Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Part II

Yup, we're back talking about yeast again. Are you ready? It's going to be a good time.

I began my own sourdough starter after Dan made a request for fresh bread. I flipped through some of my recipes from school, but so many of the ones I wanted to make needed a starter. At school, we simply went down the hall to the Bread kitchen and pilfered some of theirs. Clearly without this convenience I just couldn't proceed. Until Dan of course suggested I just make my own. Always thinking, that one.

So I did a little research and that's what I did!

I chose to use some active dry yeast to get things started. It's important to use a container that is big enough so your starter doesn't overflow, and also to use something either glass or ceramic (no plastic or metal). I used a casserole dish, probably 4-5 quarts in volume. I mixed all the ingredients together, getting something similar to bubbly pancake batter, covered it with a dishtowel and left it to rest out of the way on top of the fridge. And that was it. Simple enough.

 Day 1, Just Mixed

About 24 hours later, I took down the dish for a peek. Something was definitely happening. It smelled strongly of alcohol, very similar to beer. There was a lot of liquid floating on top. This alcoholic by-product is called Hooch and is totally normal. You have two choices: you can either stir it back into your starter, or pour it out. I gave mine a stir and saw that the whole mixture was very wet, so I poured some of the hooch down into the sink. And back onto the fridge it went, still covered with a dishtowel.

 Day 2

The next day, Day 3, the starter looked basically the same. More Hooch had accumulated, so again, I poured it away. This time though, I replaced the lost amount with additional flour and warm water, a cup of each. Again, I gave everything a stir and put it back in its resting place.

 Day 3

On day four, I forgot to take a picture. But it looked basically the same as day three. The process was essentially the same as well. Poured off the hooch, replaced it with flour and warm water. This was the day that Dan chimed in about the smell.

"It smells like warm beer."
Does that smell different than cold beer?
"It's like day old beer. Like 'wounded soldier.' You can quote me on that."

A "wounded soldier," for all of you who don't live in a frat house, is a half-empty beer left over from the night before that's been sitting out on the coffee table/kitchen counter/front porch and is thus, room temperature and completely flat.

On Day 5, I made bread. Don't worry, that post will be coming soon!

Sourdough Starter


2 cups AP flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)

1. Choose a container that is made of either glass or ceramic. Be sure it is thoroughly clean and that it can hold at least 2 quarts.
2. Mix together the flour, sugar, and yeast. Stir in the warm water, forming a thin paste. No need to get all the lumps out. Cover with a dishcloth and place in a draft-free area that stays around 70-80 degrees F.
3. For the next four or five days, stir your starter once a day. It will start to look bubbly, which means the yeast is feeding and giving off carbon dioxide (good!). Once this happens, you can start feeding your starter.
4. Pour off any excess liquid or Hooch (or stir it back into the starter if your starter is a little dry).
5. If you choose to continue to store your starter at room temperature, it must be fed daily. Remove one cup of starter and replace it with one cup of warm water and one cup of flour. Keep covered with a dishtowel.
6. If you choose to transfer your starter to the fridge after the initial 4-5 day period, if must be fed twice a month. When you are ready to use a refrigerated starter, first let it sit at room temperature over night. Feed it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water and again, let it sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. Then, it is ready to use!

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