And just like that we have a month left of 2023. It has been quite a year — a wedding and grandbabies, but I am finally finding the time to sit down and begin my blogging journey again. I wanted to start with something a bit different as it has become part of my daily routine and one I have become very passionate about. I was gifted a starter and after a bumpy beginning, as you will read about in my journey below, I feel like a pro who can share her tips and tricks on maintaining a starter when it is gifted to you.
As you know health has become a big part of our lives and sourdough starter is healthier for us. It breaks down bad protein and makes grains more digestible. Think gut health and fermented food and that is exactly what sourdough starter is…a live fermented culture of flour and water. This live culture is full of beneficial bacteria that if fed (with flour and water) on a timely basis will create an amazing loaf of sourdough bread. And you don’t have to stop there…I make waffles, cookies, biscuits all from the sourdough discard. It’s a whole new world and I’m loving it.
My sourdough starter journey began in the spring of 2022 when I ordered a sourdough starter from Breadtopia. My mistake was that I didn’t realize it was a live starter. With a live starter you need to start feeding it immediately. I waited until it was convenient for me to begin the feeding process. Unfortunately, once I started feeding the starter, I could tell something was wrong…it was not happy. It wasn’t doubling in size; it wasn’t bubbly, nor did it have that wonderful sourdough smell. And that is when I realized my mistake. So, I decided to start again. This time I was gifted a starter from a friend and all I had to do was feed the starter. Because I was still new to all this and a bit intimidated by the thought of keeping a starter alive, I asked my friend: When do I feed it? How much should I feed it? When do I put it to sleep, and do I feed it while it’s in the refrigerator? Was I over thinking…I think so! All she said was you will get the hang of it. Well, it has been well over a year, and I guess you could say I finally have the hang of it.
But it was during this year of trial and error, or should I say experimentation, that I read (and watched) everything I could get my hands on as to how to keep sourdough starter alive and how, when, and how much to feed it. I found that most bakers keep their sourdough starter in the same glass container, use a rubber band method to mark the level of the culture, and in many instances the ratio of starter to flour and water varied. To feed starter, you discard (remove) from the original container and then add equal amounts of flour and water to what is left. AND there, laid the problem for me, determining how much starter was left in the original container so I could feed it equal amounts of flour and water.
On a side note, it was in my high school home economics class that I learned baking was more science and cooking more art. And yes, I am the one who weighs and measures all ingredients before baking. Working with sourdough is most definitely a science.
As to my starter, once I got comfortable, there has been no turning back. I landed on a ratio of 50 grams of starter to 50 grams of flour, and 50 grams of water. I found that this ratio creates a fermented wonder which grows beautifully, bubbles profusely, smells insanely delicious (to me), and provides the basis for an amazing sourdough bread. Crusty on the outside, chewy and tangy on the inside. I must admit that initially, I used a clean container each time I fed the starter. It was time consuming, but I was determined that my measurements were correct. Only recently have I trained my eye to know what 50 grams of starter looks like, which means now I use the same container.
Most of the time, my sourdough starter lives in the refrigerator and only when I bake bread do I take it out and bring it back to life. At this point I feed my starter every 12 hours for at least two days prior to mixing the bread. Do I end up with a lot of discard? I sure do, but I manage to put it to good use.
When my starter is in the refrigerator, I try to feed it on a weekly basis but there are times when that is not possible and that is okay. If you see a cloudy liquid or hooch on the top, you can either stir it in or pour it off and then start the process of feeding your starter. I try not to throw any starter away. As my friend, Ellen said, “sourdough starter becomes precious” and that it has. Not only is it a healthier way of baking bread but this journey has opened my eyes to the way bread was once made… with care, love, and four simple ingredients flour, water, salt, and starter. This journey has also introduced me to milling my own wheat berries which truly gives our bread a distinct taste. And all for the sake of health. This however will have to be another blog.
My starter is a year old now and if you are wondering no, I have not named it.
1. I use King Arthur Organic flour to feed my starter, but you can use a non organic AP flour.
2. I use filtered water.
3. I tare my scale to 0 grams before adding the flour and then again before adding the water. I use a fork to thoroughly stir the mixture. At this point, you should have about 150 grams of starter, flour, and water in your jar.
4. I loosely cover my jar with a quart size bag and (when my kitchen is cold) place the jar on a pot holder. The mixture should double in size within 12 hours at which point I feed it again.