I decided to do an experiment with my two sourdough starters. My one starter as some of you know, is 6+ years old, has made many beautiful loaves of bread and has been sent all over the US, Canada, and even into Mexico. This starter is strictly fed with King Arthur Bread flour. The other starter is only 4 weeks old; was started and has been fed with a mixture of half King Arthur Bread flour and half white whole wheat flour commonly known as Prairie Gold Flour. There is a day to day blog post when I started this starter with pictures and detailed instructions.
Yesterday morning I mixed two loaves of No-Knead Sourdough Bread Dough using my new starter for one loaf and my mature starter for the other loaf. I did 3 sets of stretch and folds before I had to leave for a few hours. I refrigerated the dough in separate containers for 5 hours. When I returned, I removed the dough from their bowls, and did another set of stretch and folds. The bowls of dough where then returned to the fridge until the next morning. Since I only have one clay baker, I baked the mature starter loaf first, then allowed the clay baker to cool to room temperature before baking the other loaf. I baked the loaves as stated in the recipe and was well rewarded twice when I lifted the lid of my clay baker. Both loaves rose almost identical and look very much the same. When you slice the loaves, the loaf with the mature starter is just a bit lighter in color. The texture and flavor are fantastic in both. The key I have found to a nicely baked loaf is a well maintained and well fed thick starter. It does pay to take note of your starter throughout the day after you feed it. If the starter rises and falls in a short time so will you bread dough. The starter should rise and hold its peak for at least 6 hours to make a successful loaf of bread. Through trial and error I have discovered that a thick starter makes a much better loaf of bread than a thin starter.
This experiment was really interesting to me. My new starter in being fed twice a day at the current time. I only feed 1/4 cup and reserve the remaining discard starter in a jar in the fridge. It is being used to make pancakes, waffles, biscuits, or anything that using an additional leavening agent like baking powder and baking soda. I find that by feeding a smaller amount I dont have as much discard and I can get a very active starter by feeding it with the ratio of 1 part starter, 1 part flour, and 2/3 part water. If I have a container of 3 cups starter and feed it that ratio I will have a huge amount of starter that is still developing/maturing. I hope that this experiment will show you that you can make a active starter with minimal effort and produce a lovely loaf of bread when it is 4 weeks old. Below are more blog posts on sourdough starter and bread baking.
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You will find many more recipes in the spiral bound 600+ page Around the Family Table Cookbook. All recipes are sugar-free and label with the correct fuel. Books can be purchased using this link. I do send small jars of mature sourdough starter at your request and I ask that you cover the cost of shipping/packing. PM me if you would like to receive a small jar of mature starter. You may also request a small jar of free sourdough starter with the purchase of a cookbook. Buy It Now.