Adventures with Sourdough Starter

I have to admit, if it weren’t for Matt (the “Savvy Husband”), we still wouldn’t be baking sourdough breads. The whole “starter” thing was a mystery to me. I didn’t know where to buy it, how to make it or how to maintain it.

So Matt tried it, and—thanks to refrigeration—it’s easy! At first we worried that we would forget to use it once a week. Now we know that even if we don’t remember for weeks at a time, we can still revive it. The starter can even be frozen for several months and then revved up again.

The only real challenge we’ve had is containing it. Because of his knowledge of microbiology, Matt wanted to keep it well under cover, but our previous experience with an explosive Friendship Bread starter prevented us from wanting to keep it too well-sealed. We’ve been using zipper-top bags, which work well as long as we let the air out as needed and store in a separate, open container. The latter is critical. We lost our first starter when the bag crept across the counter on its own, rolled off and burst on the floor, spraying starter everywhere. To say it made a horrible mess would be a serious understatement. The next batch leaked in the refrigerator. Ugh.

Adventures with Sourdough Starter

You can buy starter if you want, but why not try making your own? It’s cheap, and you probably have everything you need already. The easiest versions require just a little flour, water, sugar and yeast. Sourdough purists may want to seek out a starter recipe that doesn’t use commercial yeast, such as the one in Bread in Half the Time by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts. It consists only milk, yogurt and flour.

Because we’re still new to this, we recommend following someone else’s recipe. We used one from our bread machine’s manual. Check your own cookbooks or refer to one of the sources below. Once you have it going, try some of our sourdough recipes, such as Oatmeal Sourdough French Bread, Blue Cheese Sourdough Spinach Bread, Whole Grain Sourdough Bread or Sourdough Deep Dish Pizza Dough.

What’s Cooking America has instructions on how to make and maintain a refrigerated sourdough starter.

Breadtopia has videos on making and managing sourdough starters using a recipe that does not call for commercial yeast.

If you want to buy a starter, try King Arthur Flour. The company’s website includes instructions on keeping starter in the refrigerator.

Wikipedia has great information about the chemistry of sourdough starters as well as tips on keeping them going successfully.

© Liesl K. Bohan  |  SavvyBaker.com

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This blog is for sharing home-tested recipes with more whole grains, less fat and fewer calories than similar recipes. If you see something you like, or if you'd like to see more, let me know! - Liesl

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