Bread Making Part 2: A Sourdough Starter ~ Mountain Mama

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bread Making Part 2: A Sourdough Starter

I've finished the sleeves of the baby sweater and now I'm knitting the collar. It should be done in a week (or less...or more).

A starter is a good step for aspiring breadmakers to learn. Basically, it's a source of live yeast. The yeast you get in packets or in a jar is dormant--it needs a little moisture and food to activate. But a starter contains active, hungry yeast that need to be fed. You can keep a starter for months, years, decades. And I'm sure someone has one that dates back to 4897 BC.

Or you could be like me and, once again, kill off your starter (by freezing it over a year). Which simply means you have to start the start of a new starter.

Sourdough starter has yeast and other lively critters that give it it's pleasant tang. The acidity helps prevent less desirable critters from taking over. Every microclimate produces a slightly different flavor and ordering a starter from one locale is pointless, as your local microbes will make it what it should be for your location.

There are several ways to make starter, this one is my favorite because it's simple and sour.

My Sourdough Starter:

3/4 cup flour, preferably organic but not necessary (white, wheat, rye, anything that has starch)
3/4 cup water

Mix together in a medium bowl (you'll be adding to it as the days go on). Cover loosely. Note the general time of day (i.e. morning, evening, cocktail hour).

The next day, at about the same time, add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Mix thoroughly. Cover loosely.

After feeding. It's not pretty but it's alive.

Repeat the above feeding for 3-7 days until one of two things happens:

1. Your starter smells nasty, has a pinkish tinge, or just sits there. Throw it out and start over.
2. Your starter smells sour or beer-y (sniff all the sourdough bread at the grocery store next time you're there). It's bubbly and asks for it's daily meal.

On second thought, if your starter talks to you, you may want to step away from the breadmaking altogether and move on to homebrewing. Or hydroponic gardening.


It happens faster if it's warmer.
It's okay if a little clear, grayish or brownish water separates out. If the water is pink (and smells rotten), toss it.
If you don't trust the process, add the tiniest pinch of yeast at the beginning (like 1-2 grains).

Next post, we'll discuss care and feeding of your new bundle of joy.

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