I have made sourdough starter many times. I have had varied amounts of success with it. I first made it using a little yeast to get it going because I just could not believe that you could create a starter that would raise bread without yeast. That worked fine, and I made a few different recipes with it before I forgot about it and it died.
Then I read Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions and tried her recipe. It used rye flour and a daily maintenance of pouring the starter into a bowl, feeding it and pouring into a clean jar. I did have success with my starter and my bread, no yeast added. But eventually my starter turned a yucky color and smelled bad.. and I tossed it and I guess I tossed my enthusiasm for sourdough with it. Plus it seemed like a big hassle to change out the jar every day.. life is too busy for stuff like that.. at least for me.. :)
Well, last week I was doing some bread baking and thought.. I want to try a sourdough starter again. This time I started very basic. I mixed a ½ cup whole wheat flour, and a ½ cup white flour with one cup warm water.
I put it in a 2qt. canning jar and put some cheesecloth on the top secured with a rubber band and said.. lets just see what happens… I also did not bother with changing it out to a new jar each day. I just added the flour and water every day to the jar.
I was actually shocked to see that in 24 hours my starter was bubbly and smelled somewhat fermented.. I was encouraged to say the least. Each day for the next 5 days I fed it a ¼ cup whole wheat flour, ¼ cup white flour and a ½ cup warm water. I kept it in a warm spot and it bubbled away and continued to do its thing.
Five days after I began I decided it was time to make bread. I began by pouring my starter into a bowl and feeding it with ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup white flour and 1 cup warm water. I let that sit and get all bubbly for a few hours (this step is called, ‘proofing’).
After it was done proofing (I could tell because the starter got bubbly and a slight fermented smell). This took about 3 hours. The longer it sets the more "sour" your sourdough bread will taste. Then it was time to make bread. I used the following recipe....
2 cups sourdough starter
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2T olive oil
I put the sourdough starter in my Bosch and added the whole wheat flour, oil, sugar and salt. I mixed this around and started to add my white flour, a little at a time.. this is VERY important to only add a small amount of flour at a time because the amount needed can vary a lot! It will depend on how thick or thin your starter is and the aborbancy of your flour. I found I only needed to add about ¾ cup white flour.. but you may need to add the full cup or even a little more. Judge this by the bread dough. When it is no longer sticky, you have added enough.
Knead the dough… in my Bosch I did this for about 4 to 5 minutes. In a Kitchen Aid you will want to do this about 7 or 8 minutes and if you are doing this by hand then it will be 12 to 15 minutes of kneading.
Put the dough in a warm place and let it rise until it has doubled in bulk. This may take awhile. Mine took about 2 to 3 hours.
Punch it down and shape it into a loaf. Put it on a cookie sheet (I sprayed mine with non-stick spray), cover it and let rise again. By the time I got to this step it was getting late so I left it in my cool kitchen and covered it with a towel and went to bed. In the morning (about 7 hours later) it had risen very nicely…
If my kitchen had been warm, it might have risen faster so doing it overnight would not have worked. In the future I will start my bread making process earlier. The best choice would be to proof the starter before I go to bed and then proceed to make the dough in the morning.
To bake the bread I put the dough in a cold oven, shut the door, turned the oven to 350 and let it bake for about 40 minutes. You will want to check it as it could take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. To know if the bread it done it should be golden brown in color and when you tap the bottom of the loaf it should sound hollow.
After making the bread dough you will have leftover starter. You need to give it another feeding of ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup white flour and 1 cup of warm water. Then pour the starter into a clean glass jar and cover it with the cheese cloth and rubber band. I again used a 2 quart canning jar. While my starter was proofing I washed my jar and then rinsed it out with some boiling water to make sure there were no stray germs hanging around.. :)
If you don’t plan to use the starter again for awhile put it in the fridge and remember to feed it ¼ cup whole wheat flour, ¼ cup white flour and a ½ cup warm water about once a week.
I plan and doing some more sourdough baking so I left it out after feeding. I will keep feeding it daily as long as it sits out. I will also share my new recipes as I play around with this starter. I would like to try some sourdough dinner rolls, sourdough pancakes and sourdough biscuits.. at least for starters! :) I'll keep you posted!