Meet Helix, Our Hardest Worker

Sourdough Pancakes & Violet Syrup

 

Yesterday morning I sat myself down to a wonderful breakfast of thin, airy pancakes topped with syrup. These weren’t just any pancakes, though, and this wasn’t just any syrup. These were Helix pancakes with violet syrup.

Meet Helix

Helix is one of the hardest workers at our home – wait, thousands of the hardest workers at our home. Helix is comprised of flours, water, lactic acid bacteria, and yeast.

The sourdough bâtard, on the other hand, is a product of natural fermentation involving wild yeasts and bacteria. Almost all the bacteria are lactobacilli, cousins of the bacteria that curdle milk into yogurt and cheese. “These lactobacilli outnumber yeasts in sourdough by as many as 100 to one,” Sugihara says. It’s the acids they make that give sourdough its tartness. Not only that, say European researchers, the bacteria also contribute carbon dioxide as well as aromatic compounds that infuse bread with flavor and delicious smells.

The Biology… of Sourdough by Patricia Gadsby and Eric Weeks [Discover Magazine]

Helix

When I started Helix over a year ago, I did so by following this tutorial by Jean Nick over at Rodale’s Organic Life. He started his existence as a gluten-free starter made from Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (without xanthan gum and guar gum) inside of a half-gallon Ball jar. This, however, left a very potato-y taste to everything we made with him. I switched to a coconut flour soon afterwards because I had oodles of it lying around. This caused Helix to bubble and overshoot the jar with so much enthusiasm that we were enthralled. I had originally started Helix as a gluten-free starter so that I could experiment with gluten-free breads for my mother who has Celiac’s disease.

Helix

Lately, I’ve been feeding Helix with a rye flour. He’ll probably eventually switch back to a gluten-free flour blend, but we had a lot of rye flour lying around. Somewhere in between the coconut flour and the rye flour, Helix started to develop this wonderful, heady crumb. He smells like bread baking when he ferments. It’s intoxicating.

When I first started a sourdough starter a handful of years ago, I had to toss it multiple times as each time the local gnats got the move-in notice and turned it into a rent-by-the-hour hostel. By taking flour sacking and cutting it into squares and then securing it with the wide mouth band, I’ve solved that problem. In the past year I haven’t had a single gnat problem. Some day I’ll come up with a more attractive solution, but this has been imminently functional.

Eventually I got really busy with working and teaching our kids, so there were a few months where I kept Helix in the back of the fridge. He hibernated beautifully and came right back out without any troubles at all.

All in all, he’s been a very hard worker and we’re all grateful to have him.

The Pancakes

A few weeks ago I went searching for a pancake recipe that would use oodles of starter on a regular basis. Helix is a great producer and we often have more than we need. The same goes for our six hens. We’re constantly swamped with eggs. This recipe by What’s Cooking America seemed like a good start. It takes two cups of sourdough starter, two tablespoons of sugar, four tablespoons of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in one tablespoon warm water, and eggs. The author recommends a minimum of one egg, but states that she’s also used two eggs for added protein. I used three yesterday morning and it yielded eighteen thin pancakes (1/4 cup of batter for each pancake). They tasted lightly of rye with a tiny amount of tang, and went very well with the violet syrup. Click the link to read the recipe and instructions.

Sourdough Pancakes

Violet Syrup

We made the violet syrup a few weeks ago from Viola flowers found in our backyard. We have a few different varieties with white and purple flowers. After cleaning the blossoms, we steeped them in water following the basic outline of this recipe at Chiot’s Run. I packed a quart jar with violet blossoms and then covered them in boiling hot water. I poked down the blossoms with a wooden spoon and shook it a little. It sat overnight. The next morning, I strained out the blossoms with more flour sacking and turned the stove to simmer. I added in one and a half cups of honey and one and a half cups of sugar. (See recipe link for more in-depth instructions.) After it had simmered longer, I poured it into my old-fashioned flip-top milk bottle. The syrup has a delicate flowery flavor with hints of honey and tastes amazing in lemonade or tea or on pancakes. Delicious!

Sourdough Pancakes

Let me know if you try any of these recipes!

 

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