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.

The House Around the Corner - Bobbi Jo - Starter

Sourdough Starter Recipe:
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 t. sugar
2 1/4 t. active-dry yeast
2 cups warm water
Mix the flour, sugar, and yeast in a clean, 2 qt. capacity glass bowl.
Gradually stir in the water and mix until it forms a thick paste and do not worry about lumps. Cover with a dish cloth such as this one from Evelyn Fields
and let sit in a warm, draft free place.
Once the starter is bubbling, feed it daily with flour and water while removing a cup of starter. You're just replacing it. I have been using 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water... still working on this one though.

The House Around the Corner - Bobbi Jo - Sourdough


I have been experimenting with making sourdough bread lately and think I've found a recipe that works for us:) Here it is for those of you who were wondering.  I have to say thank you to Heather, at Mountain Home Quilts for her inspiration to start making our own bread. Check out her Etsy shop for beautiful quilts!

(If you would like to see this in it's original form, go to Jo's Prairie here.)

Bobbi Jo's Prairie Bread Recipe:

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 c. white bread flour
2 1/2 t sea salt
2 1/2 t dry yeast
1 c. warm milk
2 T agave nectar
2 T butter, softened
1/2 c warm water
1 1/4 c. sourdough starter
1 egg

From a previous post:  Homemade bread has become a favorite in the this house.  The boys helped me knead whole wheat bread this afternoon and had a great time. I tried out Red Mill's ground flaxseed to make more of a "sandwhich" bread. Substituting a half cup flaxseed meal for a half cup of whole wheat seemed to be a perfect recipe:)

Directions for Bread:
In a large bowl, combine 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1 c. bread flour, salt, and yeast. Stir in milk and butter. Add starter, agave, and water. Gradually mix in the rest of the flours ( 2 c. bread flour and 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour.

Turn dough onto clean, floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. Place a greased bowl and cover with damp dish cloth. *I like to use coconut oil to grease my bowls. Use your fingers to rub it on- if you have excess, just use as a hand lotion:)  Let rise for one hour in a warm place.
This is a picture of the end of this rising process. It should double in size.

Punch down your dough and let rest for 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on greased baking sheet (above picture). Let rise 1 hour. I warmed my oven today for this process and let it rise in the oven. It worked much better! Just turn the oven on low and then turn it off- you should be able to touch the inside of the oven.  Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg, beaten) and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. *I use my finger to brush the egg on.  Here they are... ready for the oven!

Baker, Baker, Bread Maker!
It's very rewarding to see my son light up when "his" bread comes out of the oven.
He is so proud of himself and really enjoys that first taste test:)
Thank you, Bobbi Jo, for sharing this with everyone.  I plan to add some flax meal to my bread.  I can't wait to see what it does to the recipe I have.  I also think I will try the egg wash.  It gives it a beautiful color.  I can just SMELL it from here :)  Cindy