Seriously, sourdough is everywhere right now. And I’ll admit, I’ve fallen deep down the rabbit hole. To be fair, I’ve tried making sourdough before, and ended up with a disgusting and moldy jar of goo. But NOT THIS TIME! The result of Shelter in Place, in addition to a healthy family, is a beautiful jar full of sourdough starter. So much bread, so many pancakes, pretzels, crackers, cinnamon rolls, etc.
I’ve actually had a few people ask me about my starter and bread (actual real people. Not like “oh I’ve got a few ”people” but need a reason to write a blog).
As a holistic health coach, aspiring foodie, and recipe enthusiast, I’ve been curious about sourdough and other fermented foods for a very long time (if you haven’t made your own sauerkraut, you’re really missing out). Quite a few of my instructors and mentors (like Terry Walters) are sourdough gurus and I learned a lot of what I’m going to share with you from them. The rest of what I‘m going to share I learned from the most recent copy of The Joy of Cooking. I’ve taken what I’ve learned from all of these wonderful sources and come up with my own methods that work best for my kitchen (with 2 crazy kids, dogs, and busy day where I mostly run around in circles).
Sourdough bread or dough is the result of fermented flour that naturally occurs as a result of yeast and lactobacilli. This fermentation aids the gut, has low glycemic index, and is usually good for people with a gluten sensitivity. It’s also still bread. Is it the newest health craze everyone is saying it is? No. But it DOES taste really great, has a nice sour flavor, and the texture is amazing. Plus, the satisfaction of making something seemingly complex from minimal ingredients feels like magic.
First, let’s talk STARTER.
This is the process that is usually the key identifier for sourdough…and the part that most people give up on. But trust me. STICK WITH IT. Be diligent for 12-14 days (diligent-ish) and you will have a bubbly jar of starter. My starter technique comes straight from Terry Walters, the queen of Clean Living. She has some incredible cookbooks and you should really check them out. Also, follow her on Insta. She is a wealth of knowledge.
In a large mason jar, start with 1/2 cup of unbleached whole-wheat flour and 1/3 a cup of water. Stir together and mix them well. Use a piece of cheesecloth (or in my case, a piece of muslin blanket) and a rubber band to secure it around the top of the jar. You can also place the center of the mason jar ring (without the ring) on the jar. Mainly, just use anything that you have to cover the top of the jar, but still allows air to flow. Store the starter in a dry place, away from direct sunlight.
In 12 hours. Repeat.
Here is where there can be a little bit of confusion. So I‘ll try to be really clear. You should now have put 1 cup of unbleached whole-wheat flour and 2/3 cup of water mixed in your jar. Now, focus: 12 hours after your mixture has hung out on your counter, go to the trash can, and pour 1/2 a cup into the trash. DO NOT POUR THIS DOWN THE DRAIN. It will dry up and clog your pipes. You will spend a boat load of money paying to repair it. And I don’t want to be blamed.
After you pour half of the starter in the trash, add 1/2 cup of unbleached whole-wheat flour and 1/3 cup of water. Make sure you mix the new flour and water with the starter mixture very well. You don’t want clumps.
Repeat every 12 hours for 12-14 days. Before feeding the starter every 12 hours, pour 1/2 a cup out, and then feed it. This can be hard to remember. But here is how I think about it. Bacteria makes fermentation occur. You feed the bacteria the whole-wheat flour. And when you pour off the 1/2 cup you are getting rid of the waste so you can feed it again. Also, if you forget to feed your starter every 12 hours, it’s really not a big deal. Try to be consistent, but all hope is not lost if you forget. Just be sure to feed it when you remember. Your starter is a living thing after all.
At about day 8 or 9 you will notice that not only is your starter bubbling, it is rising. It will probably double in about 12 hours. This starter is not ready for bread just yet. But, it is good to make pancakes, crackers, pretzels, etc. Things that don’t need to rise very much. Using the pour off from your starter is a great way to minimize waste and test out your baking skills.
You will know your starter is ready for bread if it is DOUBLING in under 4 hours. For reference, by the time I started making bread with my starter, it doubled in 45 minutes. It was literally overflowing THROUGH the muslin blanket.
So, once that happens, start baking your happy heart out.
Now that your starter is ready you can start storing it in the refrigerator. Always feed your starter before you put it in the refrigerator. But you only need to feed it every 7-10 days as long as it‘s in the fridge. When you are ready to bake, you will actually feed the starter a couple of times before you make the bread. This is to ensure that you have enough starter leftover to keep growing more. I’ve been baking bread once or twice a week for about 3 weeks now and I have actually transferred my starter to a large 1/2 gallon canister that guarantees I have enough starter when I need it. But that might be a little excessive. I tend to get obsessed.
Get moving on that starter. The bread post is coming soon!