Making a sourdough starter isn’t as hard as it sounds. Just a few minutes a day will produce a bubbling, happy starter that will create beautiful breads, pancakes, and cakes that you can safely feed your family. I sound like an advertisement, don’t I?
But, it’s true. There is a wonderful sense of ‘providing’ when you can make healthier, more digestible baked goods and set them before your family – knowing it’s better for them.
There are several ways you can begin a sourdough starter. You can start one from the ‘wild’ yeasts in the air, or with an established starter purchased or from someone you know.
I purchased my sourdough online since I didn’t know anyone who already had one and trying to catch yeast from the air didn’t seem to have many raving reviews about its stability.
Once you get your sourdough starter, you’ll need to take care of it. It’s much like taking care of a dog or kids. Feed it. Water it. Watch it grow. Except this one stands still for more than two seconds and doesn’t leave holes in your flowerbed. There are just a few basic guidelines to follow:
Feeding Your Starter
A sourdough starter eats two things: flour and water, in equal amounts by weight. (This is roughly 2 parts water to 3 parts flour.) So, for example, if you feed your starter 2 oz. of flour then it needs 2 oz. of water.
When you feed it, you want to double the size of the starter. If you have a tablespoon of a dried sourdough culture to start with, then you’ll want to add equal amounts of flour and water (in weight) until it amounts to about 2 tablespoons total. If you have 1 cup of starter, then you’ll want to add equal amounts of flour and water (in weight) until it is about 2 cups total.
When your starter becomes good and bubbly (about 12 hours later) you feed it again.
Within 3 or 4 days, you should have a nice, bubbly starter. You’ll start to notice that after you feed your starter, it will rise and double it’s size. That’s good. That’s happy sourdough. It can take 3 to 6 hours to reach the peak of its rise, where it will stay for a while, and then start to deflate. If you’re gone during the day and don’t know if it’s risen or not, look at the sides of the container and see if there are streaks on the side. That is a good indicator that it’s risen and is now quiet again. If it’s not rising in the container, it won’t be able to raise your bread.
When your starter is about a week old and doubling in size after a feeding, it’s ready to graduate to baking.
Storing Your Starter
You can keep your starter at room temperature or in the refrigerator. There are pros and cons to each method.
1.) If you keep your sourdough in the refrigerator, you’ll only need to feed it once a month because it’s in a sort of ‘dormant’ state. Make sure you bring it out and let it warm to room temperature before feeding it. Then stick it back in the fridge with a lid. (Don’t fill more than half full and keep the lid loose to let gases escape.) If you’re going to use the starter in the next few days, leave it out and feed it every 12 hours or so.
If you’re not a big baker, or you’re going on vacation, this is probably the better option. I mark my calender to help remind me when it’s feeding time.
2.) If you keep your sourdough starter at room temperature, you’ll need to feed it about every 12 hours. If you are the forgetful type, keep your sourdough out where you can see it with a big yellow sticky note that says, “FEED ME!” If you aren’t feeding the starter often enough, it will not raise your products and will eventually die.
That’s a horrible way to go. Please feed your starter.
This method works great if you bake a lot or have a large family and each of your recipes calls for several cups of starter.
At some point you may be feeding your starter more than you’re using it and you’ll feel like starter is coming out your ears. When you get to this point you have a couple of options.
- dump half of the starter down the drain before feeding it again. (I know many people do this, but I just can’t get over the feeling that I’m wasting it.)
- instead of dumping half of it, use it for a simple recipe like pancakes, biscuits, pizza crust, etc. and continue feeding the other half.
Want to learn more? Check out this video by GNOWFGLINS:
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