Belgium Is Home to the World’s Only Sourdough Library

iStock.com/muratkoc
iStock.com/muratkoc

Though we usually think of libraries as a place that shelters books, some of humanity's most valuable items are a little more ephemeral. Consider the Svalbard global seed vault, which protects the world's crops against disasters, or the Ice Memory project in Antarctica, which is preserving ice cores from endangered glaciers in the face of climate catastrophe. Consider, too, the Puratos World Heritage Sourdough Library in St. Vith, Belgium, which is safeguarding more than 100 bubbling bread starters, as Atlas Obscura reported.

Sourdough may be the world's original leavened loaf. Though today most bakers use commercial yeasts, for thousands of years people relied on starters nourished by wild yeasts and local bacteria, which fermented over a period of days to produce a living, breathing blob. Bakers would spoon out a little at a time to add to new mixtures of flour and water before shaping their loaves; mothers would pass on the blobs to daughters beginning new families; immigrants and travelers would pack the starters to bake bread in new lands. Today, the sourdough starters in kitchens around the world represent a legacy of baking history, microbial diversity, and mouthwatering flavor.

The Belgian bakery supply company Puratos has been collecting sourdough starters since 1989, when they began with a venerable San Francisco sample. Part of the Puratos Center for Bread Flavor, the Sourdough Library—which opened in 2013—currently houses 108 starters from Italy, China, Hungary, Greece, Canada, and elsewhere, some of which date back hundreds of years. The collection is overseen by a genial man named Karl De Smedt, a "sourdough librarian" who travels the world to find new samples. De Smedt also makes sure the starters are "fed" every two months with flour provided by the original donors. "It's alive, it's like a pet," De Smedt told Atlas Obscura of the painstaking care they require.

De Smedt travels the world to find areas with robust sourdough traditions, like Canada's Yukon, where commercial yeast often hasn't survived in rugged conditions. After he airmails the starters in special kits back to Belgium, scientists analyze them to document their unique combinations of microorganisms. So far, more than 800 strains of yeast and bacteria have been found in the goo. The microorganism samples themselves are stored in a freezer at -112°F to preserve them, while the sourdough starters are kept in glass jars in the library at a more comfortable 39°F.

These days, sourdough is having a bit of a resurgence. Alongside the interest in all things handcrafted and artisanal, some have found that sourdough's long fermentation process produces a more digestible product for those with gluten sensitivity. The library's samples serve as backups for organizations and home cooks who might damage their own supply, as well as a fertile breeding ground (pun intended) for research and commercialization opportunities. Puratos also hosts an online sourdough database, where anyone can enter their recipe.

The library isn't open to the public, but Atlas Obscura notes that De Smedt is happy to show visitors around if they contact him via social media. And for those who can't make the trip to Belgium, an online version of the database provides detailed notes on the colors, textures, and flavors of more than 1400 starters. The library itself can also be explored via a series of videos here. You might just be inspired to rise to the occasion and bake your own loaf.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Each State’s Favorite Doughnut, Mapped

Life is like a box of doughnuts.
Life is like a box of doughnuts.
cottonbro, Pexels

Earlier this month, Dunkin’ unveiled the Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut, a picante pastry that piqued the interest of culinary daredevils across the nation. But for every brave soul eager to try it out, there were plenty of other Dunkin’ customers whose eyes never strayed from the basket of sweet, reliable glazed doughnuts.

It’s hard to overstate the popularity of the glazed doughnut. Data crunchers at The Waycroft, a luxury apartment complex in Arlington, Virginia, analyzed Google Trends searches from the last 12 months and found that it’s the apparent doughnut of choice in a staggering 15 states. But while folks clearly appreciate a time-tested treat, they’re also willing to make room in their hearts and stomachs for newer innovations; as Time Out reports, the second most popular kind of doughnut isn’t exactly a doughnut—it’s a cronut.

You can't go wrong with glazed.The Waycroft

The croissant-doughnut hybrid was invented by Parisian pastry chef Dominique Ansel just seven years ago, and it rapidly rose from humble beginnings at his New York City bakery to international acclaim. Since the cronut is, according to Ansel’s website, “rolled in sugar, filled with cream, and topped with glaze,” you could consider it a descendant of the sugar doughnut, the Bavarian cream doughnut, the glazed doughnut, or all three. Though the cronut’s birthplace, New York, did claim it as the state favorite, it’s definitely not a regional phenomenon—it topped the list in six other states, including both Dakotas, Montana, Vermont, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Other doughnut varieties, on the other hand, may be tied to certain regions. The only two states to choose blueberry doughnuts were Midwestern neighbors Indiana and Ohio; and two of the three states that favor apple fritters are in the Pacific Northwest (Washington and Oregon).

Do your own doughnut proclivities match the trends in your state? Scroll down to find out.

This map would make for quite an eclectic box of assorted doughnuts.The Waycroft

[h/t Time Out]