Starting a Sourdough: The Starter
“No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.” -Native American Proverb
Yes, it all starts with the starter. Sounds very obvious, doesn’t it? Well As you’ve read from the previous post, sourdough is a complicated culture of microbes and enzymes. The PH level and keeping a healthy amount of LAB or lactic acid bacteria. Do you really need to understand the science behind sourdough to make a starter? Well the short answer is no, throw some distilled water and flour in a jar and it will create a colony of microbes and you will get a starter. But I will say and fully recommend that by knowing and understanding the science behind it you will be able to figure out how to adjust your strater or create new starters and play with different tastes of loaves.
First things first, if you haven’t read my first post sourdough 101, do so now. That post is an excellent introduction to what a colony of microbes does and how different enzymes feed off each other. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to start your own starter.
Starting a starter:
All you need is flour and water. Keep adding more flour and water every day for 14 days then you are ready to bake! Keep your sourdough in a jar and on your counter for those 14 days of feeding it, with a cover on such as a cheesecloth or coffee filter with a rubber band. It sounds simple but keeping the active culture alive is all in the purity of the distilled water, the temperature that you keep it at and so much more, for some reason not under your control. Just keep to a timely schedule every day and you will find success.
Maintaining your starter:
A good starter all depends on how often you “feed” it. If you leave out your sourdough on the counter, feeding it every day is the best approach. Most keep their starter in the fridge and feed the starter once a week and make a loaf once a week. If keeping it in the fridge let your sourdough come to room temperature before taking it out of the jar. Put water and flour in a bowl, then add some starter to that and the rest of the starter can be used for whatever you want: a loaf, crackers, give it away to someone, anything.
For some play with flavor, you can take the extra starter, add some herbs or flavors and dry it on a silicone mat or baking sheet and create a powder. A sourdough powder is good to add to a loaf to add a bit of extra flavor and texture. You can even put it into other things from cakes to mashed potatoes. How it works is to put some flavor such as black currents or charcoal, or mint, or paprika into the starter, then lay it thinly on a flat surface and let it air dry for 3 to 7 days, and then grind up into a powder. Keep in a jar for up to 6 weeks.
Types of sourdough:
There are different kinds of sourdough. Below I have instructions for white flour. But you can play with different flours and get different flavors. White flour will give the sourdough a sweet yogurt-like flavor. Rye flour will give a deeper sour flavor while whole wheat flavor will give a more malt beer flavor, slightly sweet. You may want to try adding chocolate to your starter which will give a tangy, fruity flavor to the sourdough. Whichever flavor you choose the process is the same.
Find a step-by-step instructions below and keep baking!
Ingredients for Starter
113g distilled water
110g white all-purpose flour
What you will need:
A couple of mixing bowls
24 oz Jar (non-canning mason jar) with attached lid
Instructions for Starting a Starter:
Measure with a scale, (for accuracy), 113g of water into a mixing bowl. Zero out the scale and add 110g of flour. Mix together well.
Place this mixture in a clean jar and cover with a cloth (Note: do not use the lid on the jar, the yeast comes through the air and needs a porous surface to get through). Leave on a counter for 24 hours.
At the same time the next day, remove the starter from the jar and place in a mixing bowl. Rinse the jar out with water, DO NOT use soap.
Feed your starter: put 113g of water in a SEPARATE mixing bowl from your starter. Add 110g of flour and mix the two well (Note: mixing the water and flour separately first ensures that they are both well incorporated).
Next, measure 113g of the starter that was started the day before. Mix in well, and discard whatever is left. (Note: you will not be able to use this discard because it has not developed enough yeast).
Put back into the clean jar and cover again to rest for 24 hours.
Repeat steps 3-6 for 13 more days, for a total of 14 days (your first day is technically day 0). After the 14th day, enough yeast and other bacteria have developed to create a healthy loaf.
Instructions for Feeding a Starter:
If you keep your starter in the fridge, with the lid slightly covering it, then only feed your starter once every week.
If you keep your starter on the counter at room temperature, then you will need to do this process every day.
Let your starter come to room temperature (if it has been in the fridge).
Take out your starter and place it in a mixing bowl, clean out the jar with water.
In a separate mixing bowl combine 113g of distilled water and 110g of flour and mix well.
Then add 113g of starter to this mixture and combine.
Discard the rest of the starter, or use this to bake or feed it to share your starter with others.