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Beyond Baltimore: End of the Road Sourdough, Part 2

A glacier outside the window in Homer, Alaska
Reed Hellman Wordsmith

Beyond Baltimore: End of the Road Sourdough, Part 2

In Homer, Alaska, the end of the road is both geographical and emotional. Homer is home to a stunning array of distinctive human beings surrounded by an equally stunning array of Nature’s most splendid craftsmanship. Humorist Tom Bodett writes: "The End of the Road is a remarkable little vicinity that…seems to be plugged full of familiar people. Familiar in the way that they all tend to remind us of someone we've known before. A genuine and unaffected regularity that can only be imitated, never reproduced."

Famous ends of the road like Homer, Ocracoke, NC, Key West, FL and Provincetown, MA are "plugged full" of people who just sort of wound up there and never found a reason to leave; people who followed the asphalt until it ended. Homer is an architypical "end of the road" town. Clinging to the southern curve of the Kenai Peninsula, 225 miles south of Anchorage, it is one of civilization's outboard edges.

Homer was spawned by the search for gold. In 1896, Homer Pennock, a charismatic miner and swindler from New York, led a troupe of 50 would-be gold rushers, and bumped into land's end on Kachemak Bay, an arm of the Cook Inlet. They set up housekeeping in some abandoned buildings and a wrecked ship stranded on The Spit, a natural jetty protruding four miles into Kachemak Bay. They never found gold, but the nearby coal deposits and abundant sea life made The Spit as good a place as any to stop wandering.

Classic Sourdough Bread

1 cup sourdough starter

1 1/3 cups warm water

5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour or a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon demarara sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pour the starter into a large ceramic mixing bowl. Add the warm water and about 3 cups of flour. Whisk or beat with a spoon. Cover this “sponge” with plastic wrap and put aside for at least 2 hours and maybe as many as 24. The longer it “works”, the more sour the flavor.

After the sponge has expanded, blend salt, sugar and baking soda into 2 cups of flour. Mix this into the sponge with large spoon. When the dough begins to hold together, place it on a floured board and knead it for 3 or 4 minutes. Add flour as needed to make a fairly stiff dough. Set the kneaded dough aside to rest.

Continue kneading for another 3 or 4 minutes, then put into a clean bowl. Grease the top, cover, and let rise for 2 to 4 hours. Knead the dough down and shape it into 2 long loaves. Place them on a baking sheet, cover and let rise for another 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 450 F; bake the loaves for about 25 minutes.

For more recipes and more of Reed Hellman’s signature culinary adventures, visit his Website at www.reedhellmanwordsmith.com. You can follow his monthly columns in Recreation News and read his feature articles in Business Monthly.

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