Sourdough Starter and how to start it.

(This post is a repeat, to refresh your memory in case you want to make the bread from tomorrows post, that I finally finished, again.)

Since it seems that I have lost the post on how to start the sourdough starter but went right on with what to do with the starter once it’s started, I shall have to start over.

So here is the scoop on starting starter.

From scratch.

As opposed to getting someone else’s full-fledged bubbling starter that you just have to feed every once in a while and take out for occasional walks. Like a pet snail. (hello Spongebob and Gary). Low maintenance.

Here is how to make your own, which is for the best anyway. Although even among the “sourdough savvy” it’s all a bit of a mystery. Some things we just have to take on faith.

Making sourdough is a way of capturing wild yeast and keeping it alive in a jar. Then you can use the wild yeast to make bread, without using commercial yeast.

“Where does the wild yeast come from?” you might ask. “How do I capture it? Where do I find it? Do I need to set a trap? Might they fight back?”

All good questions. I don’t really know where it comes from. The yeast might be just flying throughout the air. It might be on the grain used in making the sourdough. It is important for the first step to use organic grains. Yeast sticks their noses (if they have any) up at grains containing toxins. As should we all.

Up in San Fransisco, in the land of perpetual cold and fog and one way streets, they are famous for their wild yeast. So I guess that kind of yeast likes humidity. There are many kinds of yeast. So the one you start in your kitchen may not end up like the one I start in mine.

The amount of water in my starter may affect the PH level that will encourage a certain type of yeast over another. (in the past I have had a more soupy starter and was not happy with the smell or taste. Once I read about using a firmer dough and how it changed the Ph to encourage both lactic and acetic acids, which is a good thing.) I am happy with the one I have now, so let me get you starter with your own starter.

This jar is the wild range for the yeastie-beasties. I keep it in the fridge when I am not in baking mode. There is not much in there really, it just is a mess. Oh, have some wine with dinner? (look close)

You will need:

¼ cup of rye flour. Organic. I suggest finding someone with a bag and asking for some, since it is only ¼ cup.

Add this to a ½ cup of water. Stir. This comes to 3.5 oz. each flour and water. Put this in a bowl or jar and cover. I use a canning jar and lid.

This was step #1. Leave this for 2 days.

Step #2, after the 2 days Now add:

2/3 cup of all-purpose flour, preferably organic.

Mix it up well, put back in a bowl or jar and cover again.

Leave this for 2 more days. You might notice some tiny bubbles and/or a bad smell. Great!

Now, step 3, day #5:

Take out ¼ cup of starter and throw away the rest. Yes, I know. Just toughen up and do it. Try not to hear the screams. (just kidding).

To this starter add

3 Tbsp. lukewarm good water. Mix it up to loosen the dough. Then add

2/3 cup of all-purpose flour and mix until it is a fairly firm dough.

Again, cover and set aside for 1-2 days or until it is expanding. It is fermenting. Even if you can’t see it, it is.

Step #4  2 days later you do the same. Take out ¼ cup of starter. To it add 3 Tbsp. of water and 2/3 cup of flour. Then let it sit again, covered. You want it to rise slightly, get tiny holes and become very gooey.*

This time you just let it sit for about 24 hours. Then repeat the process just as it says above. Continue this way, watching your starter. It should start looking bubbly, rising, then falling back down. There should be a sharp smell.

(Gorilla or super glue has nothing on sourdough starter. It is the goo-iest, gummiest, stringiest stuff and good luck washing it out of the bowl! I don’t know how or why, But in a pinch if you need to do any home repairs…I’m just saying).

When it gets so that the starter is rising in 8 hours or less, you are officially in business! Congratulations, you have given birth to a new starter. He/she/it will be your buddy and your partner in bread.

My starter/preferment was ready in about 4 hours. Now I will add more flour, water and salt and let it rise again before shaping.

How to maintain it once you have it

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest you will not be baking with this every couple of days, but only once in a while. If you were  making sourdough bread every other day or so, you would leave the dough on the counter, feeding it every 8-12 hours.(up to every 24 hours in cool winter).

But if you just want it handy, you keep it in the fridge. It goes dormant, dreaming away, waiting for you to wake it up and feed it. Once it is warmed up and fed, it is raring to get into bread making action.

Lets say you want to make some bread now. See my post on making sourdough bread.

There you will read how to warm it up again, how to feed it and how to make the bread.

I confess, I do not measure any more. I take “some”  sourdough starter out. Add “some” water. Then add “some” flour until it is a firm dough Then I tuck it away, back in the fridge. Or if I am making bread, I will take out some to put back and instead of throwing the rest away, will add more water and more flour and set it aside until I feel like making the bread. It is an imprecise practice and would probably make a professional baker cringe, but it works for me. With this ‘lackadaisical’  method though, I never really know how much sourdough starter I end up using in my bread. Some batches turn out more “sour” than others. But no one complains. And if I feel like it, I break out the books again and start to measure.

Have fun out there!


One thought on “Sourdough Starter and how to start it.

  1. Firstly, great choice of wordpress skin! (I chose it for my blog too 😉 ), secondly, cheers for the sourdough idea. I have just started to make it on Serendipity Farm and our first loaves were finely chopped (almost needed the axe to chop them) and strewn over the compost heap in the vain hope that all of that flour and vinegar flavour might actually activate it ready for spring. I don’t even think that the sparrows are touching it! Obviously my starter hasnt cultivated enough “yeast” and is more lactic. No idea how to fix it but with humour like yours I think you can head over to my rss feed reader and I can have a bit of a laugh when you post to temper the tantrums, bricks and vinegar smell that seems to have pervaded right through the house and it just might stop me flushing the whole bubbling mass down the loo!

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