Sourdough Starter – FINALLY!

Sourdough was my own private Holy Grail.

I seek the Grail!  I have never found the Grail!  Do you know of the Grail?  Can you help me find the Grail?

Ok, so channeling Monty Python and the Holy Grail aside, I think I finally found it.

No, my light is not Grail Shaped, evil Zoot.

I have been reading the Breadit subReddit on Reddit.com lately to try to get insight to this odd thing.  After weeks of reading, I finally thought that I had enough of that and just threw my hands into the air to try to make a Sourdough starter.

Sourdough is a special bacteria that grows wild in a Starter and is named after San Francisco in California but not limited to that area.  From what I can tell, while I have re-created the taste, I have the bacillis in my area.  My own commercial yeast “went wild” over the generations of breeding that happened in that not so very pretty white bowl, but it did not jump species and become that specific species of yeast that they may use in San Francisco, but the lactobacillis seems to be here.

Any kitchen where you bake bread will have wild yeast.  I would wager that any kitchen that you do NOT bake bread in has wild yeast as well, but that’s just my scientific background coming to the surface.

The story goes that you start a commercial yeast in a mix of flour and water and perhaps a little sugar.  Make sure that the glass or plastic bowl is “sterile clean”.  Allow the right conditions of not too hot nor to cold to exist for the little creatures.  Leave the thing alone for 2 to 5 days.  That’s right, practically a week.  All you do to it over that time is to stir it.

The resulting mix will have the consistency of Pancake Batter or Wallpaper Paste.  It should be runny per the recipe.

If it doesn’t get infected or spoil, you will go through some specific phases.

In the first couple hours, the commercial yeast will bloom and the mix will rise.  In my case it grew to push the towel up in the air.  I had to remove the towel and clean it off, replacing it with a cookie sheet that was placed so there was an opening at the top of the bowl for air to circulate.  The next time I try this, I will leave the towel off until the first bloom is complete and the yeast settles down a bit.

The next five days it will settle down and beneficial yeasts and beneficial bacteria will populate the mix.  The mix will settle literally and there will be some changes of smell and color.  It went from being a wallpaper paste looking mass to what you see in the picture – a layer of amber liquid on top. 

It smelled first like beer.  Then it started to smell like what I remember Sourdough smelling like.  It was a sharp smell but not unpleasant.

I vowed to allow it to go five days, only stirring the mass once or twice a day.  I did not feed it any extra flour, yeast, or sugar.  It merely sat on the counter looking strange and perfuming the house with that brewing smell of funk.  

Finally when I decided to try it out, I got proper Sourdough Rolls, Torpedo Rolls, Pizza, and a Boule loaf.

I had success!

The recipe was this link on King Arthur Flour but I will reproduce it here for brevity.   You already have the process above.  If it sounds less precise than usual, it was.

The remnants of what I made were “fed” with another half cup of flour and placed in a semi-sealed ball jar in the refrigerator.  It is still alive, although mostly dormant and growing slowly.   I will add another half cup of flour and water each week and give it a stir from time to time to make sure it is still alive and happy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water 
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Process:

  • To Glass, Plastic or Ceramic bowl add 2 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, 1 tablespoon or packet of yeast.
  • Slowly add the 2 cups of flour while stirring it in to incorporate it to a smooth consistency.
  • Allow the yeast to bloom.
  • When the yeast settles down in a couple hours, cover the starter with a towel allowing it to breathe.
  • Stir it occasionally over the next 2 to 5 days.


Feeding and care:

  • Move the remaining starter to a smaller jar with a loose lid. 
  • Place starter in the refrigerator.
  • Feed every couple of days but no longer than once a week with 1/2 cup flour and water to retain consistency and “vigor”.
  • Yes it was vague to me as well but I added flour and water in equal parts. 
  • This “extra” water will need to be accounted for in a Sourdough Bread recipe.


Or you could visit the King Arthur Flour website for additional insight on how they make their starter.

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