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Thread: Preparing the sourdough starter
03-27-2007, 02:05 PM #1
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- Mar 2007
Preparing the sourdough starter
Preparing the sourdough starter
Variety may be the spice of life, but it is also apparently the key to
success. There are literally dozens of recipes for sourdough starters,
presumably handed down because "Grandmother did it that way."
Well, all the grandmothers but one couldn't be wrong. They probably used
what they had on hand, guided by experience and superstition, so one must
assume that there isn't any single "best" recipe.
The singular factor that caught my eye in perusing dozens of these old
recipes was the combined variety of flours used, particularly rye and
unbleached wheat flour, plus numerous references to the initial use of
potato water (which is highly fermentable) and of all things, many
references in German recipes to the use of fresh hops in the pollen stage.
If it make das bier gut, maybe geputten der hops in das pot maken das brot
gut also, ja? Begin with a large-mouthed container, sufficient to easily
accept a one-cup measure and to hold a total volume of 5-6 cups. It can be
plastic or glass, but if it has a screw-on lid, be sure to poke a small hole
in the lid with an ice pick or small nail. If the lid is tight the container
could explode. An old cookie jar with a smooth interior or an old ice bucket
I began using non-bleached wheat flour, assuming it might contain more
"natural" yeast than the bleached variety (but I don't know this for a
fact). Once things began working, I substituted small amounts of rye, black
rye, and semolina (durum) flour during my regular feedings.
Recipe for starter
2 cups flour
1 cup water
1 cup cooled potato water (this really gets things going)
1 package bread yeast
Mix well and allow to stand in a warm area until there are no more signs of
fermentation. (The solution will separate and no more bubbles are present.)
Stir well, remove 1 cup of the contents and stir in another cup of flour or
flour mix and a cup of water. Do not use "self-rising" flour!
Initially, the new starter is ready to use after 2-3 days, but it will not
have that typical sourdough flavor until it has acquired some weeks or
months of age.
After the first fermentation is established, you can use it anytime, even if
it has gone "flat." Do not refrigerate! Leave it on the counter.
Many have told me that they mixed up a sourdough starter and used it once,
but it didn't have a good sourdough flavor and then it "spoiled," i.e., it
looked and smelled "yuckie."
"Well dummy," I thought. "It's supposed to look and smell yuckie!"
Sourdough will not spoil due to its highly acid pH, and because of its acid
pH, it doesn't require refrigeration. Think about it. Covered wagons were
the 19th century version of the RV, but they weren't equipped with
refrigerators to hold the pioneers' sourdough starter! It bumped along
experiencing all the elements of heat and cold in a small crock or wrapped
in a leather pouch! Just remember to feed the little critter about once a
week if you are not using it. To speed things up on baking day, you can feed
the culture the day before and it will have little "yeasties" growing like
mad at the time of use.
My culture is now about six months old, the container has never been washed,
and there are no signs of mold. Most likely because its pH measures 2.0!
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