~my thoughts about life~

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sourdough Starter

Forever ago, I posted about my experiences with homemade sourdough bread.  I said I would provide you with the directions to make your own starter whenever I got it from the person who supplied me with my starter.  Well, she never gave me the directions.

I really enjoyed making my own bread and planned to experiment with sourdough pancakes and pretzels.  But then summer came.  Who in the world wants to heat up their oven and their entire house when it's 90 degrees outside?  I let the starter go.

Now that it's cold and rainy out once again, I'm craving the fresh taste of homemade bread.  So I decided to find directions for making your own starter online.  Viola!  I just love having the resource of the internet at my fingertips!  (You'll notice that the directions in this post vary slightly from the directions in my other post.  It made me realize, this is not science.  It doesn't really matter how you do it, just as long as you do it.  Don't stress over it; it's not as complicated as you think.)

So, sorry I'm so late, but here's how you begin your own sourdough starter:

Combine 1C warm water and 1C flour (any type).  A wide-mouthed, glass jar works best.  It's good if you can easily see what's going on in the container.  A disposable container, Tupperware, or old mayonnaise jar works too.  Do not use metal containers or utensils.

You need to feed the starter every 24 hours. 
  • First, throw half of it away.  I don't know why, but every site about sourdough starters says this.  So it must be important.  My friend removed half but didn't throw it away.  She kept it in a second container and fed it separately.  That's where I got my original starter from.  So I guess that's OK too. 
  • Add 1/2 C flour and 1/2 C warm water and mix. 
Your starter should sit at a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees.  You don't want to use an air-tight lid.  A cloth draped over the container will suffice.  I just left my lid lying on top of the jar, tilted to the side.  The starter will bubble and smell pleasantly sour (possibly like beer, they say).  It may puff up.  When it develops a bubbly froth, it's done. 

Move the starter to the refrigerator with a lid on it.  If the lid is air-tight, poke a hole in it.  At this point, the starter only needs to be fed once a week.  (You can read more about that in my other post.)  You do not have to be meticulous about feeding it.  Missing a day or two won't kill it.  Some people said they only fed theirs the day before they planned on using it.

I wouldn't recommend using a Mason jar.  The opening was too small and made adding the flour difficult.  I made a mess all over the sides of the jar.  Plus, the container was a bit too small.

Day 2:  I split the starter in half and added 1/2 C warm water and 1/2 C flour to each.  (If I'm going through all this work, I will be starting out with two loaves of bread.)  Here is what it looked like before I did anything to it.
One thing you may notice in your starter (as seen in this picture) is a yellowish liquid forming at the top of your jar.  This is called hooch.  It's fermentation and it's harmless.  If it disgusts you, you can pour it off.  You can also just mix it back in, which is what I do.  That's kind of what sourdough bread is about.  If the liquid is really off-colored or moldy looking, you need to toss out the starter and begin again.

The starter changed very slowly over the next several days.  I keep my house pretty cool so I think it may have taken longer.  One article I read said that they would never use starter that was less than a week old anyway.

After about 8 days, I determined that my starters were done enough.  They weren't really changing any more.  So I put one starter in the fridge with a dish cloth rubber banded around the top.  I immediately began mixing the other starter into a sponge.  I didn't use the recipe I posted the first time.  I tried the recipe from the same site where I got my starter ingredients.  It did not work.  The sponge did not rise at all so I threw it out.  The second recipe did not have yeast in it.  The site said that true sourdough bread does not have yeast...the fermentation should be enough to cause it to rise.  Well, I don't care if my bread is true sourdough or fake sourdough.  I just want it to rise and taste good. 

Despondent, I fed the starter and put it back in the fridge.  I contemplated starting over and dumping everything out.  But I had worked so hard!  I think I used an entire bag of flour making these two starters!  I decided to hold off a couple days and think about it.  Almost a week later, I decided to try baking bread again, this time using the first recipe I tried.  Success!  My house smelled fantastic and the bread turned out great!  So, the moral of my story is this:  use a recipe that has yeast in it!  Who cares if you're not an authentic sourdough baker- as long as it tastes good!

Also, one article I read said that the riper the starter, the paler in color your loaf will be.  That was absolutely true.  As you can see in the photo in my last post, my loaf was very brown in color.  This time, my starter ripened for a week and my loaf came out very pale.  It had a stronger sourdough smell and definitely a stronger sourdough taste.  I liked it even better than the bread I made in early Spring!

So, I'm passing off my trials and error to you, loyal blog readers!  I hope you give it a try.  The starter is time consuming but it's not really that much work.  Making your own bread is fun, inexpensive, and tasty!  Give it a try and let me know what you think!


Jenna said...

I am SO going to try this - I LOVE sourdough bread and there just isn't anything good out here! Thanks for the recipe! BTW, your blog feature is up now! =)

SassyModernMom said...

I love sourdough bread and had NO idea this was how it was done!!

SassyModernMom said...

PS Now I really want some fresh bread:)

Rachael Fowler said...

Such a helpful blog!
I am new to baking so I'm clueless!!! My friends have all recommended Sourdough's sourdough starter to me, so I'm going to give it a go!!!