Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homemaker Monday: Sourdough Starter From Scratch

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Okay, now....

Welcome to the 109th weekly edition of...

Thank you for joining us! If you're new to this carnival and would like to enter your post, please check HERE for the rules and regs.

YOURS: This week's "YOURS" goes to Annie at Tea Time with Annie Kate! She writes a unique post about how to look best for the holiday season. Her tips include some of the important things I've been doing to try to become healthier, such as eating well and getting more quality sleep. Take a visit to Annie Kate's blog HERE. Thank you, Annie and we'll look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

MINE: This week I am honored to have Katie at Kitchen Stewardship as a guest poster today. I have known Katie through blogging for a couple of years now, and I have always had a huge amount of respect for the way she truly does treat her job as the provider of nutrition for her family as one of her most important stewardships. Here's Katie!


Just in case feeding your kids and their goldfish isn’t enough to keep you busy, here’s something else you can keep around the house that will need feeding, too: a sourdough starter. Luckily, it will feed you back.

I have to admit I was never much of a bread baker (read that: baked a few doorstop loaves and gave up), so I thought sourdough would be a massive fail and was afraid to even try it for a year after I happened upon the idea. I finally became convinced that traditional sourdough fermentation is the healthiest possible way to prepare grains, and I knew I had to give it a go for my family’s nutrition.

When, at long last, I made the attempt at creating a sourdough starter from scratch, I had a monumental kitchen moment when I finally saw tiny bubbles in my goop. I did a happy dance and whooped with glee. Imagine the Tom Hanks/Castaway triumphant roar: “Look what I have created! I have CAPTURED YEAST! I have made BUBBLES!” It felt like quite an accomplishment.

I’m happy to teach you how to wrangle your own yeast, too.

The basic method for convincing yeast to settle in your sourdough starter is:
  1. Mix whole wheat flour and water.
  2. Feed starter flour and water daily.
  3. Wait for yeast to get hungry and eat your flour, creating bubbles.
A sourdough starter is simply a mixture of flour and water wherein natural yeast or natural leavening from your air consumes the starch and creates gas, giving your bread an opportunity to rise. What is natural leavening? A fancy way of saying bacteria; the the lactic acid-producing good guys that keep our systems going. Sourdough is a fermented food, which makes it easier to digest because the grains are partially pre-digested by the bacteria.

The lengthy rise with sourdough bread means you do have to think ahead and prepare your dough the night before, which is pretty much the opposite of Jen’s “hour to the table” breadsticks that I dearly love. On the bright side, I just discovered a sourdough chocolate cake recipe that I’d been skeptical about is the best cake I’ve ever made in my kitchen (I ought to learn to stop being afraid of healthy recipes!).

I have a decent relationship with my sourdough, but I have to give a shout out to some incredible women who teach an online sourdough baking course with me. While I manage to keep my starter bubbling, they truly understand the art and science of sourdough and can bake just about anything with it! Learn from them (and my little crackers and bread cameos) in our sourdough eCourse.
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
Materials Needed:
  • clean glass jar or bowl (some say switch your jars every day; I use the same jar until it’s too caked with dried starter at the top to pour anymore.)
  • flour (whole wheat preferred in my opinion, but the method works with white, rye, etc.)
  • water, non-chlorinated (If you have city water, you should leave water out in a jar with the lid off so the chlorine will evaporate.)
  • spoon (some say don’t use a metal spoon; I’ve read that that’s outdated advice from when spoons were made of metal that would leach into the batter because of the acidity. I use whatever’s handy!)
  • napkin, cloth or coffee filter and rubber band to cover
  1. Pour some water into the jar. I used about a half cup and saved another half cup of potato water (see tips below) for the next sourdough feeding.
  2. Add an equal amount of flour and stir well.
  3. Cover your sourdough starter with cloth or napkin or coffee filter, secure with rubber band or canning ring. The starter needs to be open to the air to catch the yeast, yet safe from bugs and falling objects.
  4. Store your starter in a warm place, away from any other ferments you have going.
    1. One option is the oven with the light turned on. I didn’t believe that would work, I really didn’t! Just try it overnight and feel your jar for warmth. (Test the temperature of your oven first – some get a lot hotter than mine and would kill the starter – over 145F is too hot.)
  5. About every 12 hours or so, add more flour and water in equal parts. I only used 1/4 cup at a time, because I didn’t want my starter to get too big.
  6. Pour off the bit of liquid that separates and turns dark before “feeding” your sourdough its meal. (The liquid is called hooch, perhaps the closest a Mormon will get to beer on purpose?) ;)
  7. Once you consistently see bubbles in your sourdough starter, congratulations! You have captured yeast! Now you can get even lazier with your feedings.
  8. Feed your starter once daily, either equal parts flour and water or any grain you have – oatmeal, any flour, etc. Just a few Tablespoons will keep your starter happy until tomorrow. Some methods tell you to toss half your sourdough starter every time you feed. No way – no need to waste the flour!
  9. That said, your starter will be happier and have more rise if you do take out some very so often. You can make pancakes, pizza dough, crackers, or any number of baked goods that don’t need much rise, and you’ll be pruning your starter for a great, fluffy loaf of bread.
  10. I usually feed with water and flour at the beginning, then switch to just flour (as if I’m feeding a fish!) for a few days. Once the starter is really thick, I add water with my flour.
***If you’re not going to bake very often, store the starter in your fridge once it is well established (after about 2 weeks of feedings). Just remember to feed it some flour and water once a week, even if you’re not using it.

Tips for Success

Starter insurance? I toss a few extra goodies in my starter to ensure a successful final product:
  • You can start with potato or pasta cooking water. The added starch is a feast for the little beasties and attracts yeast faster. However, some say that starchy water is inviting the wrong kind of bacteria. Apparently you can start with some pineapple juice instead and that will keep it more sanitary.
  • You can toss in a few unwashed organic grapes. You know the white film on the surface of grapes? That’s “bloom” or natural yeast. Be sure to choose organic if you’re going to add the grapes to your sourdough starter, but they’re not necessary if you can’t find them (or they’re way too expensive to bother).
Warm spot? For a good warm spot, turn the oven on for just a minute or less, then put the starter inside with the light on. I wanted to make it easy on myself, so I waited until summer to start mine so that it wasn’t 64 degrees in my house.

Smell? The starter starts out smelling like flour and water, and as it progresses, there’s more of a sourdough tang to it. You can definitely tell something is happening! Sometimes it smells kind of icky, but don’t be concerned. That’s how it’s supposed to smell!

Time to grow? You betcha. A new starter takes time to “mature” before it’s ready for bread. I would recommend starting with pancakes, crackers, or a flatbread that won’t count on much rise the first few times you bake. That way you’re not setting yourself up for failure and doorstop-worthy loaves!

What to do with it?


Once you have a sourdough starter perking along, the baking world is yours, my friends. I remain amazed at all my teaching cohorts can make with their starters: tortillas, English muffins, cinnamon rolls, and pasta are only the beginning.

The best part is that now you can add one more thing to your list of “what to do with your 1,000 pounds of wheat?”!

Feed your sourdough starter.

If you’re hungry for more, you’re warmly invited to check out the Sourdough Online Cooking eCourse for 24 weeks of recipes and starter care techniques via PDF, video, and an interactive forum. Enrollment is open anytime, and the price is set at whatever you can afford. (More about “Pay What You Can”) Enroll now HERE.

Katie Kimball blogs at Kitchen Stewardship about the balance between your family’s nutrition, care for the environment, your crunched budget and your precious time…that is, when she’s not watching the bubbles in her sourdough starter or wondering why it seems flat.

PSSST! To find great deals on fun stuff to do in your area, go HERE!

OURS: Okay, it's your turn to link up and let us know what homemaking tips you have for us this week. Thanks for your visits and your links and have a great Homemaker Monday!


21st Century Housewife© said...

Thanks to Katie for a really interesting guest post! I learned a lot I didn't know about sourdough. And thank you so much for hosting!

a moderate life said...

Happy Monday! what a lovely article by Katie! She truly is a gifted home maker and writer! I too use sourdough and I love how it grows, but I also love to culture a lot of different things! My article today is a giveaway of tropical traditions virgin coconut oil, so stop on over if you love this healthy and nutritious oil! A full quart! Awesome! All the best, Alex@amoderatelife

Annie Kate said...

Thanks so much for mentioning Tea Time with Annie Kate! I love natural, health-giving ways of improving our looks! (Like the chicken/turkey soup recipe I linked up today.)

Thanks also for the sourdough article. I've got to research whether or not sourdough would cause problems since I have to avoid regular yeasts, cheeses, etc. Would you know?


Annie Kate

A Computer Mom - Allison said...

What a fabulous post. I received a starter once, and unfortunately killed it before I got to bake it up. I've always been too intimidated to start one for myself. Your post makes it doable for me