Sourdough Success Pt 1

I’ve been really kind of floored lately by the price of bread in the grocery stores. I knew I was going to end up paying more for the brand that doesn’t use high fructose corn syrup and uses decent ingredients but I had no idea it would be $5+ per loaf. That’s kind of ridiculous to me. I’m constantly on a quest to find a recipe for a sandwich bread that holds up for the week but I’m still not there yet. So when I came across a post on King Arthur Flour’s blog that gave very detailed instructions on how to start and maintain a sourdough starter, I thought I’d better learn because a rustic loaf of bread like sourdough keeps sturdy and fresh for longer than plain sandwich loaves do. I’m happy to report that I have successfully kept that starter alive for about a month now and am weekly reaping all the delicious benefits from it. It turns out that paying attention to your starter and feeding it like it should be fed and not sticking it in the back of the fridge and forgetting about it equals amazing pancakes, waffles, breads, buns, etc. Who knew?

Creating Your Own Sourdough Starter
instructions from King Arthur Flour  

Starting the starter is easy. Mix 1 cup whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of non chlorinated, cool water in a plastic, glass, or stainless steel bowl. Stir everything together well and make sure no dry flour remains. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temp for 24 hours. I started this on a day when my house was still cold (it’s still getting down to about 25-30 degrees here) so I ended up putting my bowl on top of the fridge so the ambient heat from the appliance could keep my bowl warmer than my countertop could.

On the second day, whether it’s bubbling or not (mine was), remove half the starter (about 4 ounces worth) and add in a scant cup of unbleached all purpose flour. Pour in another half cup of water and mix everything together. Cover it again and let it sit room temp for another 24 hours.

By day 3, your starter ought to be bubbling and showing some expansion. For days 3, 4 and 5, you’ll need to feed it twice a day. At this point, instead of throwing away my discard, I started putting it in a plastic container and sticking it in the fridge. This discard is what I used for pancakes, waffles, buns, etc. For each twice a day feeding, take out about a 1/2 cup of starter, either toss it or keep it in another location. Stir in another scant cup of AP flour with 1/2 cup water. Mix together again, cover, and let your starter rest for 12 hours before feeding again. I kept a schedule of feeding at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for those three days. If you want to keep the starter at room temp for longer, you have to keep up the twice a day feeding. After a week, I made a batch of bread (recipe will be in another post), fed it again, let it sit overnight, then popped it in the fridge. Once you put it in the fridge, you only have to feed it once a week instead of twice a day. If the starter has been stored in the fridge, the day or night before you want to make your bread, take it out, remove the standard amount and discard (or put somewhere else), feed the starter as usual, cover and let it sit for 6-8 hours at room temp. Then use the freshly fed starter for your bread recipe. If there is any confusion with these instructions, please visit the King Arthur Flour link up there. They made the process extremely clear and easy to understand and I am having great success with their recipes. There are so many incredibly delicious things you can make out of your starter. I’ve been using the rustic loaves for work day lunches and the texture holds up so much better than my homemade sandwich sliced bread plus there is a lot of flavor you just don’t get with plain white bread. The discard you use at first won’t be as sour as typical sourdough, but as you remove some from the active starter each week in order to re-feed it, the taste becomes more pronounced and delicious.  It’s such a simple process and yeast baking is so satisfying (and making your own bread at home is far better for you than buying a loaf of Wonder Bread at the grocery store) that I really urge everybody to get a starter going and start baking.

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