Edmonton-area home-bakery on the rise thanks to a 125-year-old ingredient

·3 min read
When Kristie Crosbie found that her body could easily digest sourdough bread she began making it daily. (Ishita Verma/ CBC - image credit)
When Kristie Crosbie found that her body could easily digest sourdough bread she began making it daily. (Ishita Verma/ CBC - image credit)

An Edmonton-area baker's popularity is rising thanks to a century-old ingredient.

Kristy Crosbie sells small batches of her 125-year-old sourdough starter, affectionately named The Mother, for her Sherwood Park home-based business, Summit Sourdough.

Crosbie started her company when she was laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ishita Verma/ CBC
Ishita Verma/ CBC

With so many people interested in baking, Crosbie decided to sell her sourdough starter.

But she didn't always have a good sourdough starter. Her first attempt at one didn't go too well.

"I babied it for two years," she told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active. "Everything I made with it, I threw in the garbage."

She given up with sourdoughs when a family friend asked Crosbie to revive an old, dried-up sourdough starter, which they had inherited from their grandmother.

"I just started feeding it water and flour, which is how you would maintain a regular sourdough starter." she said. "And it just came back to life."

She fiddled with the starter recipe until she discovered a way to dry it and reactivate it, enabling her to sell small batches of dehydrated sourdough starters to customers all over North America.

The furthest she has sold to is Florida and Texas.

"I dry it in a special way that preserves the activity in it and I mail to people," she said, adding she won't reveal her secrets.

The trick is all in the fermentation process, she said. Sourdough starters are picky and require regular feeding of equal parts starter, flour and water.

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For a sour flavour, she would ferment the starter for a longer period of time, before feeding it flour that produces more acid such as rye.

"It's all very adjustable and customisable and I don't think a lot of people realise that," Crosbie said.

While Crosbie isn't certain how old the starter is, she says she can confidently trace the starter back to at least over a century old.

"I think it's really amazing that something like this can continue to evolve and survive as long as it's taken care of," she said.

Sourdough not sour-faux

Crosbie suffers from Crohn's disease and had a restricted food diet.

"You can't eat grains, you can't eat breads and you can't eat most fruits and vegetables," she said.

She discovered she could eat sourdough bread with no pain, after her receiving Crohn's surgery.

The fermentation in the bread acts as a healthy probiotic and can be easier to digest for some people.

"Your sourdough starter has acid in it. It eats the flour in a way that it makes specific nutrients more readily available for you and more healthy too," Crosbie said.

But not all sourdough is real. Crosbie said it's what she and others in the sourdough community call sour-faux.

It's when grocery stores add commercial yeast to their sourdoughs, in order to make it rise faster.

"It became so evident to me that the maturity of the starter makes all the difference in the quality of what it yields," she said, adding that her family now make sourdough everything, from pancakes, to pizza crusts, to bagels.