Monday, October 20, 2008

Sourdough Starter

Once you learn about the health benefits of sourdough, the health conscious will appreciate how simple it really is to bake with once you get past the whole mystery of the "starter". Baking will, however, take a little longer than it used to because this is natural yeast.

Getting a starter (this is the term for a soupy, living mixure of flour and water that you store in your fridge) that is tried and true from a friend is preferable for most. But what if you don't have a friend with a 'pet' in their fridge? It's easy to start your own starter. For the simplest way to do this look here. While you're waiting to create life on your counter, you can check out this site that has videos for using your sourdough starter. I love that guy - it just shows that technology allows us to share great stuff with so many people.

Let me tell you how I care for our starter as you will find everyone has their own way or technique. I like simple. Simple is good. We (I mean me) feed our starter a lot because we use it several times a week. How much I feed it depends on how much I need. The bottom line is equal parts whole wheat flour and water. You must feed your starter once a week at a minimum otherwise it will starve. This minimum can be 1/4 flour and 1/4 cup water. WHEN you forget to feed Fred (you can call your starter what you want), it will turn a grayish color. I've brought Fred back from death in the early days, just feed it to bring it back to life.

Before feeding your starter you will notice there is usually a layer of liquid on the top of your jar. Pour this out into the sink. This is called the 'hooch' - don't drink it. After the hooch is poured off, dump in your flour and water and stir with a long handled spoon and return your starter to your fridge.

How soon can you use it after a feeding? I usually will feed it a few hours before I plan to use it. The look of the surface of the starter should look bubbly - note the difference in the look of your starter at different stages and you will soon be an expert.

Keep your starter in a jar or container with a lid. The lid should be slightly loose. That's why I use the jars shown in the picture above, they are not air tight. Little T. helped to show the height of our jars in the photo by using a tape measure so you can get an idea of how much starter we keep on hand, I try to keep the jar as full as possible. The jar on the left has the amount I am left with after baking 2 loaves of bread, 2 pizzas, muffins and pancakes. When I use a large quanitity of starter at one time, this is when I will pour the remaining starter into a clean new jar and start the process over.

Use your starter for:

Sourdough Pancakes

Sourdough Pizza

Sourdough Bread

Please leave me a post if you have questions. Sometimes I miss the obvious.

Enjoy the day - Wonderwoman