Ahhh cultures. I love you so. I started making sourdough about a year ago. Since then I have learned a lot. I always wanted to have my own sourdough starter and make my own sourdough bread. I used to make yeasted bread on occasion. But then I watched a couple documentaries on food: Cooked, Hungry for Change, Food Inc. and I learned a lot. Some things that made may say yuck! and some that made me say hmmm… I also found a show I loved called Chef’s Table. I was committed!
I loved the science of sourdough, but also the health benefits. Lets be honest- sourdough bread is delicious, airy holes, crispy crust. But did you know it is actually easier for you body to digest sourdough? It makes total sense to me and I geeked out watching the above shows. The sourdough ferments and during that process the grain proteins and gluten change through chemical interactions, mind blown, human guts digest sourdough much easier than commercial yeasted dough. Also, there are so many things you can make with sourdough! I never even knew!
A sourdough starter is made of flour and water. You can make your own, but if you are lucky you can get one from a friend. If you make your own it can take a while to develop a really good sour tangy culture. I got mine from a loving friend and a secret source.
Now, if you make your own, which I have not done- you should look at someone else’s blog. But if you have a friend who has one (yes friends, I will share mine) then just ask.
My starter lives in a quart sized wide mouth ball jar. She likes it. I refer to her as a her, because she is the mother. She lives in the refrigerator most of the time. I take her out once a week regardless of whether I am baking or not and feed her. Each time I feed her I add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup warm water. I use a fork and stir stir stir until she is smooth and silky.
Starters can live on your counter, but you have to feed them more often or they die. Because people, they are alive! Its easier for my life if I keep mine in the fridge. I take it out the night before or morning of the day I make the dough. This is always the day before I bake, because sourdough takes time. It really is not a finicky process, if you plan ahead.
If I am feeding her for maintenance and the jar doesn’t seem to be overfull. I put her back in the fridge after a few hours. She needs the room temperature for eating. If I am baking with her then I take out however much I need, sometimes I have to feed in another bowl if I need a lot of ripe starter for a recipe.
Now how do you know that you have an active or a ripe starter? Look for bubbles. I often know mine is ready when my jar overflows. Oops. It should smell tangy- in a good way, but not pungent. You need your starter to be ripe otherwise your bake will not rise. This is your leaven.
As a rule of thumb. When you feed your starter and mix it well, you should be able to stand a fork up in it. It should not be a liquid, but also not the consistency of dough.