In my book, growing your own sourdough starter is a pretty cool thing to do. In fact, viewed from a 26-year-old’s perspective, growing your own sourdough starter is about as cool as, say, snap bracelets were when I was ten, or as cool as all-ages concerts were when I was fourteen, or even as cool as road trips were when I was in college. Ok, maybe not that cool. But cool nonetheless.
I’ve been meaning to do this for a while — it seems that every breadbaker out there has a starter that’s been with him or her for months or even years. And since there are times lately when I’ve been underwhelmed by the flavor and texture of my own homemade bread, the idea of a starter has been on my mind for a while.
But when I started researching online, I was a little discouraged. I read one website that said, in essence, “don’t even attempt this unless you’re an expert baker.” It suggested that far too many “amateur” bakers try to create their own starter with disasterous results.
“Wow,” I though to myself, “is mixing flour and water really that hard?” And, of course, my gut reaction was correct, because within a week, I had a healthy, stinky, bubbly sourdough starter that was ready for its first bread recipe! Here’s what it looked like on about Day 4:
Yum… Well, ok, maybe “yum” is the wrong word. But it’s kind of interesting, in a fourth-grade science project way, isn’t it?
And, more importantly, what a great little bread it was. I used my bread machine, just out of sheer laziness, and ended up with a crusty loaf of thick, sourdough-y bread. And my starter was only a week old! I’m letting it sit at room temperature for another week or two before moving it to the refrigerator, but I know it will only get better from here.
So, without further commentary, I’m going to give you the steps to make your own little sourdough starter, and then the recipe that I used for my sourdough loaf. Don’t laugh, because the steps are really quite simple.
1. On day 1, mix a cup of flour and a cup of water, stir and leave at room tempterature in an uncovered container (I used an old plastic risotto container, which I had washed out).
2. Approximately 24 hours later, on day 2, pour out half the mixture and discard. Add 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp of sugar and 1/2 cup of water to the remaining mixture and stir well.
3. Repeat step 2 each day for a week.
4. After a week, your starter should be bubbly and thick. You can now replenish it with additional flour and water every other day. So, repeat step 2 once every 48 hours for the next 8 days.
5. After two weeks, move the starter to your fefrigerator. You can cover the canister but make sure there is still air that comes in and out (cut a hole or two in the lid, if you’re using one). You can replenish your starter once a week from now on, indefinitely. From this point on, any starter that you pour of can be used as the “starter” for sourdough bread, and it will only get better as it ages and develops flavor.
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup water
1 tsp rapid-rise commercial yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
Mix all ingredients together according to your breadmaker’s instructions. Set the breadmaker to make a 1-lb loaf with a medium crust, on the “White” setting. Allow to cool, slice, and serve.
Makes 1 one-pound loaf.