Times are uncertain right now. I find myself baking more than ever, mainly to utilize the sourdough starter that is taking over my kitchen. I refuse to waste anything. When people started panic buying and I realized that there was a good chance I’d be baking the goods our family needed, I wasn’t too worried. I always keep flour, sugar, yeast & eggs on hand. But not knowing how long this isolation is going to last, I decided to throw together a sourdough starter.
Many don’t know that you don’t need yeast when using sourdough in recipes. The natural wild yeasts from the fermented mixture of flour and water work on their own without the addition of yeast. I will admit that I prefer sourdough recipes with yeast because, well I’m a baker, and I like that puffy rise. But it certainly isn’t necessary.
Because I don’t like discarding and wasting anything, especially flour, I have offered to share my starter with locals.The hardest part of sharing with people is not being able to help them when they look at their starter and wonder what in the heck they’re going to do with it.
I decided to throw together a series of posts to help people understand more of what they’re getting into when they decide to take on a sourdough baby. 🙂
Some things you need to know:
- Feed and water your sourdough start as if it were a pet. You’ll soon become acquainted and you will know exactly what it wants.
- I find that if you name your starter, it makes it easier to build that relationship with your starter. If you have kids, let them be part of naming your starter and then they will also be intrigued and wonder when he/she needs to be fed and taken care of. (fun project for homeschooling right now)
- Your start will become more sour the longer you have it. If you don’t plan to use it often, keep it in the fridge. Take it out and feed it once a week to maintain it. Let it come to room temperature and start to activate before using it in recipes.
- If your start separates and there’s a liquid, do not throw it away. Stir it in! That liquid is a combination of the acids and natural yeasts. If you throw it away, you take away all the hard work your start is achieving. As long as there’s no mold growing, your start is good!
- ALWAYS PLAN AHEAD. Some sourdough recipes require overnight fermentation.
- Use plastic or glass containers to store it in. Never use metals, including spoons or forks to stir it. Use plastic or wooden utensils.
The uses for sourdough are endless. Some things I have tried are:
Baking with sourdough has a learning curve. Not everything will come out perfectly like you see on Pinterest. But even if they don’t look perfect, chances are they’ll still taste amazing. Be proud that you can still feed your family at very minimal costs and that it tastes great.
Hydration is something many will discuss when you get a bit more serious about sourdough. I keep it simple and do 100% hydration, meaning I use equal amounts (by weight) of flour and water to my starter. This just keeps the starter at a consistent hydration point, so it’s neither too runny or too heavy. But honestly, if you follow the rule of feeding your starter with 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp of flour and 1/2 cup water then even if you have more starter than that, you will still get a good bulk and consistency with your starter.
I am by no means an expert. I have baked with sourdough my fair share, but some of this stuff on the internet puts my goods to shame. I don’t care. I don’t have time for all that comparison stuff and my brain prefers to keep things simple and just be thankful for the things I am able to make.
If you aren’t getting a start from me, you can start your own. I have followed several methods in the past. The one I have liked the most because it has less discard is from the Kitchn. You can find it here. After your first week you should be able to use it in your baking. If you want to look into a different option that doesn’t bulk up, this is the one I’ve posted before that I’ve used. Both work great. It’s all about personal preference. Once your starter is established you can slow feedings to once a week or less by storing it in your fridge. If you’re not using it alot you can go months between feedings if its in your fridge. I use mine far too much for that, but it’s good to know you can keep those natural yeasts at bay until you need them.
Also, please note that forgetting a day of feeding is not the end of the world. If a grayish brown liquid rises to the top, it just means it’s hungry. Do not throw it out! Stir it in and feed it as normal and watch it bubble. Just know that leaving your starter in high heats or neglecting it at room temperature can kill your starter. Nobody wants a dead starter.
I hope this isn’t an overload of info but that it helps you understand a bit more what you’re getting yourself into when acquiring or developing a sourdough starter. 🙂
Stay safe. Stay home. Bake.