Good morning everyone,
I love sourdough. I’ve loved it since I made my first starter at the age of 17 (couple of week back that was…) Sourdough bread, sourdough biscuits, sourdough dumplings… it really doesn’t matter what form the sourdough takes, I’m all for it. Of course, if I indulged as much as I would like, I wouldn’t be able to move any longer… so, as with everything, it’s all about the moderation.
Sourdough bread isn’t hard to find commercially but it’s rarely the same as homemade.
To make sourdough bread, biscuits, dumplings and the like you need to have a good sourdough starter. There are a lot of sourdough starter recipes available on the internet. Some of them call for really odd ingredients. Sourdough though, is fermented flour (any kind of flour will do – I use wheat flour and rye flour). The fermentation process grows the natural yeasts and bacteria in the flour, which in turn provide for the sour flavour and some leavening of your sourdough. For fermentation to occur, all you need is moisture and time. You don’t need anything else.
Use non-chlorinated water for the starter because water treated with chlorine or other chemicals (meant to keep our drinking supply clean) will kill of the yeast and bacteria in the flour.
Day 1 (morning): In a large jar (1.5 – 2 litre), blend together 3 tablespoons of non-chlorinated water with 1/3 cup flour (any type of flour but if using whole grain or whole wheat, add a little more water). Leave the lid slightly ajar, to allow some air into the mixture or cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth.
Day 1 (evening) and every 12 hours after that for a week: Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup non-chlorinated water to the jar. Using a wire whisk, whip up the starter mixture to allow air into the mix.
Store the jar in a warm area away from drafts. The starter will roughly double in size each time you feed it, so you need a very large jar. If you run out of room, you can remove some of the starter (use it to make a second starter to gift to a friend, if you like, or make yourself some sourdough biscuits).
Day 8: You can begin to use the starter now. Yay! Continue feeding your starter once a day (1/2 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of non-chlorinated water) if you cook with it frequently. If you cook with it less frequently, you can store the starter in the refrigerator, in a closed jar. To use it, take it out, let it come to room temperature, and feed the starter at least 12 hours before you plan to use it. Pour off any hooch that appears on the starter (this is a brownish liquid that is harmless).
If hooch develops regularly, you are adding too much water for the amount and type of flour. Some flours will require less. Simply reduce the water you use by one tablespoon until the hooch development stops.
Remember to feed your starter at least once a week if refrigerated. This will maintain the sourdough.
You can mix flours in the sourdough, if you like, but avoid flours that contain anything but cereal grains (i.e. flax seeds, and flours made from beans and peas). These flours and seeds ferment quite differently than grain flours and can spoil your starter.
If you are going to store your starter in the refrigerator for longer periods of time between uses, lower the hydration of the starter (i.e. add more flour to the mix). This will thicken the starter and help it hold up to refrigeration. Usually, I will add about 3/4 cup of flour to the hydrated starter described above, whisked in very well, before closing my jar and putting it in the refrigerator.
If you wait too long between feedings, your starter may be revived. Pour off any hooch that has developed. Bring the starter to room temperature. Feed the starter (1/2 cup of flour with 1/3 cup of non-chlorinated water) every twelve hours until it comes alive again.
If a mold or fungus develops on your starter, you can carefully remove it and start feeding it again or toss it and start again. If mold develops on my rye starter, which is very rare, I never try to remove it but instead toss it and start again. The mold is likely from contamination by some sort of food or even soap and not the flour but with rye, I always get paranoid about ergot (a fungus that attacks rye and can cause hallucinations).
If your starter does not revive by day 3 of an attempt to revive it… it probably isn’t going to happen and you’ll need to start again.
Until next time,
Peace and love,