Making sourdough starter and keeping some on hand is probably my biggest not-so-secret kitchen weapon of all time. To say I love bread is an understatement. So naturally I do my utmost to make as much as is humanly possible at home. Which means keeping sourdough starter in my kitchen at all times. When properly maintained, sourdough starter gives way to so much more than just a loaf of sourdough bread. It can be used to make buttery dinner rolls, slicing bread (that actually doesn’t fall apart), tangy crepes… the possibilities are absolutely endless.
Sourdough starter is a fairly basic kitchen staple with a few different variations depending on whose kitchen your in. At its core you have flour and water and a little bit of yeast. Yeast can either be store bought or wild. I like both equally but find that tangier sourdough is achieved with catching your own yeast. Sugar is also sometimes added in variable amounts.
The base ratio for a sourdough starter is 60% flour and 40% water. But for ease, I like a 1:1 ratio. I tend to keep a half gallon mason jar half filled with sourdough starter which is roughly 4 cups. I chose to use einkorn flour because I like the fact that it’s genetic profile has remained unchanged (not hybridized or modified like conventional wheat), it has significantly lower gliaten (which turns to gluten) thereby being easier to digest and it boasts a flavor that is unparalleled.
When I make sourdough starter I decide whether I’m going to catch yeast or add yeast… the determining factor is how quickly I want bread. Catching wild yeast can add a day or two to the process, so if I need bread within the next day, I will use conventional yeast.
The base recipe for either yeast method is the same:
- 2 cups flour of choice
- 2 Tbl sugar – I like using coconut but you may use cane, honey, or any other variety you prefer (no artificial sugars though)
- 2 cups of warm water
If your adding yeast one packet or two tablespoons of active dry yeast will do.
If you’re catching yeast just omit the adding yeast step and proceed.
Mix your ingredients together beginning with the warm water, sugar and yeast (if you adding it). The sugar need not be fully dissolved. I tend to add half of my flour to my jar or vessel, add some water mix well, and then add in the remaining flour and mix again. But please, know that a smooth consistency is not necessary.
And thats pretty much it- now you need to cover it with either a lacto fermeting lid or a clean dish towel that has a tight weave and rubberband it in place (Prevents pesky fruit flies and airborne stuff from getting in).
If your catching yeast, leave your flour mixture open faced (not covered) in a clean, open spot on your counter where kids, animals and dust are unlikely to disturb it. You will need to periodically stir the mixture throughout day one. This helps break any dry skin it may form which prevents yeasts from getting where they need to go. After 2 days you should notice that the mixture is beginning to bubble, rise or develop a honey/maple colored liquid (hooch) and beginning to smell sour or a tad like cider. Feed your starter (details below) and transfer to a half gallon mason jar and secure with either a lacto lid or clean dish towel and rubberband.
Great! Now you have sourdough starter. Now what? You should leave it to sit at room temperature, away from direct sunlight for 2-3 days. Afterwhich point you may notice a caramel colored liquid hovering above the starter. This is known as “hooch” and is a type of alcohol and a sign that your starter is hungry. Gently pour the majority of it off and feed your starter.
When I’m actively making bread (which is pretty much always) I feed my starter every 3-4 days or so with a tablespoon of coconut sugar (lower glycemic sugar and less refined = better mineral content), roughly 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water- give it a good stir and close the jar up again with a lacto lid. My starter lives on my counter, but if you do not plan to bake bread daily you can store the sourdough starter in the fridge. Beware however, it’s easy to forget about it will still need to be fed though much less frequent when held at colder temperatures. Refrigerated, sour dough starter can be kept a long time – but a good rule of thumb I to use it within three months, or cycle through it enough to prevent your yeast population from dwindling.
Now you have an established starter! Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:
Quick Garlic Knots
Traditional Sour Dough