A Website for Demystifying Homemade Sourdough Starter
Considering my love for all things cultured and fermented, I would be really surprised at myself for not attempting a homemade sourdough starter before now if it weren’t for my dismal failures at bread making in the past. After those catastrophes, I just couldn’t muster up the courage to try again for a long time. I finally did, though. I googled “No Fail Bread” and the recipe I found turned out a few excellent batches… until I went off it during my “morning” sickness phase.
But now that I’m in my “eat everything” phase, I have been obsessing about a sandwich. The best sandwich in the whole world, in fact. It consists of tomatoes, avocado, brie, salt and pepper on lightly toasted and buttered sourdough. As I write this, I am full to bursting from the stir fry that I gorged on for supper, but I would murder this sandwich if someone put it in front of me right now. Maybe even two of them.
Frikkin’ pregnant cravings.
The trouble with this sandwich (aside from the semi-costly ingredients) is that sourdough seems to be an extremely rare commodity here in my corner of rural Nova Scotia. I look for it hopefully every time I go to the grocery store and I think I’ve only come across it a time or two. I could probably get it at one of the local bakeries, but that would mean an extra stop in and out of the car with a toddler when I’m already budgeting seconds that count toward nap time.
I will either write off or figure out elaborate detours to get around anything that makes me get in and out of the car with Toby an extra time, and so this time I detoured by just making my own sourdough. Bread-making fears be damned.
What you need to know about sourdough starter:
When I started to do my research, I was super overwhelmed by the crazy amount of information available about making your own sourdough starter. There are a lot of terms and details that I am still boggled by, and I know that it’s going to take a lot of years of practice before I fully understand it all. That being said, however, there is absolutely no reason for a beginner to shy away from trying to make sourdough as it can be as simple as it can be complicated… if that makes any sense.
I cruised a lot of different blogs looking for recipes that appealed to my simplistic side, and in my hunt I discovered that good sourdough depends, largely, on patience. All you really need to get started is flour, water, and time.
As an interesting side note, I also discovered that because of the lactic acid that is formed in the fermentation process of sourdough starter (which I talked about in my homemade soda pop post), sourdough bread is potentially easier to digest and does not cause as much of a spike in blood sugar that other breads might cause, making it a better choice, health-wise. I can always get on board with that, especially when I’m eating something delicious.
So where do you start?
The website I settled on in the end is fantastic. Behold: the kitchn. It is easy to read and to follow, very straightforward, and gives you the basics without overwhelming you with too many details. Since I am still a beginner, I can’t improve on anything she posted and so I will just direct you right along to the site.
I made my starter with all-purpose white four and water from my tap (we have our own well and so our water is NOT chlorinated. This is important!), and when I began the process, I used a scale to weigh equal amounts of flour and water. I popped my loosely covered plastic container up on top of my kitchen cupboards where it would theoretically stay at a consistently warm temperature, and every day I added more flour and water. By about day 7, I had a starter that looked and smelled sufficiently fermented. It was ready to try.
Nothing to it!
Tucked into the instructions for the sourdough starter on the post I’ve linked above is a recipe for a loaf of sourdough itself. This recipe calls for a small amount of commercial yeast to ease you into the leavening process while your starter is still young, and so it works out to be something of a no-fail recipe. There are five ingredients in this bread, and if you are ready to spend a day letting bread rise and do a bit of kneading, then you are ready to have a super yummy loaf of bread at the end of the day.
This recipe is the one I used for my starter’s maiden voyage and I can attest that… It. Is. Fantastic. I made my wonderful sandwich out of it. And I made grilled cheeses with fried eggs. And I made toast… a lot of toast with butter and jam, which has incidentally become my newest obsession along with the World’s Best Sandwich.
Good thing this bread is healthy.
If you want to do some more in-depth reading for tips and tricks on making your own sourdough starter and bread, check out what Cultures for Health has to say. They even offer heirloom sourdough cultures for sale if you don’t feel like playing with the fermentation side of things. However, if you are anxious to try your own sourdough at home and want to keep it simple, I urge you to just have a read through the post at the kitchn to give it a go. It may take some time from flour to loaf, but I promise, it’s easy and entirely worth it.
So now, dear little boozy readers, have you ever made your own sourdough? What kinds of tips and tricks can you pass on to a newb like me?