Two weeks back I wrote about the complicated sourdough starter methods that are out there in print and cyberspace. When I decided to learn to make my own sourdough bread that was the path that I traveled down. I took out my kitchen scale and weighed my flour. I tested and measured my water so that it was not too hot and not too cold. I wasted so much flour by throwing out half of my starter each day. YES HALF! Sometimes instructions are overrated.
This is what I learned to do.
1. Measure out 1/4 cup of unbleached white all-purpose flour into a clean container. I have used a mason jar and I have used a medium glass bowl to start. I found the bowl easier to work with when the starter is just beginning.
2. Measure out 1/4 cup lukewarm non chlorinated water and add to your container. Mix until all the dry flour is incorporated.
3. Cover the container with a damp cloth to keep the baby starter from drying out. I learned this trick from Carolyn at Homesteading Family,
4. Repeat twice a day. If you get busy and forget, don’t panic. Feed the starter by following the above steps once you remember.
Once you have done this for a few days the amount in your bowl or jar will have increased enough to remove some, especially if you are using a mason jar. Instead of dumping half of that valuable flour gold into the trash, pour it into a separate jar. Cover the jar of discard and store in the refrigerator.
Take the remaining starter and give it a clean new home. Feed it with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of warm non chlorinated water as usual. As the starter gets more mature and stronger you can cover the container with a dry breathable cover like a coffee filter or a piece of clean muslin.
Once this jar of discard starts adding up in volume in the refrigerator, you will need to figure out something to do with it. I tried to make bread. Even after adding yeast, it only rose to about four inches and after baking, resembled a brick. I made a lot of flat breads. I topped them with garlic, onion, butter, cinnamon and sugar. They were ok, but honestly not like the flatbread I was craving.
Then it happened. The waffles.
Wait until you have the needed amount for the recipe, 2 cups of starter or discard, then make up a batch of the best waffles ever. If it makes more than your family can eat at one sitting, flash freeze and save for later. There is only two of us so one batch makes one fresh made breakfast and one breakfast ready in the freezer.
Here is a pdf directly from Melissa K Norris. I will never go back to store bought frozen waffles or that store bought premade mix. These are just as easy and one hundred times better tasting. Top them with local maple syrup, local honey, or for a surprisingly great dessert, ice cream or fresh fruit and cream.
Now you wonder what to do with that sourdough starter that is living on your counter? That takes some time to become fully active and strong enough to make bread. At least one without additional yeast.
Differing factors contribute to the time. The temperature in your kitchen, the regularity of your feeding schedule, the kind of flour, and I personally think the age of your flour. Continue feeding twice daily and watch those bubbles appear. The key is to not give up.
There are many resources for sourdough recipes on the internet. I am still a fledgling bread baker myself, so I have stuck to a few basic ones. Sandwich bread, sandwich buns, and english muffins for now.
*Important note – If you have forgotten about your starter for a few feedings, you may notice a brownish layer of liquid on the top. That is hooch.
It is fine. It just means that your sourdough is hungry. You can pour it off and feed your starter or you can mix it in and feed your starter. The choice is yours. However, if you notice any kind of fuzzy growth on the starter or the sides of the jar, toss it and start over in a clean container. Fuzzy means mold. Not something that you want to feed your family.
I hope this has taken some of the scariness out of sourdough. I am no expert but believe that you can do this. It is much smarter to make the mistakes now while you still have an opportunity to grab for the yeast and fall back on your tried-and-true recipes. As the last three years have shown us, take nothing for granted and expect the unexpected.
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