Megan's StoryLet's face it... bread is a major staple in most households. Most of us go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of pre-packaged bread, which by the way is ridiculously high priced now a days! Or you might opt for bread from the bakery.
I have always enjoyed making bread, it just takes some time. So I took a break, that is, until my youngest was diagnosed with food allergies and I took to reading labels. Do you know what half those ingredients are? You don't wanna know!
So for my sour dough bread fans... this is for you! A lovely recipe to use in ALL your favorite sourdough recipes!
warm water (110 degrees f)... make sure you allow your water to de-chlorinate. chlorine will kill the yeast. you can use bottled or spring water. or allow your tap water to sit out at room temp for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
(2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
all purpose flour (to get the best results, use a flour that is at least 50% wheat. i like bread flour best)
1Note for preparation:
You will want to use only a glass or ceramic container that can hold two to three quarts. No plastic or metal. Also, only a wooden spoon or rubber spatula or whisk to stir your starter.
The starter will expand as it ferments. This also helps you know that your starter is alive and thriving. Also, you will want to have a loose fitting lid, cheesecloth, or unbleached coffee filter to cover your container or bowl. I use a two quart glass measuring bowl to make and store my starter.
(If you will be freezing your starter @ any time, you will need to transfer to an airtight plastic storage container for freezing purposes only. Glass can shatter when frozen due to the build up of gasses from the fermentation process. When you want to use your starter again, thaw at room temp., put back in glass container and start feeding your starter.)
2To Begin Your Starter:
In your large clean glass bowl, add warm water, yeast and sugar. Whisk together well. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is bubbly.
Add the four and whisk well. Don't worry if there are clumps, they will dissolve.
Cover the container loosely with a lid, dish cloth, cheesecloth, or unbleached coffee filter & allow it to sit in a warm, draft-free place. I keep mine in a corner in my kitchen. Temps 100 degrees F or higher will kill the yeast.
** A loose fitting lid, coffee filter, cheese cloth or dish towel will allow wild yeasts to pass through into your batter and continue to grow making for a delicious sponge.
**The mixture will bubble as it ferments, you then know your starter is working and alive.
3Allow your starter to sit out for 2-4 days before beginning to feed it. Just stir it once a day with a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or rubber whisk. As the mixture ferments, it will rise in the container and fall. This is normal, and why it is important to use a two to three qt dish to allow room for expansion.
Do not allow any metal to come in contact with your batter as it ferments or as you "feed" it.
4Once your starter starts bubbling, (2-4 days, this process varies depending on conditions in your kitchen, heat, humidity, altitude etc.) it is time to start feeding it. You can generally tell it is ready when it develops a pleasant sour smell.
Feeding your Starter:
Before you use your starter for the first time, you will want to "feed" it. Remember your starter is a living thing, and needs to be fed to thrive. A good starter can last for years if well taken care of. (I once had one for over 2 years until I moved, and had to dispose of it)
To feed, remove one cup of batter. You can place this in a ziplock bag and give to a friend along with this recipe so they can start their own starter. (they will add one cup of flour and one cup of warm water, 110 degrees F, stir well and follow directions from here.) Or you can discard it, or freeze it for yourself for future use.
After you remove 1 cup of batter, you will replace the same amount you removed. So, add one cup of flour, and one cup of warm water, 110 degrees F. Whisk into batter. Cover loosely as above and allow to sit out to become active again.
** When feeding, you want to double the remaining batter whenever possible.
Your Starter is ready to use for baking your favorite sourdough recipes about 4 hours after feeding.
**I use for breads, rolls, pancakes, waffles, etc. I will post recipes that you can use this starter with.
5As a general rule of thumb, feed the starter daily, removing 3/4-1 cup of batter and replacing with the same amount of flour and water. (you can periodically add one teaspoon of sugar to tame your starter if it is a bit too sour for your taste). I do this once a week if I am feeding mine daily. Yeast feeds off of sugar, so it is a wonderful little "treat" for your starter.
As your starter sits, it is normal to gather some "Hooch," on the top. This is separation of the mixture and a liquid forms on top. It is the alcoholic by-product of the fermentation process. You can either pour it off, or mix it back in. If your batter is on the dry side, mix it back in. If it's too moist, pour it off. Your batter should remain the consistency of pancake mix. Regular feedings will reduce the amount of hooch that forms in your batter.
*** If your starter starts to get an "off" color, pinkish, toss it and start over. (The batter should remain the same color as the day you started it if well maintained.) This means something has contaminated your batter.
If leaving on counter and feeding daily, continue to do so.
If going on vacation, you can store the batter in the refrigerator with plastic wrap. I put mine in a plastic container. Leaving in a glass container can cause the container to shatter as gasses build up.
When you are ready to use, remove from refrigerator and allow it to come to room temp. (overnight is a good rule of thumb). Feed your starter, one cup warm water & one cup flour, and allow to sit out on counter for 6-8 hours until it is active. It is then ready to use. If storing in the refrigerator, you need to feed the starter every 2 weeks. If left in the refrigerator for a long period of time without using, but feedings have continued every 2 weeks, Allow it to sit out on counter and feed it 3-4 times to wake it up. (remove 3/4-1 cup of batter before feeding, then replace with equal amount of warm water & flour.)
**You can also freeze your starter. When I freeze mine, I put in an airtight container, as freezing will stop the fermentation process. Before use, proceed as directed as if it were in the refrigerator. I allow mine to sit out 2 days, then start feeding it & feed daily for 2 days to allow fermentation to take place before using for baking.
*** Avoid over mixing your batter, it reduces the gases in the batter that are needed for rising.
***It may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if you are doing daily feedings. But there is great pleasure in making and maintaining your own sour dough starter. So don't stress, just go with it. Have patience, and you can always start over if you need to.