Welcome to the fascinating world of sourdough! There is something special about taking a bubbling starter, flour, and water and creating a crusty light loaf of bread. Here are a few helpful tips I have gleaned on my own personal sourdough journey! Hopefully this will answer questions you have about sourdough starter.
Sourdough starter can be made using flour and water. Many experienced bakers will tell you the best success is by getting a mature starter from a friend or online. An inexperienced baker will not know what a good starter should look or even smell like. A new starter works well for pizza, waffles, pancakes, crackers, and noodles but will not be strong enough to rise 100% whole grain bread. A mature starter will hold up in refrigeration without being feed for weeks whereas a new starter will starve much quicker and weaken by refrigeration.
Starter can be purchased from www.kingarthurflour.com , Cultures for Health and I will include a small jar of mature sourdough starter free with the purchase of a cookbook. You can also request a jar of starter for the cost of $6.00 for shipping/packing by emailing me.
If you really want to make a starter–here are day by day, step by step instructions on making a starter. It is fascinating to watch the starter mature and begin to make wonderful loaves of bread.
Feeding your starter: Starter that is stored at room temperature needs to be fed daily and is much better if fed twice a day, especially in hot weather. Feeding the correct ratio is extremely important. The proper ratio is 1 part starter–1 part-flour–2/3 part water. So if you have 1/2 cup starter you will feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Do not use chlorinated water to feed your starter as that can weaken and kill the starter. The day before I want to make bread I will take 1/2 cup of starter and feed it 3 times, morning, lunchtime, and just before I go to bed*
The reason I only use 1/2 cup is that the starter doubles every time it is fed. In a short time you will end up with gallons of starter if you are not careful. Starter that is fed properly will have a sweet yeasty smell and will rise to a peak and hold that peak for hours without deflating. Notice the thickness of the starter below—I have much better success in making bread with a thicker starter. Also, take note of the strands of gluten.
If you have received a small jar of starter from me, this is how you will feed it. In your jar is 1 tablespoon of starter–feed it 1 tablespoon flour and 2 teaspoons water. At the next feeding you will have around 1/4 cup starter, feed it 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons water. Each feeding you feed your starter with the same amount of flour as you have starter and a little less water. As you can see, your starter multiplies rapidly. That is one of the reason I store my starter in the fridge and only feed it a day or two before I want to make bread.
Storing your starter: Starter can be kept in the fridge until you are ready to bake with it than *feed as stated above. I store the starter in a glass quart jar or my favorite — a Pampered Chef Glass Measuring bowl. Starter that is stored in the fridge may get a watery, tan liquid on top and a strong smell. This liquid is called a hooch and means your starter is hungry or starving. Pour off the hooch and feed it adding a bit more water if needed. You may find that the starter rise and falls in a short time. That is because it is extremely hungry and eating through its food rapidly.
This starter was in my fridge for 4 months without being fed. Take note of the dark colored hooch. Read about how I activated this starter–Can I save this starter? — and see the nice loaf of bread it made after being fed a few times.
You may store your starter in the fridge for weeks without feeding. To reactivate it, remove from fridge and feed it numerous times. You may notice that it falls much quicker than normal the first time you feed it. That is because it is very hungry and eating through its food rather quickly.
Your starter should not get moldy but if it does it is a sign of contamination. If it is surface mold, use a spoon to scrape of the top layer. With another clean spoon get a teaspoon of starter from the bottom of the jar that is free of mold. Place it into a clean container and continue to feed it.
Do you wonder at time what kind of flours can be used for sourdough to keep it on plan? This blog post–Understanding Sourdough Bread— explains the ingredients you may find on sourdough recipes.
Sourdough starter is actually very forgiving and not as temperamental as some folks think. So have a try at it–I hope you love it as much as I do.
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You will find many recipes using sourdough starter in the spiral bound 600+ page Around the Family Table Cookbook. All recipes are sugar-free and label with the correct fuel. This book is not affiliated with THM but was inspired and formulated following the THM guidelines. Books can be purchased using this link. You may also request a small jar of sourdough starter with the purchase of a cookbook.