flowers, cooked in just a few minutes in their handmade oven alongside baby corn that we unwrapped and dragged through marigold aioli.
The farm has a CSA program and you can go pick your own veggies and fruit – and their pumpkin festival is legendary – every weekend in October you can visit their enormous pumpkin patch and pick your own. I promised W we’d go back this fall – he was particularly enamoured with the idea of the pumpkin cannon, which is exactly what it sounds like – they load up and shoot pumpkins out of a full-sized cannon. I wish I could get away with doing this in our neighbourhood.
But – the sourdough crust. I tried it myself, taking some direction from King Arthur Flour, because they know what they’re talking about. If you don’t happen to have a wood-fired oven in my back yard – with a 110 year old wood house on a 25 foot lot, I don’t – you can bake them on a heavy, rimmed baking sheet sprinkled with flour or cornmeal or drizzled with oil or lined with parchment, at 450F for 15 minutes or so, or however you normally bake your pizzas.