Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Care and Feeding of a Sourdough Starter


I am doing some prep work on a sourdough bread class, and found a couple of really good web sites on sourdough starter...  how to make one, how to feed one, and things to watch for.  I thought I might share these sites with you, along with my total knowledge of starters, which is not much.

This is the thrift store crock that I keep my starter in.  
If I put it in the fridge, I use a a glass jar.

  • It is simple to keep a starter alive.  
  • Both getting a starter from a friend and making your own are effective.
  • Some sourdough breads call for dry yeast - you can probably omit that step if you add in a 12 hour "rise" - the sourdough just takes longer.  That is fine if you are doing the entire "slow foods" type of meals.
  • You shouldn't use reactive metals around sourdough starter.  Use wood, glass or ceramic (I am NOT going to recommend plastic for obvious reasons).
  • If you use your sourdough 2-3 times a week, you can leave it on the counter and just feed it every day or two.
  • If you are not going to use it for a couple of days you should put it in the fridge.
  • If it gets a black "liquid" on top, that is normal.  Just stir it in or pour it off - your choice.
  • Add equal parts (by weight) of flour and water to feed your starter (about 3/4 cup of water to each cup of starter)
  • Lumps are OK.
  • If you have too much starter and you are not ready to make bread - make pancakes or waffles or bottle some up to share with a friend.
  • If you have starter with one type of flour and you want to switch to another type of flour..... just go ahead.  Within a couple of "feedings" your starter is converted.
  • I keep a "white" starter in the back of my fridge for my friend.  I feed it a couple of times per month. 
  • I keep a "whole wheat" starter in the back of my fridge for emergencies - a couple of times a month I stir it into my current starter.... then bottle some back up the next day.
  • You need to feed your starter more when it is warm.  In the summer I feed it more often - but we don't do A/C and we do wood heat - I don't put the starter by the stove so it stays cooler and is a little happier.
  • If I leave my starter on the counter too long and forget to feed it... it gets disgusting stuff on the top.  I usually just skim off the yucky stuff and feed the starter a little bit twice a day until it looks good again.  If it is worse than even I can stomach, I pull my "emergency" starter out and start again.
  • I like to label my starter (and everything else).  My fridge is starting to look like a science fair.
  • Have fun and don't stress too much.  Properly developed sourdough starters are pretty resilient and don't require too much from you.  It is kind of like a low maintenance pet....a little more work than a pet rock and a little less than a fish.
This is my active starter
I have a lot going so I can share at the class.

Some appropriate Links:
Breadtopia - Sourdough Starter Management
Wild Yeast Blog - English Muffin Recipe I am going to try.
Sprouted Flour Recipes and Ideas

Let me know how your bread turns out!  If you come up with a great recipe, we would all love for you to share it with us.  Pictures are great.  Be healthy and well.

1 comment:

  1. Good idea having the emergency starter in the fridge. I have added my whole starter to bread & remembered while it was baking that I had not saved any.