Sourdough Bread Starter
Since a lot of people were interested in my sourdough bread shenanigans, I thought I would teach you guys how to make your own starter. It’s going to take a few days to get going, and I still need more in the works pictures before the actual post, so I’m giving you this info now.
Why do I need a starter? I have powdered yeast at home.
Because that is the difference that makes sourdough bread unique! The yeast granules you get at the store were developed more military use in WWII, for rations for the soldiers, then sometime in the 1970s is when instant yeast was discovered. These yeasts work very, very quickly in comparison to wild yeast, which is why so many people prefer them now. The downside to this is, the yeast doesn’t get a chance to break down the grains as well, which means you aren’t getting all of the nutrients, and if you’re like me you can have a hard time digesting wheat. If you think you might be gluten intolerant because bread and wheat products are tough on your digestive system, it may be the wheat itself and sourdough might work for you. Just another possibility for you to look into. :)
Wild yeast takes several hours to rise, so making bread is an all day event. That being said, it’s more like, you do something, then leave it alone for 3 hours. Flip it a few times every 30 minutes for 3 hours, then let it sit for 4 more hours. That sort of stuff. This also means no hard kneading, since the gluten has time to develop on its own during the rise. (As a spoonie I cried of joy.) The fermentation from the yeast’s waste is what gives the bread the sour taste, and lets the grain develop all sorts of deep flavors.
Now that you know why, let’s get to how!
-a glass jar,
-some flour (I use unbleached all purpose and whole wheat, there’s others you can use, but all purpose is the least finicky)
-distilled water (you can use your tap, but if it’s having trouble switch, sometimes there’s minerals in water that mess with the yeast).
Do not use any metal utensils on the yeast until it’s started up. Wood or plastic only. After it’s strong the metal won’t be a problem.
In your jar, mix together 4 ounces in weight of both water and flour. This comes out to about ¾ cup all purpose flour, and ½ cup of water. It doesn’t have to be exact. What you are going for is like a thickish pancake batter. If you’re using a whole grain you’ll need to use a closer ration of flour/water since it absorbs more. Depending on the humidity of your kitchen, you could need to adjust as well. My advice is you add a little bit of flour at a time, instead of dumping it all in at once. Cover loosely, enough to keep dust & bugs out but open enough for it to breathe. A flour sack towel is good, or you can use one of those sandwich bags over the top of the jar. Store somewhere with a consistent temp between 60-78 ish Fahrenheit. 70-75 is ideal, but my house is always colder. Don’t let it get put by the oven when it’s on, or you risk the chance of killing it
Pull down your jar. You might already start to see some bubbles, and this is good! That’s the yeast eating. It’s fine if you don’t see any activity yet though. I suppose now is the time is to tell you that not to be concerned about any icky bacteria - the yeast keeps the mix too acidic for anything nasty to grow. You’ll want to vigorously mix in the same amounts of flour and water as you did yesterday, then recover it, and put it back in the spot you found for it.
Check you starter, it should have bubbles all along the surface by now, and it should seem bigger than what it was when you put it up yesterday. It’s going to smell sour and musty as well (Mine was almost like a weird fruity smell for awhile!). Add in the same proportions of flour to water as you have before, you’ll probably hear little bubbles popping and smacking while you vigorously stir. Cover it, put it back in it’s place.
The starter should be very bubbly, and will have doubled in volume (or, you’ll evidence on the sides of the jar that it grew and then deflated). If you stir it, it’s going to feel loose, and it’ll smell yeasty. Add the same proportions of flour and water as before. Stir until smooth, it’ll look silky. It honestly reminds me so much of the fake slime some people use for stimming? Cover it, put it up until tomorrow.
Check the starter - if it’s entirely webbed with bubbles, smells acidy, yeasty, and “fresh”. It’s safe to taste - which it should be sour. If it all looks good, congratulations! Your starter is ripe and ready to make a leaven with. Those instructions will come in a further post. If you see activity, but it doesn’t seem done yet, continue with the maintenance instructions that will follow daily. If there is no activity at all something is wrong and you will need to troubleshoot and start over entirely.
At this point the starter is too large too effectively feed anymore, so you’ll need to use or throw away half of the batter. Save half, then feed with the proportions you established when you started it. Do this daily for as long as the starter is on the counter.
If the starter is established, but it’s going to be awhile before you bake, place in the refrigerator and feed weekly. You’ll want to remove it 2-3 days before baking and follow daily maintenance directions.
Note: If at any point your start develops a dark liquid on top, don’t freak out! This is called hooch, and it is alcohol waste leftover from the yeast feeding. It just means your starter is hungry and needs to be fed more often, or you need to reduce the batter more before feeding. Poor off the liquid if there’s a ton, then feed.
Obviously this makes a lot of starter, and with you only needing about ¼ cup for two loaves of bread, it can seem wasteful. The good thing, is that you can use the starter batter mixed into any pancake or muffin dough, you just won’t need leavener (baking soda/powder). I also plan to write posts with alternative recipe ideas. Last night I prepped cinnamon rolls with extra starter and let them rise overnight. Baked them in the morning and they’re amazzzzzing. I’m going to have plenty for other experiments. Also, if a friend or family member wants a starter, just give them your extra starter in a jar with some feeding directions. :)
As far as the magick side of it, there’s a whole lot you can do as a kitchen witch during all steps of these processes. As someone who talks to her houseplants I found myself treating the starter like a little pet and being affectionate towards it. My first loaf was picture perfect, and I’d like to think this might have been why. ;)
When we get to the bread, I’ll explain how to enchant the bread with a specific purpose when you make it. As far as the starter is concerned, I would do something generic if anything since you’ll be (theoretically) growing this one specimen your whole life. I focused on strength and health of the starter itself, to make sure that it could make wonderful bread.