Sourdough Starter

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Here we explore one of the most fundamental (and fun) ferments– sourdough. Carbohydrate-hungry microbes in the air are drawn to this simple slurry of flour and water. Each micro-climate (from which wild sourdoughs are made) is said to offer a distinct flavor which can be tasted in the finished product. And boy, what a variety of products– bread, pizza dough, pancakes, biscuits, and more!

In years past, this was the main leavening agent in home cooking, and starter was often “used” multiple times a day.  In today’s busy world, we may only cook with it once or twice a week.

It’s important to keep in mind before starting a wild sourdough that it may take over your kitchen! This is a quick ferment once it gets going, and you can expect your dough to double in size with each feeding.

Once your starter is established, put it to work, making sourdough bread!

Sourdough Starter
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: ½ cup
 
Ingredients
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces by weight) Organic unbleached Whole Wheat (or any whole grain) flour
  • 400 grams (14 oz.) organic all-purpose flour
  • filtered water
Instructions
Day 1
  1. Add 100 grams whole wheat flour and 150 ml water to a clean quart-sized mason jar. Stir until no dry flour can be seen. Cover jar top with a cloth or paper towel and secure with the metal ring. Place somewhere where the temp is about 70F/21C.
Day 2
  1. Discard half the starter (remove about ½ cup or 100g). This is important to give enough food to the yeasts to multiply. You can use discarded starter for other baked recipes.
  2. Add 100 grams organic AP flour and 150 ml water to the starter. Stir well until no dry flour can be seen. Store in its warm spot again for 24 hours.
Day 3 Morning
  1. Only keep 200g starter (remove a ½ cup after stirring the bubbles out). Discard the rest or use for another purpose.
  2. Add 100 grams organic AP flour and 150 ml water to the starter. Stir well.
Day 3 Evening (12 hours later)
  1. Only keep 200g starter (remove a ½ cup after stirring the bubbles out). Discard the rest or use for another purpose.
  2. Add 100 grams organic AP flour and 150 ml water to the starter. Stir well.
  3. By the third day, your starter should be bubbly and sour smelling. Keep going with twice daily feedings until it is vigorously bubbling and smells yeasty (this could take a few more days or even a week).
  4. Many experts believe that it takes between 30-90 days for this ferment to reach its maturity, when fed and used daily.

Sourdough Starter Tips

  • When a starter is consistently doubling in volume within six hours of each feeding, it is healthy and has a well-established culture.
  • Too cold in your house? A seedling mat [amazon_link asins=’B00P7U259C’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’fermeclub-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”] makes a simple incubator to increase temperatures by a few degrees.
  • If you store your starter in the refrigerator, let it come back to room temperature (for about ten hours) prior to incorporating it into a recipe.
  • If liquid forms on the top of your starter when stored in the refrigerator, simply pour off the excess liquid.

6 thoughts on “Sourdough Starter

  1. Austin

    I hope you share recipes for all the goodies you mention above– pancakes and pizza dough especially!

  2. sweetcaroline0405

    This is great! I am really looking forward to starting this this week. Just was wondering, what is the water measurement when starting the with the flour and feeding (I might have missed this bit in your article.) Thanks for the help – will be sure to report back!

    • Jennifer Post author

      Sweet Caroline, good doughs have never been so good! I start with an equal part water and flour (and I start small, because this dough will gain volume quickly) For the first three days, stir 1 tablespoon each of flour and water twice per day into a medium glass or ceramic bowl. Cover this with a tea towel and leave the container in a warm, but dark location. Good luck!

  3. Michelle

    I’m not sure as to the right water to use. Can I use purified? Spring? Distilled? Anything but tap? Thanks!

    • Jennifer Post author

      Hi Michelle!
      Typically, sourdough recipes encourage you to use purified, spring or distilled. I happen to live in an area with good quality, albeit chlorine treated, tap water. I use tap water for my sourdough recipes, and spend the money on distilled water for my brine ferments.

      When in doubt, do what makes you feel good. Experiment with your local water and see if you like the results.

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