Most people overthink sourdough – don’t!
Whether you are making a new starter from scratch or rehydrating a dehydrated version, Sourdough starter is delicious, hearty, versatile and rewarding!
WHAT IS IT AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that captures natural yeasts and bacteria in the air. The yeasts and bacteria eat the starch from the flour and produce gas (air bubbles!) which raise the bread or starter! Yeast is everywhere.
A healthy, fed and hardworking yeast cell can divide more than a dozen times providing the gas and the leavening needed to make doughs rise! Your starter can live indefinitely if properly taken care of.
WHY ISNT MY SOURDOUGH SOUR?
Naturally leavened breads are not all SOUR! This can be confusing to some when your starter culture has a milder aroma OR their bread comes out of the oven with a mild flavor.
Different variables such as humidity, air temperature, water, and flour types all play a role in how your culture will taste!
WHY IS EVERYTHING IN GRAMS?
Many baking recipes list their ingredients in grams because baking is a science and requires a specific formula. There are too many variables when measuring using a standard US measuring cup to ensure a consistent result. Kitchen scales should only cost you around $15 and will last for many years with proper care.
when feeding my sourdough starter I do not measure exactly or use my kitchen scale unless making a giant batch. I know the consistency that I prefer my starter at and I adjust my quantities from there.
THE THREE VERSIONS OF YOUR STARTER
This small portion is kept dormant in the refrigerator or active on the counter until you are ready to bake.
Get in the habit of feeding and replacing the mother before mixing your dough. You don’t want to accidently use it all in a dough and have to start your starter from scratch!
All of the remaining or leftover starter after the mother has been reserved and fed.
There are tons of great recipes that use discard starter as is! We bake 90% of our baked goods using sourdough discard.
Feeding all or a portion of your discard will give you an active starter!
Mix your dough when it doubles in size or reaches peak activity!
I keep my mother starter dormant in the refrigerator. When I am ready to use it, I remove it from the refrigerator, feed it and reserve a small scoop (~25-50g) to put back in the refrigerator for next time.
I like these 4 oz snapwear containers for my mother. It keeps any refrigerator smells/flavors out and the starter moist!
The remainder is “fed for baking”
Once the starter is “fed for baking” it goes to work eating the starches in the flour and essentially burping/farting gas which create air bubbles. Your active starter will continue to inflate in your jar over the course of several hours eventually hitting peak activity.
Once it runs out of starches to eat though, the yeast will slow down eating/burping/farting, and the starter will begin to deflate. Once it starts to deflate it becomes discard starter.
Different recipes call for different versions of starter! Be sure to pay attention to your recipe so you know when to use it!
Regardless of HOW your starter began (dehydrated, freeze dried, scratch or fresh) it will need care and maintenance in order to thrive!
HOW OFTEN DO I FEED IT?
For the average home baker your starter can be kept dormant in the refrigerator for months at a time – I try to feed it at least monthly but sometimes that doesn’t always work out!
If you bake daily or a few times a week you might want to keep your starter active at room temperature which would mean feeding daily or twice per day depending on the temperature of your home.
No matter what, keep your out of direct sunlight
Long slower rises helps develop more funk, sour flavors in the dough
HOW DO I STORE IT?
In a clean jar or other container with lid out of direct sunlight:
- On the counter – must be fed min. daily
- In the refrigerator – can be kept dormant for months at a time.
- Dehydrated – spread in a thin layer and allow to dry completely. Crumble and rehydrate following these instructions!
HOW TO FEED YOUR STARTER
THE MOTHER STARTER
WARM, NOT HOT WATER
CONTAINER FOR STORAGE
MIXING BOWL & RUBBER SPATULA
- Remove your starter from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for several hours – I like to take it out before work and feed in the evening. By this time your starter should have at least doubled in size.
- In a mixing bowl, combine your starter and water.
- Add the flour and stir to combine.
- Reserve a scoop immediately for the Mother – be sure to label and date it so you know when it was last fed!
- Fill your jar with the remainder, cover and refrigerate.
Add Mother starter to bowl.
You can keep the hooch (brownish/grey liquid on top) which will make it more sour or pour that off first.
Add water and mix until totally combined.
Add flour and mix until totally combined.
Reserve a scoop of the mixture to serve as the new mother. Label, date and return to refrigerator.
Fill the jar with the remainder and set aside on the counter to rise
The most wonderful thing about sourdough starter is that you don’t just have to bake!
Sure you will make your fair share of breads, crackers, and cookies but did you know that you can use it to make pasta, pancakes/waffles, tortillas and more?!
DID I KILL MY STARTER?
CAN BE SAVED
GREY/BROWN LIQUID ON TOP
That is the hooch! A sign that your starter is hungry and needs to be fed. This liquid will start out clear and get darker over time. It should have a sharp but pleasant smell like vinegar. It should not make you gag.
Stirring the hooch into the starter will result in a funkier or more sour starter. If you prefer a milder flavor or there is more than you want to mix in feel free to dump it out.
IT FROZE IN THE REFRIGERATOR
Starters are incredibly hardy when healthy. You starter can withstand periods of freezing without harm. It may take a couple of feedings to get it back to ideal strength but it won’t be dead!
USING METAL UTENSILS
This is an old wives tale. Metal bowls and stirring utensils are fine to use when mixing your starter and doughs.
Especially if kept dormant in the refrigerator, starters are incredibly hardy. It may take a couple of feedings to get it back to ideal strength but it won’t be dead!
Mold is a sign that your starter has been taken over by harmful bacteria and it should not be saved. It may appear in many colors including white, black, green, orange, or pink.
Yeast dies at 140 degrees farenheit. Keep out of direct sunlight! Do not store in the oven… you will forget about it.
Weeks on the counter or months in the refrigerator unfed will kill your starter. Aim to do at least a monthly check and feeding!
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEWEST ADDITION!
I won’t lie to you by saying that sourdough is easy. There is a steep learning curve due to the many variables that can affect the outcome. BUT, the rewards are worth the effort!
We love to see and hear about your adventures on your property, big or small! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram with @TheFryFarmette and #TheFryFarmette so we can cheer you on!