Tuesday, January 13

Sourdough Bread Starter

Sourdough Starter

Let me start this post by saying I am no expert when it comes to bread making and I believe bread making is an art form. I have been practicing for years and kicked up the experimenting in the last few years.  
I have tried to get a sourdough starter going a few times with no luck.  But my son Daniel absolutely loves a good sourdough bread so I persevered. 

Making good loaves of bread is time consuming so it's not for everyone.  But the joy and feelings of accomplishment you get when the bread turns out perfect are well worth it. 
I have never actually met anyone who has been successful at getting a starter to ferment or live. 
There are plenty of websites with instructions, and even rants about how easy plain flour and water is to start,  but what good are they if they don't work for me or you? 

Well let's get started.  Here are a few tips on how I got my starter to work.
It needs restating and underscored that the better the ingredients the better the end product.  
Also, if quick and easy bread is what you are more interested in try my Easy Beer Bread recipe. 
Sourdough is time consuming.  It just is.
Sourdough bread

Sourdough starter keeps indefinitely, and its flavor improves with age.
The starter works better and ferments faster if room temperature is above 70 degrees. 

For a better definition of what a sourdough starter is and how it works, here is what I copied from the King Arthur Flour Sourdough Baking Guide.  I trust them, they rely on their recipes (and knowledge) to get us to buy more flour.  I trust that they know what they're talking about.  Differing views and ideas about sourdough starter, how to make it and how it actually works could start a war!

"How does sourdough make things rise?
Wild yeast is a tiny fungus. It exists all around us in varying degrees—in the air, settled on work surfaces, and in some of the ingredients you bake with: most importantly, flour.
Lactobacilli are also all around us. They have a wonderfully symbiotic relationship with wild yeast; when the two are brought together with flour and water, the result is high-rising, delicious bread, or light, fluffy pancakes.
How does it all work to make dough rise? Lactobacilli (remember, they're all around us; you don't need to "add" them) break down flour's complex carbohydrates into simple sugars—exactly what yeast needs for food. The yeast, feeding on these simple sugars, produces carbon dioxide bubbles. The elastic wheat gluten in bread dough traps these carbon dioxide bubbles, causing the dough to expand as if it contained a million tiny balloons.

When you put a risen loaf into the oven, the yeast quickly dies; but the CO2 it generated remains trapped beneath its flour/water matrix, producing a golden loaf of beautifully risen bread. "

Mix together warm water and yogurt

Something to consider:  Chlorine in the city water supply seems to not only kill bad microorganisms, but also the opportunistic and pathogenic microorganisms or bacteria and yeasts you need to produce and keep a lively starter. I learned this the hard way.

What I used:
  • My well water worked much better (even with a softer) than commercial bottled water 
  • I used all natural organic Fage brand Greek yogurt (this has living cultures)
  • I used King Arthur brand all natural unbleached bread flour
  • I used SaCo brand buttermilk blend powder
Use whatever all natural and or organic product brands you like but it's best if the yogurt is all natural and organic and still has living cultures.
Also, refrigerating the dough after the fermenting period encourages the production of more acetic than lactic acid; and acetic acid is much the tangier of the two. So, sourdough that's refrigerated before using will have a stronger sour flavor.

Add flour and buttermilk powder to water and yogurt mixture

2 cups lukewarm water (90° to 100°F)
1⁄3 cup plain organic yogurt
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1⁄4 cup dry milk powder or 1⁄4 cup dry buttermilk powder
sterilized container such as a quart mason jar

In a bowl, whisk together the water and yogurt. Add the flour and dry milk powder and beat until well blended and smooth. 

Mix until smooth

Pour the mixture to a 1-quart glass mason jar, (or use a ceramic crock or plastic container).
Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a double thickness of cheesecloth and let stand at room temperature for appropriately 48 to 72 hours, stirring the mixture with a whisk or slotted spoon twice each day.  I used cheesecloth and put the mason jar ring on to hold it in place.  If using plastic wrap it needs to be loose to allow gasses to escape.

Pour mixture into a mason jar

The starter will be bubbly, with a fresh sour smell and the consistency of pancake batter. 
A clear or pale yellow liquid will form on the top; That's OK, just stir it back in.
If the liquid is any other color (such as pink or green), discard the starter and make a new batch. 

After the 48 to 72 hours fermenting period, cover loosely with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.  Remember, the container should not be air tight as carbon dioxide needs to be released.  Makes about 3 cups.

Cover jar loosely 

For mouth-puckering extra-sour flavor, you can add 1/4 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid) but remember the starter will improve naturally by itself with age.

To use the starter, measure out the amount called for in a sourdough bread recipe and let stand at room temperature until it starts to bubble, about 1 to 2 hours before using.
Sourdough starter bubbling and fermenting

Maintaining the Starter:
Always keep approximately 1 cup of your starter (the mother) to ferment the next batch.
To feed the remaining starter, add 1 cup flour and 1 cup water (if you use most of the starter). 
If you used just enough for one recipe, only add ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup water. 
I mix it up in a small bowl first then stir into the mother with a whisk or slotted spoon.  
Let stand at room temperature for 48 to 72 hours to begin fermenting and bubbling again, stirring 2 times a day.
Store in the refrigerator, covered loosely with plastic wrap.

Depending on the conditions of your starter, one or the other of these acids is produced in greater abundance. Liquidity starter (near equal balance of flour and water) makes more acetic acid and your bread will have a more distinct sour flavor. A stiff starter (higher percentage of flour to water, about 2:1) makes more lactic acid, giving your final bread a more mellow, rather sweet taste.

If you have a good friend or neighbor who wants a starter, simply take 1 cup of your room temperature mother starter, place it in a mason jar, add 1 cup of bread flour and 1 cup of warm water, mix and allow to ferment for 48 hours! 

When fermenting period is done, refrigerate sourdough starter
Other Starters:
Yeast has many homes.  A basic starter uses only flour, water and wild yeast.
But other ingredients used to get a starter to grow are pineapple juice, orange juice, potato flakes, sugar water and even Grapes.
In fact, some strains even thrive on the surface of fruit. Some starters use the wild yeast naturally present in grapes. The fruit also provides the sugar on which the yeast feeds. 
But in the end, it is all sourdough, because after repeated feedings and repeated batches removed for baking, it's growing just the same as someone who used a little something else to kick start it. 

If your sourdough starter is ready, here is my recipe for sourdough bread, which makes 3 loaves or approximately 18 to 20 rolls.
My next batch I'm going to make sourdough hoagie buns. 


Other Recipes:

Perfect Sourdough Bread

Moist Banana Nut Bread

Saturday Morning Waffles

More Sourdough Starter Info:

A bakery using the same starter since 1849
The Accidental Scientist 

Catching wild yeast, how sourdough works

Into the wild science of wild sourdough making
NPR, The Salt


Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving me the sourdough starter. I am making the bread now, it is on its second rise. The house smells so great. Can't wait to bake and eat! Thanks again!!! Brenda

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

So glad it's working for you! Please sent me pics of the baked bread! I feel like it's my offspring haha

Anonymous said...

Not pretty! First rise was beautiful, make rolls and let them rise again, but they did not. I only made a small batch cause I don't have a tried recipe. I think it was too much flour. Will try again tomorrow. Mt starter exploded last night over jar and onto counter. It is truly alive!!!! Brenda

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Oh no! I'll post the bread recipe I used, It was perfect. Great to hear about the starter!

Anonymous said...

Shall we team up to build mud ovens this summer? The bread would be so much better! Ben

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Such a great idea and I would bet it would be fantastic baked in one!

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth I've made your starter and I'm so excited because it is perfect! I'm nervous though to try just any recipe for the bread making part! Do you have any recipes/ tips you wouldn't mind sharing with me!? Lauren Elizabeth Johnson

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

That's great Lauren! Congrats! I have a really good Sourdough Bread recipe posted, look under the recipe tab. Or you can go to the King Arthur Flour website to get a recipe. I have not tried any from their website but their flour is amazing so I'm sure their recipes are too. Let me know how the bread turns out,