Making & Maintaining Sourdough Starter
I have wanted to learn how to make my own sourdough starter and bread for a very long time. Probably since I learned that sourdough bread without added yeast is low FODMAP. In September, I finally decided to put my money where my mouth is and I bought a starter from King Arthur’s Flour located in Norwich Vermont. I heard great things about the company and particularly about their sourdough starter. Plus, the idea of making and maintaining sourdough starter seemed daunting to me so I thought buying it would increase my chances of success. I was able to get it going and baked a loaf of bread from it, which was incredibly exciting but then somehow I killed it and could not revive my starter. After reading and asking a lot of questions, I learned that I made a couple of missteps that probably led to the demise of my short-lived hearty sourdough starter. This included, using too much flour (weighing your flour and water is the best method), using cold water from the tap (filtered water at room temperature is better), and where I placed my culture (above the refrigerator is a good trick especially on cold New England days).
However, this experience gave me enough confidence to try and make sourdough starter culture from scratch, which was my real goal. After keeping the culture alive for a month and baking many delicious loaves, I can happily say, I finally did it. The starter recipe I found is very simple and easy and perfect for busy people who still want to make their own bread. Below is my condensed version but you can find the full recipe with pictures, details, and tips at kitchn.com.
1. 4 ounces or 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons if you do not have a scale of all-purpose flour
– Optional: a mix of all-purpose and whole grain flour
2. 4 ounces or 1/2 cup if you do not have a scale of water, preferably filtered at room temp
– Tip: I keep a bottle of filtered water on top of my refrigerator next to my starter
– 2-quart glass or plastic container (not metal)
– Scale (highly recommended) or measuring cups (metal is fine)
– Mixing spoon (not metal)
– Clean kitchen towel. You can use plastic wrap but I aim to be zero waste when I can
About 5 minutes a day for 5 days. The first day it took me about 20 minutes to figure things out but I got the hang of it eventually, which made it go faster. On Day 5, you should be able to start baking bread.
Each morning weigh the flour and water, and combine them in the container. Stir, making sure to scrape down the sides, and loosely cover the container with a clean kitchen towel secured with a rubber band or plastic wrap. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.
How the batter will look each day (Descriptions from ktichn.com):
Day 2: You may see a few small bubbles here and there. At this point, the starter should smell fresh, mildly sweet, and yeasty. If you don’t see any bubbles yet, don’t panic — depending on the conditions in your kitchen, the average room temperature, and other factors, your starter might just be slow to get going.
Day 3: The surface of your starter should look dotted with bubbles and your starter should look visibly larger in volume. If you stir the starter, it will still feel thick and batter-like, but you’ll hear bubbles popping. It should also start smelling a little sour and musty. If your starter doesn’t look like this, give it a few more days.
Day 4: The starter should be looking very bubbly with large and small bubbles, and it will have doubled in volume. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and honeycombed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste sour and somewhat vinegary.
Day 5: It should have doubled in bulk since yesterday. By now, the starter should also be looking very bubbly — even frothy. If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and be completely webbed with bubbles. It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent. You can taste a little too! It should taste even more sour and vinegary. If everything is looking, smelling, and tasting good, you can consider your starter ripe and ready to use.
Maintaining Your Starter (Taken from kitchn.com):
Once your starter is ripe (or even if it’s not quite ripe yet), you no longer need to bulk it up. To maintain the starter, discard (or use) about half of the starter and then “feed” it with new flour and water: weigh the flour and water, and combine them in the container with the starter. Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter.
If you’re using the starter within the next few days, leave it out on the counter and continue discarding half and “feeding” it daily. If it will be longer before you use your starter, cover it tightly and place it in the fridge. Remember to take it out and feed it at least once a week — I also usually let the starter sit out overnight to give the yeast time to recuperate before putting it back in the fridge.