Get Started Making Homemade Sourdough Breads using your own Sourdough Starter
I named my sourdough starter Herman. After naming it, I realized it should probably have been a more feminine name since sourdough starter is a ‘mother’ culture.;) But she was dubbed Herman, and the name stuck.
Herman has been happy and bubbly for several years. Once your sourdough starter is established, the upkeep takes very little effort and will continue to produce enough yeast to leaven wonderfully tangy breads for years, and even centuries, to come.
The oldest known sourdough starter is purportedly over 100 years old!
The hidden world of yeast and bacteria fascinates me. It’s such a marvel to me that from 2 simple ingredients a culture that will give rise to bread, muffins, pancakes, cakes, and all things bread-y is made. (Give rise – get it?;)
How To Make A Sourdough Starter
To begin, you’ll need:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Use clean, sanitized non-reactive containers and utensils such as glass, plastic, or stainless steel.
Your container needs to be quite a bit larger than the original amount of flour and water.
Once active, sourdough starter will double in size when fed.
Until established, you’ll keep adding to the mixture without pouring anything off, so begin with a large container.
Mix flour and water and scrape down sides if needed (a spatula works well).
Cover loosely using several layers of cheesecloth, a wash cloth or tea towel, or a coffee filter and an elastic band or mason jar ring.
Store at room temperature.
Every 12 – 24 hours, stir in another 1/2 cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of water.
*Feeding it every 12 hours will cut down on the time to establish your starter, but every 24 hours is fine.*
If you really want to cut down the time, you can buy an established sourdough starter.
Somewhere around day 5, your starter should be bubbly and ready to use. You’ll know it is ready when it’s bubbly and doubles in bulk within 4 hours of feeding.
Once active and established, pour off or use 1/2 of the sourdough starter before each feeding.
Storing & Using Your SD Starter
If you will be using your sourdough starter often, it can be kept at room temperature and fed 1 – 2 x’s daily.
If you won’t be using your starter regularly, it can be stored in the fridge with a lid and fed weekly.
I’ve forgotten Herman in the fridge for much longer than a week with no problem reviving it. It can tolerate a bit of abuse if you forget or go out of town, but it’s not a good idea to make it a habit…but I shouldn’t talk, I neglect poor Herman far too often lol.
Before use, feed your starter and wait 3 or 4 hours before making bread.
After prolonged fridge storage, feed your starter 1 – 2 x’s/day until it is active enough to double in size in approx. 4 hours.
My all purpose flour starter loves getting an extra snack once in a while. Once every week or two, I switch out the usual AP flour for rye flour and my starter gets incredibly active.
Replacing Used Starter
After each use, replace an equal amount of flour and water. For example; if you’ve used 1/2 cup of starter, replace with 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 – 1/2 cup water.
Stir it in and leave at room temperature for 2 hours before storing in the fridge.
Hooch & Mold
A clear fluid on top of a neglected or underfed starter is referred to as “hooch” and is perfectly safe. The hooch can be stirred in, or poured off.
Your starter should have a pleasant yeast or alcohol odor. A very strong alcohol odor may mean you are under feeding your starter.
If you notice mold, pink or red slime, or a decidedly unpleasant odor, toss the starter and start over.
Discard Starter Uses
Throwing out excess SD starter goes against my upbringing! I despise throwing away perfectly good flour.
If I am not planning to make anything right away, I will often pour the excess into another storage container and keep it in the fridge for discard sourdough recipes.
One of my favorite uses for the discard (or “unfed”) sourdough starter is pancakes. I cook all the pancakes and freeze them, so the family can grab a couple to toast up at any time. They tend to get eaten up pretty quickly, so I can always make another batch.
I’ve also used the discard sourdough starter to make Salt Dough for crafting.
How To Get A More Sour Sourdough
I love a very tangy and sour sourdough bread. The flavor depends on whether you’re encouraging the production of acetic acid, or lactic acid.
To get more sour from your sourdough, let loaves rise in the fridge (colder temperatures produce more acetic acid).
For truly sour bread you can try adding a small amount of citric acid. For a 2 pound loaf, use about 1/2 tsp. at the most, it’s potent stuff.