How To Guide: Sourdough Starter

I've decided to dedicate my final week of daily blogging to sourdough. (yaaaaay!!)

So if you know me you know my recent love (slowly escalating into obsession) for all things sourdough. Even though i'm still on the road to making a great sourdough loaf, the most fun i've had is making different recipes with the sourdough starter.

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Sourdough starter is comprised of two ingredients : water and flour. What exactly is starter well it's known as "wild yeast" because it is just that. It is developed naturally since yeast is within the flour the water allows it creates lactobacilli (a bacteria)which makes it tart over time. Wild Yeast is produced over time, where it ferments which also gives sourdough it's distinct tangy flavor. They can also be "kept alive" for hundreds of years.

 You normally see yeast in containers it comes in small granules that you can add to some flour, water and whatever else you use and make bread in a matter of an hour. No hate on that, but making your own yeast is pretty darn special. 

"Before we had active-dry yeast or instant yeast, we had wild yeast. Actually, we still have wild yeast. It lives everywhere — in the air, in a bag of flour, on the surface of grapes. Domesticated commercial yeast replaced wild yeast for most baking because it's easier for companies to mass produce, it's easier for bakers to store and use, and it proofs our breads and pastries in a fraction of the time. By contrast, wild yeast can be fussy and finicky. It needs a medium, a sourdough starter, in order to be useful to bakers. This medium has to be constantly maintained and monitored. Wild yeast also likes cooler temperatures, acidic environments, and works much more slowly to proof breads."

This recipe is from kitchn. It's straightforward and helped me to understand the process clearly. At the time I didn't have a scale so they have metric measurments here. If you have thought about making a starter, just do it. The process is so amazing to me and the payoff is delicious bread and treats!

Sourdough Starter

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour (or a mix of all-purpose and whole grain flour)

  • Water, preferably filtered

  • Equipment
  • 2-quart glass or plastic container (not metal)

  • Scale (highly recommended) or measuring cups

  • Mixing spoon

  • Plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel

Instructions (Overview)

Making sourdough starter takes about 5 days. Each day you "feed" the starter with equal amounts of fresh flour and water. As the wild yeast grows stronger, the starter will become more frothy and sour-smelling. On average, this process takes about 5 days, but it can take longer depending on the conditions in your kitchen. As long as you see bubbles and sings of yeast activity, continue feeding it regularly. If you see zero signs of bubbles after three days, take a look at the Troubleshooting section below.

Process

Day 1: Make the Initial Starter

4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water

Weigh the flour and water, and combine them in the container. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container with plastic wrap or the or with a clean kitchen towel secured with a rubber band

Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2: Feed the Starter

4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water

Take down your starter and give it a look. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, which helps fend off any bad bacterias. At this point, the starter should smell fresh, mildly sweet, and yeasty.

If you don't see any bubbles yet, don't panic — depending on the conditions in your kitchen, the average room temperature, and other factors, your starter might just be slow to get going.

Weigh the flour and water for today, and combine them in the container. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container with plastic wrap or with a clean kitchen towel secured with a rubber band. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 3: Feed the Starter

4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water

Check your starter. By now, the surface of your starter should look dotted with bubbles and your starter should look visibly larger in volume. If you stir the starter, it will still feel thick and batter-like, but you'll hear bubbles popping. It should also start smelling a little sour and musty.

Again, if your starter doesn't look quite like mine in the photo, don't worry. Give it a few more days. My starter happened to be particularly vigorous!

Weigh the flour and water for today, and combine them in the container. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container with plastic wrap or with a clean kitchen towel secured with a rubber band. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 4: Feed the Starter

4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water

Check your starter. By now, the starter should be looking very bubbly with large and small bubbles, and it will have doubled in volume. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and honeycombed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste sour and somewhat vinegary.

When I made my starter here, I didn't notice much visual change from Day 3 to Day 4, but could tell things had progress by the looseness of the starter and the sourness of the aroma.

Weigh the flour and water for today, and combine them in the container. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container with plastic wrap or with a clean kitchen towel secured with a rubber band. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 5: Starter is Ready to Use

Check your starter. It should have doubled in bulk since yesterday. By now, the starter should also be looking very bubbly — even frothy. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and be completely webbed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste even more sour and vinegary.

If everything is looking, smelling, and tasting good, you can consider your starter ripe and ready to use! If your starter is lagging behind a bit, continue on with the Day 5 and Beyond instructions.

Day 5 and Beyond: Maintaining Your Starter

4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water

Once your starter is ripe (or even if it's not quite ripe yet), you no longer need to bulk it up. To maintain the starter, discard (or use) about half of the starter and then "feed" it with new flour and water: weigh the flour and water, and combine them in the container with the starter. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter.

If you're using the starter within the next few days, leave it out on the counter and continue discarding half and "feeding" it daily. If it will be longer before you use your starter, cover it tightly and place it in the fridge. Remember to take it out and feed it at least once a week — I also usually let the starter sit out overnight to give the yeast time to recuperate before putting it back in the fridge.

How to Reduce the Amount of Starter:

Maybe you don't need all the starter we've made here on an ongoing basis. That's fine! Discard half the starter as usual, but feed it with half the amount of flour and water. Continue until you have whatever amount of starter works for your baking habits.

Recipe originally from: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-your-own-sourdough-starter-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-47337

Thanks for reading,

Sarah