Alright. So, you want to create your very own culture of sourdough starter in your kitchen. Congratulations! It's seriously so fun! Definitely not as complicated as you think.
It is a great way to pass time during this pandemic we are all facing. I know you are stuck at home with your kids, spouse or alone and you would like to take up a new hobby to keep your brain busy. Making sourdough recipes is a fun adventure to share with your kids, loved ones at home or for yourself.
How I got started
I received my first starter from a co-worker who is also a good friend of mine. Sarah would tell me all about her sourdough creations while we worked and to be honest, I was totally jealous and wanted to do this sourdough thing myself too. One day at work, she returned from her lunch break and gave me a portion of her "discard" and "fed it" for me. She gave me a mason jar of this ooey-gooey stuff with a rubber band holding it together and told me all about it. Her directions went over my head and I probably looked like a deer in the headlights. Her directions were simple. Feed it equal parts starter, flour and water.
The first few times were a total mess. I ended up using my husbands tiny bullet powder scale that only weighed in super tiny measurements.. That was super frustrating, time consuming and basically didn't work at all.
Then I used a regular scale that we weigh our grain on.. Those measurements were too big so I ditched that scale too.
I then figured I could "eyeball it" which resulted in wrong measurements and then it died.
So, I gave in and bought a kitchen scale. I wish I did that originally, because ever since then, It has become so much easier, quicker and my sourdough is always thriving.
So moral of the story, just buy a kitchen scale for $9 on Amazon.
What is a starter?
Sourdough is a very old school method that has been passed down from generations. It is essentially wild yeast and bacteria that is floating around your home, mixed into flour and water. Over the course of a day after "feeding it" it activates, gets bubbly and happy, and whalaa, you have a starter to create so many fun recipes with.
A starter is a culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that you can use to bake with rather than buying yeast packets at the store. I've read articles that say eating fermented goods (like sourdough, kefir, yogurt, kombucha) is easier and healthier on your body because it's more simple and natural to digest. As well, sourdough is more nutrient rich because of the fermentation properties.
Read more here about the health benefits of Sourdough
I have to feed it???
Yep. You feed it. That's why I said it's like having a new pet. I know that sounds weird and maybe scary, but it's simple. You need to feed your starter with equal parts starter, flour and water in grams. After you keep it happy and healthy, you'll see that your starter will literally double in size or more. Some recipe call for "fed" starter, which is when it is most active just at its peak or just as it starts to fall. Some recipes call for "unfed" starter which is the discard that you would otherwise toss away.
It's like you just brought home a new pet to care for, and yes you should name it! I mean, why not. We are all losing our minds in quarantine (All for a good reason, though. Stay safe!). We may as well take up a new hobby to keep us sane.
Wait, You have to discard part of it?
Yes, you do. I know it sounds wasteful.. However, if you don't discard part of your starter.. you will have an exploding sourdough concoction overflowing in your kitchen like an angry little monster. It will grow exponentially! Especially if it's active and healthy.
Like I said above, it's nice to incorporate it in another fun recipe if you have the time. I've made crackers, pancakes, waffles and even brownies with unfed discard starter. Or, if you happen to have chickens they go bananas for sourdough discard.
What you need to create your own starter:
Let's face it. Not all of us have a Sarah with a sourdough starter. If your missing that special Sarah in your life and want to jump on this sourdough bandwagon, gather the supplies below and let's pretend we are mad scientists. (Simple mad scientists.)
Organic flour. I use a combo of whole wheat and all-purpose flour from King Arthur.
Water. Use distilled water or purified water if available. If you have chlorinated water, just set a bowl of water on the table over night uncovered. Most of the chlorine will evaporate.
A large wide-mouthed glass mason jar.
coffee filters or paper towels to cover the top of the jar.
two rubber bands. One for marking your starting point, one to secure the coffee filter.
After your starter is fully viable and bubbly, get yourself a kitchen scale for future feedings. I got mine on Amazon for just $9! You need it to be able to measure in grams.
Directions Day 1:
Get your glass mason jar out and fill it with 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup lukewarm distilled water. I have heard that starting off with whole wheat will help your starter get a good kick start since whole wheat has more wild bacteria than white flour. I would start this either early morning or at night.
Mix together the flour and water so it resembles a very thick pancake batter/paste consistency. You may need to add a bit more water to get it right. I start off with 1/4 cup water and may add up to 1/3 cup water to get the right consistency. We are not using the scale yet, just get that paste look.
Cover with coffee filter or paper town and secure it with a rubber band. You may also place another rubber band where your paste is at on the outside of the jar to see if any change in growth happens over a 24-36 hour period.
Leave your jar on the kitchen counter or in a warm spot in your home for 24-36 hours. I sometimes leave mine by my fireplace in the winter or an window where the sun hits. Warmth=growth.
Directions Day 2:
After the 24 hour mark, check your starter. You may already have some tiny bubbles forming. You may not. If you don't, don't worry, check again at the 36 hour mark.
Once your starter is showing some bubble action, discard half of it. Yes, throw it away.. This starter is not active enough to bake anything with. If you happen to have chickens or a compost pile, throw it out to them.
Now, you basically do that same thing as yesterday. however, swap out the whole wheat flour with all-purpose (using organic flour is best by the way.) Add 1/2 cup all-purpose with about 1/4-1/3 cup water.
Mix together the starter, flour and water well. Again, it should resemble that same paste-like/thick-pancake batter consistency.
Cover with your coffee filter and rubber band. Add your second rubber band if you'd like. You might notice more growth/progress this next time around!
Place your starter in your desired location again for about 24 hours.
Directions Day 3:
Today, your starter should be bubbly and expanding! Yay! If not, just keep it up. It will go, try to find a warmer spot for your little guy.
Now, instead of feeding every 24 hours, we will now begin to feed once every 12 hours. Find a good time of day that will work for your schedule. For example, I will feed mine 6am and 6pm because that makes sense for me.
Discard half the starter.
Add in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4-1/3 cup of water and mix well.
Cover with coffee filter and rubber band. Add on your rubber band marker if you'd like.
Come back 12 hours later and repeat the same process.
Directions Day 4:
Now this is going to start to feel like "Groundhog Day."
Discard half your starter at the 12 hour mark.
Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/4-1/3 cup water to your remaining starter until paste-like.
Cover and rubber band.
Sit for 12 hours.
Repeat process. It should be getting more active and bubbly as this process continues.
Directions Day 5:
At your 12 hour mark, discard half your starter. At this point, your starter should be active enough to make a discard recipe. You can experiment with making pancakes, waffles, crackers, brownies, muffins... so many things! I'll have to start adding some of my recipes.. Stay tuned as I also experiment more.
Add in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4-1/3 cup water to your remaining starter until paste-like.
Cover and rubber band.
Sit for 12 hours.
At your twelve hour mark, it should be getting looking very active and expanding about twice as much as 12 hour previously.
Discard half and repeat your flour and water mix.
Directions Day 6: Time to try and bake a loaf of sourdough bread!
At this point, your starter should be starting to double or at least show some growth and bubbles. This is why I like have a rubber band mark so I can visually see the growth. Your starter should be active! If your little dude isn't quite there yet, keep going for a few more days before you toss in the towel. However, I promise it should be going within a week time frame if the environment is right.
I usually pour and scrape all the starter out of my big mason jar into a bowl.
Then, I grab a new mason jar or rinse out the one I already have out.
Get our that fancy kitchen scale (not really) and place your jar onto the scale and tare it.
add in about half your starter and go for 100g of starter.
Discard the remainder or make some pancakes or something special if you'd like.
Tare your scale again, and add in 100g lukewarm water. mix together into a slurry.
Add in 100g of either whole wheat or all-purpose organic flour. I tend to alternate each of my feedings. You don't have to do that.
Mix together, it should still resemble that paste-like pancake batter texture. Cover, rubber band, and mark your jar and set aside.
After 3-5 hours, your starter should be at it's peak. This is when your starter is at it's best and this is the time you should bake with it.
Give me some time to type up my go-to simple sourdough recipe. It's a piece of cake.
Maintaining your starter
If you become sourdough obsessed and find yourself channeling your inner Betty Crocker, you may have your sourdough starter on the kitchen counter and feed it once or twice a day depending on what your baking.
If you're like me, I bake a loaf once a week and maybe a few things in between if I'm feeling up for it. If that's the case for you, you can totally leave your starter in the fridge. It just requires a feeding once a week to stay happy and active. The yeast slows down in the fridge so it gives you some more time between feedings.
Sourdough is a very forgiving hobby. I've totally killed my starter and brought it back to life within a few days. So make it fun, and make it simple!
Questions? don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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