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Who Knows How Much Sourdough Starter Is Left In The Kitchen? Why, The Phantom Baker Does!

The Phantom Baker's Dispensary - Bwaahahahahaha...

Gentle Readers and Sourdough Eaters:

The following is a note from the now mildly famous Phantom Baker of Walnut Creek. We have come to know this baker, and they are a good baker – committed to sharing their Sourdough Starter with others and without thought for compensation.

We all should have such neighbors.

Anyway, The Phantom must return to their Other – Post Quarantine – Life and eschew starter-making. Sadly, for all of us, the much-visited Sourdough Kiosk will close on Sunday, May 3… As grandma used to say: “Come and get it, people, or it’ll go to the chickens!”

From “The Phantom:”

Firstly, thanks much to all at News 24/680 for running with the story of my Sourdough Starter KIOSK.  The original concept was just to try and be a good neighbor by having some faceless fun with my neighbors and neighborhood during a curious and trying time like no other.  Better living with levity.  There was also the thought that after years of acting as one of it’s two remaining stewards and guarding it’s legacy tightly, that it might also finally be the right time to share the rare treasure that is a 100-year old starter dough with other sourdough connoisseurs – or just first time Covid consumers who might want to give it a try.  Just as speed can’t be taught, age and the taste of a fully cultured sourdough can’t be replicated from scratch and who am I to deny my neighbors a great sourdough pancake or two during a Global pandemic?

The Starter… doing what starter does. After May 3, wannabe bakers will be on their own!

What started as a picture taken by a neighbor led to some local chatter, but the real tipping point was when then the unassuming and upcoming 900-pound media goliath that is News 24/680 got involved.  Googly moogly.  An absolutely stunning 260,000 views later(?), it’s been game ON and a non-stop whirlwind of flour, water, multiple trips to the KIOSK and answering an ongoing landslide of emails ever since.  Soooo much fun and entertainment for all (including me) at a time when there’s been no entertainment, so thanks again and who knew?

So one of my immediate neighbors texted me today saying there had recently been a 24/680 posting asking about ways people could provide contributions to help me cover the costs of keeping the sourdough starter KIOSK up and running.  A very kind and much appreciated gesture, but one which makes me uncomfortable as it was never my intent to commercialize this in any way, shape or form.  It was always set up to be a communal gift of sorts, and in my family nobody passes the hat the day after Christmas asking for help to cover the cost of stockings or eggnog.  Let’s also be honest here, as besides burning through some paper and printer ink – my hard costs have been a #25 pound bag of flour which I was lucky enough to find at a wholesale restaurant supply store and…tap water.  That’s it, which is also the one of the great features of sourdough starters in times of need.  If there is any ‘real’ value, it’s in the provenance and proprietary value of the starter itself – and I’d like that to remain as a gift to all so thank you, but I’d rather not accept any funds where my payment has been watching the 24/680 community get so excited about it.  Additionally, and after producing new sample containers for the past 72 hours straight, my entire house now smells like a giant sourdough pancake – and who wouldn’t want that?

There’s more fun stuff to share about the history and how the starter has taken on a (semi-celebrity) life of its own, but for now and given the newly eased SIP restrictions I desperately need to shift gears and try and jump start my business again on Monday, May 3.  The plan is then to pull the KIOSK down this Sunday afternoon, as keeping up with the sourdough demand has basically been a (fun and rewarding) full-time job.  I still have lots of flour on hand and am all in, the ‘last chance’ sign at the KIOSK is up, and since demand for the sample starters is directly correlative to the attention the KIOSK gets on 24/680, I need to plan 10-12 ahead for each production run so that it can properly ferment and rise before packaging.

Although my friends have been howling at the, ‘Phantom Baker’ moniker, thanks also for respecting my desire to remain (relatively) anonymous as I am a disciple of the Ted Danson school of charitable giving (ref: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’).  Bonus points if you understand that reference. 

Sincerely and bon appetite’,

The ‘Phantom Baker’

Building better neighborhoods, one pancake at a time.


    • “Over in Walnut Creek, outside the entrance to Buena Vista Elementary off San Juan Avenue” was my first clue! There were two people there when we went by… and it’s full!!!

  1. Showed this to my sister and she bolted out the door. Left me standing there. She better bring back one for me!

  2. Thank you Phantom Baker! We had pancakes for dinner last night. I will be baking a loaf of bread this weekend, can’t wait.

  3. Went with my 7yr old niece about a week ago and there weren’t any starters left in the container. We were a little bummed, but will try again tomorrow with fingers crossed!🤞 We’d love to try this if anyone has any to share☺️

    • The Phantom has been very good about restocking the larder… but there is a high demand. Hope you get some!

  4. Thanks to you for bringing such joy of cooking. I made the pancakes (adding blueberries ). Yum. Now I want to make some bread. Need recipe.

  5. Dang, I was unable to swing by this morning. Recently retired, I’d be tempted in supporting the mysterious Phantom’s production, going forward. I love ‘extra sour’ dough bread, though it is relatively hard to find in local bakeries. Paired with a good cultured butter, it is a bit of heaven! If not, are there other resource to get a good extra-sour dough starter? Thanks! -Bill

    • Man, Bill, we feel your pain, having been raised with extra sour sourdough on the dinner table and good with just about everything. There are some good commercial brands getting it done out there… but making your own can certainly be satisfying!

        • Well, our other resident chef – “Charlie” Vollmar, turned us on to Acme sourdough for some soups he was making… and we like Bordenave’s over in San Rafael…

  6. Live in Oakland and just read about this,,, Will anyone else who received some be ‘paying it forward’ and make some to share with more people (like me) ? I’ll try to track responses on this site which is also new to me… Thanks Dom

  7. I live in the south end of town & just read about this. Would love to find out how to get some or at least a recipe to make and share with my neighbors. This is my first time at this website; did not know it existed.

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