Here’s something you probably didn’t know. Just like pretty much any living being on this planet, your sourdough starter has an active temperature range. Too warm or too cool, and your starter isn’t at its most active state, which in turn affects the quality and oven spring of your bread (the oven spring basically determines how loose your crumb is and how large the air pockets in your bread are). After all, your sourdough starter IS a living thing! Baking enthusiast Erik Fabian figured this out too, after a series of ‘average’ sourdough loaves caused by the fact that he lived in a relatively cool part of the world. A deep dive eventually led him to realize that it wasn’t his fault – it was the weather. Fabian figured out that the natural yeasts in his sourdough starter are the most active between 75°F and 82°F. Anywhere outside that range and it’s much harder to get that beautiful ‘oven spring’ you’re looking for in your loaf of bread. After all, even humans get sluggish in environments that are too hot or too cold, right?!
Designer: Sourhouse (Erik Fabian & Jennifer Yoko Olson)
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Wanting to elevate his baking prowess, Fabian decided to try out a few internet hacks to make his starter more active. He chucked his starter in the oven, tried warming it with a mug of hot water in the microwave, and even tried keeping it in warmer areas of his house, eventually realizing that none of them provided consistent results. Moreover, heating up an entire oven just to activate a tiny mason jar of starter seemed like an incredible waste of electricity. Fabian eventually decided to take matters into his own hands – partnering with his friend and industrial designer Jennifer Yoko Olson, they created Goldie – a tiny thermoregulated chamber designed to create the perfect environment for their starter to grow and thrive. Shaped like a bell jar with space to hold your container of sourdough starter inside, and an LED to tell you what the temperature inside your Goldie is, this tiny contraption proved to be a much more consistent (and energy efficient) way to culture a perfectly healthy starter.
The fable of Goldilocks tells the story of a young girl who sneaks into the house of a family of three bears, only to discover that the baby bear’s bed, chair, and porridge are ‘just right’. As a hat-tip to that children’s bedtime story, the Goldie too, tries to create conditions that are ‘just right’ for the sourdough starter. All you do is place your starter on the Goldie’s platform, enclose it with the bell jar, and switch the gizmo on. The platform under your sourdough begins circulating temperature-controlled warm air inside the bell jar, creating the ideal warm environment for the starter. An LED at the bottom glows either red or blue if your starter is too warm or cool, and if it’s in the sweet spot, the LED glows golden.
Goldie’s LED indicator gives you an idea of how your starter is feeling. An auto-warming switch on the device lets it automatically power on when the LED glows blue, and switch off when the LED turns red. If by some coincidence your house becomes unnaturally warm because it’s summer or the thermostat’s broken, each Goldie comes with a cooling puck that you can place inside the device, on top of your starter jar to help cool the environment down. When not in use, all you need to do is store the cooling puck in your refrigerator to be used another day.
Ultimately, Fabian and Jenny envisioned the Goldie to be a compact, energy-efficient product that could be kept on your countertop without really eating too much counter space. The sourdough starter incubator measures 130mm (5.1 inches) in diameter, and 216mm (or 8.5 inches) in height, and can comfortably fit almost any standard pint-sized jar inside. If you’ve got a slightly larger quart-sized mason jar, Goldie can fit that in too, although there won’t be enough headroom for that cooling puck.
For the best sourdough starter cultivating experience, Fabian and Jenny designed their own Sourhouse pint and quart-sized jars that are perfectly sized to fit into your Goldie. The incubation chamber runs on incredibly low energy, and powers via USB, allowing you to hook Goldie to a wall outlet, a power bank, or even your laptop! Goldie ships internationally for a discounted price of $115 along with puck, pint, and quart. The Sourhouse glass jars are available as add-ons, and if you want extra cooling pucks, there’s a 3-pack available separately too (so you can rotate between pucks as they simultaneously cool down in your freezer).
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