Sourdough is a daunting process for so many people! I mean, you’re basically caring for a LIVE organism that needs to be fed regularly! But I promise it’s so simple and anyone can do it! Today’s post is covering everything you need to know about sourdough!
I also have a video format of this blog post if that’s your preference!
In this post, I talked all about how to create your very own sourdough starter from scratch. But let’s go over the basics again!
WHAT IS A SOURDOUGH STARTER?
Traditionally, before yeast was available as a packaged product to add to baked goods, people passed down a “live yeast” for generations…. aka a sourdough starter.
This live yeast is just flour and water that has gone through a fermentation process, and has created it’s own wild yeast from it’s environment. It is added to foods like bread, pancakes, pizza crust, biscuits, english muffins, to help it rise.
Part of the reason we have so many issues in our society with gluten & grains is because we’ve lost the art of properly preparing our foods. Grains (as well as beans and nuts) used to be soaked and/or fermented which reduced an anti-nutrient called “phytic-acid”, something that interferes with our bodies ability to digest and absorb grains, nuts & beans.
The benefit of sourdough vs modern day yeast is that through this fermentation process, many anti-nutrients are broken down allowing for easier digestion.
What you’ll need:
- Flour – I use organic flour because wheat is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides.
- Filtered or Distilled Water (In many places the chemicals like chlorine will kill the good bacteria you’re trying to create in the sourdough starter)
- A quart mason jar
- A spoon
- A clean cloth for covering it
- A kitchen scale or measuring cups
Now that you know the basics, you likely have some questions. I’m going to answer the most common questions I get asked about sourdough starters and hopefully by the end of this you’ll know everything you need to know about sourdough starters!
What does it mean to “Feed” your starter?
Feeding your starter just means giving it flour & water. I feed my sourdough starter 2 parts flour, 1 part water and 1 part mature starter.
It’s day 2/3 and nothing is happening.
That’s ok! Keep going. Sometimes you won’t see bubbles for a few days. But if it’s day 4/5/6 and you have no bubbles, you might need to use different water or find a warmer space for it.
If your home is really warm, it might actually need to be “fed” more often! Maybe every 18 hours instead of 24.
Some other reasons your starter isn’t working:
- You’re using tap water containing chlorine or other chemicals that kill the good bacteria in your starter! Filtered or distilled water are the best options.
- You’re using bleached white flour which also contains chemicals that may kill the good bacteria in your starter. Unbleached, organic all-purpose or organic whole wheat flour are my top choices for a starter.
The starter has a liquid on top, do I have to throw it out?
Don’t throw it out, some separation is normal! A starter CAN go mouldy if it’s been a long time since you’ve fed it.
But if there’s just a clear or light grey liquid on the top that is called hooch and it’s like an alcohol that is forming from the fermentation process. But it’s not bad, it just means you need to feed the starter! You can drain the hooch off and then feed it OR you can stir the hooch in which will create a stronger, more sour flavour.
My sourdough starter smells weird. Has it gone bad?
A sourdough starter will develop a sour smell as it ferments. If it has a strong smell, it likely needs to be fed. As long as it hasn’t developed mold, it’s likely ok!
Do you have to store in a jar?
You do need to store your starter in glass but it can be a bowl, jar, etc. Just make sure it’s large enough for your starter to grow significantly. You never want to store sourdough, or any fermenting food in plastic because it can break down the plastic.
Metal containers can sometimes interfere with the fermentation process. I DO use my metal kitchen aid bowl when I am making sourdough recipes, but the dough is only in the metal for a short amount of time. I would stick to glass for the starter since it lives in there permanently.
Do I need to add yeast?
You will not need any yeast during the entire process! The only ingredients you need for the starter are flour & water. Later when you make bread you will also add salt. If you want to make sourdough pancakes, cinnamon rolls, etc those recipes may call for eggs, oil, sugar. But the sourdough IS the yeast.
What if I’m going on vacation?
When you start your starter, make sure that you’ll be able to tend to it every day for 7-10 days. After that initial period, you can leave it for a week or two at a time by feeding it and then putting it in the fridge. Storing in the fridge slows the fermentation process.
I’ve never left my starter for more than a week, but I’ve had no issues with that! It just needs 1-2 feedings once you return home, before you use it for baking.
If you’re going away for more than a week, I would recommend bringing the starter to a friend and giving them instructions to feed it! It’s basically like a pet ?.
How do I know if my sourdough is ready to use?
Your starter will be very bubbly & active when it’s ready to be used! It also may double in size. However, I’ve had times where my starter is bubbly & active but didn’t grow that much. In my experience that’s still ok, and it is likely just because your home is too cold.
If you’re insure if your starter is ready, you can test it by putting a small teaspoon of starter into a bowl of water. If it floats, it’s ready. If it doesn’t float it either needs to be fed again, or if you fed it recently it just needs a little bit more time!
How long does the sourdough starter last?
A properly cared for starter will last forever! Traditionally, these were past down from one generation to the next. A starter will get better with age, and you can share it with friends.
Do I have to keep discarding after this initial process?
No, you don’t always need to discard but it depends how often you will be using it. Once you have an existing starter, you can use the “discard” for recipes like pancakes, english muffins as long as it still has some life to it.
I do occasionally discard some of my starter if I’m using it less and I don’t want it to get too large. I’ll just pour some of the starter out until it’s the amount that I want!
What type of flour can you use?
For the starter, you’ll want to use all-purpose unbleached flour and all-purpose whole wheat flour. As I mentioned earlier, bleached or non-organic flours can disrupt the fermentation process.
In terms of baking bread, I don’t have experience will gluten free flours, but I know some people say it can be done!
However, a 72 hour fermentation process while making bread will remove up to 99% of the gluten from the bread.
Will the bread taste sour?
No! I don’t notice any sour flavour in any recipes. If you like more of a sour flavour, fermenting your bread for a longer period of time will help!
Sourdough is so yummy and so rewarding! The process doesn’t need to be overwhelming or scary! I hope you feel confident enough to start the process. If this helped you learn everything you need to know about sourdough, I’d love if you could share this article on Pinterest!