This is bread I made using a sourdough starter that I made on January 10 of this year. It was delicious, but this post isn’t about the bread, it’s about the starter. I’ll have the recipe for the bread in a different post. In the meantime, if you’ve been contemplating making a sourdough starter of your own, I hope this post will encourage you to do just that.
I read so many different sites about how to make a sourdough starter. Everything sounded so intimidating. So many dos and don’ts. So many contradictions on different sites that had instructions. There were also many, many recipes for starters – recipes using pineapple juice and flour; milk and flour; water and flour. Some called for yeast and some didn’t. Some took a few days and others took several days. Some recipes said to pour off the hooch that formed and others said to stir it back into the starter. Some said you should refrigerate it, others said you could keep it on the counter as long as it was fed regularly.
I finally came across one site that said something to the effect of “If sourdough starters were that hard to start, or keep, they wouldn’t have been around thousands of years.” This was my “aha” moment. I pictured “Cookie” out on the wagon trail making sourdough pancakes for the crew and thought, well, if he could keep a starter alive in those conditions, surely I could do it, too!
I’ve made enough bread to know that yeast is a magical thing. Providing the yeast hasn’t deteriorated somehow, if you mix it with water, it’s going to do it’s thing. If the water is a little too cool, it’s still going to do it’s thing… it’s just going to take a little longer. I’ve never made anything with yeast that failed to work, so when I decided that I wasn’t afraid of making a starter, I just went with it.
Although this site was wordy (and yellow), I managed to wade through much of what I thought were unnecessary steps and warnings. After I got past the distraction of underlined and bolded text, I ended up adapting a starter recipe from here only because I (erroneously) thought that I would get more of a sour tasting bread by using milk in my starter. More about that later.
|THE SPONGE BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD DOUGH|
As I look back on the instructions that I adapted to make things easier, even they sound complicated, but I’m including them because it’s how I actually made my starter.
I like a sour tasting sourdough bread. The first time I made bread, I was disappointed that, although it smelled sour, it didn’t really have a sour taste. So much for my theory on using milk in the starter! After reading up on it, I found that most sourdough breads only have a mild sour taste, and that many factors determine how sour the bread is. I found the main factors to be hydration of the starter, rising time of the bread dough, and omitting sugar in the bread recipe.
*Hydration: I now feed my starter at 50% hydration, which is 1 part H2O and 2 parts flour.
*Rising time: The slower the rise of the bread, the more sour taste.
*Sugar: Omit sugar from the bread recipe
*Refrigeration: When you make the sponge for the bread (usually the night before), refrigerate it overnight
*Citric Acid: Adding 1/8 tsp citric acid for each cup of flour used in the bread recipe will increase sourness. Do not exceed 5/8 tsp for entire recipe. King Arthur Flour sells this.
I haven’t made bread since I changed the starter hydration to 50%. When I do, I’ll come back and edit this as to the results, i.e., did I get a more sour-tasting bread?
It’s interesting that the region where you make the starter will give the bread a different taste and is dependent on air temperature, humidity, and even elevation. So, the bread that I make with the starter made in Montana will taste different than one you make in another climate.
Here are some notes I made along the way:
In order to keep the starter active, feed it at least every week using the instructions for Day7.
If you want to bake more than one loaf of bread, plan ahead and increase the starter by doubling the feed ingredients using instructions for Day 7.
The starter may rise, then fall. This is okay; it only means that it needs feeding.
I covered my container with a paper towel secured with a rubber band. Don’t cover the container with a lid that won’t allow it to breathe.
I found a square 2-quart plastic container with a lid at the walmarts for $1.97. Do yourself a favor and find a round one.
The liquid that may form on top of the starter is called “hooch”. Hooch is alcohol (so that’s where the name came from!) Just stir it into the starter before you feed it. Or, drink it… I won’t judge.
If you’re going on vacation and won’t be home to feed your starter, you can freeze it or dry it to be revitalized later. Or, if you wanted to send your best friend some of your starter, you could dry it and send it along through the mail.
This is from the King Arthur Flour Sourdough Primer, which I think is one of the best out there.
Freezing - You may be able to ignore your starter for a month or even much longer, but if you know you’re going to be away for a time, you can store it, unlike children or pets, in the freezer. You may want to transfer it to a plastic container first since it will expand as it freezes.
I’ve heard from a few of you that you’ve wanted to make a starter. So, whether you use my recipe or not, I hope you’ll read up a little and then just dive right in and make one. It’s not as difficult or complicated as some sites make you believe. So go ahead, and then, before you eat them all up, post beautiful pictures of your sourdough breads, pancakes, waffles, pizza crusts, rolls, pretzels, and even cakes!
Here are the instructions I followed to make my starter.