Sourdough 101: Part 3

So, we are at feeding number 4.  When I got to the kitchen this morning, this is what my little bubbly starter looked like.

Before feeding number 4.

Lots of bubbles and lots of hooch.  So I stirred it down, removed half, added water and flour and stirred.  Scraped down the sides, put the frilly bonnet back on and marked it.  I’ve decided that since all the pictures of after the feedings look the same I’m not going to post those any more.  Because I wouldn’t want anyone to get tired looking at all the pictures!

Moving on to feeding number 5.  Here’s what it looked like before tonight’s feeding.

Before feeding number 5.

Not a great picture, but you can see the hooch.  If you try real hard you can see the bubbles.  See them now?

Yeah!  Only 9 more to go!  And just so that you don’t lose interest, I thought I’d post a picture of dinner.  Sourdough waffles!  Don’t make that face, they were good.  Not sour.  Really.  The kids love em!

Sourdough Waffles

Just look at all that syrupy, yummy, waffliciousness!  This is a super easy and fast recipe that I’ll be sharing with you when the starter is ready to use.  By the end of tomorrow, we’ll be half way there.

Sourdough 101: Part 2

(See Sourdough 101: Part 1 here.)

Ok, here we are ready for feeding number 2.  When I got up this morning, this is what my starter looked like.

Right before feeding number 2.

See all the bubbles?  Yeah!  And notice that the hooch isn’t on the top this time, it’s close to the bottom.  Actually, there is a little bit everywhere.  Make sure you stir that back in.  It’s what keeps the bacteria and mold from growing.  The fermentation process also begins to break down the grains in your flour which releases the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the flour.  So your body is able to absorb these nutrients faster and not lose so much of them through waste.  Of course, the type of flour you use determines the amount of nutrients available.  Bleached, enriched flour has fewer natural nutrients than any other flour.  Stone ground, whole grain flours have the most.  So, the more processing, the less nutrients.  The starter I’m using for this blog is organic, unbleached white flour, but I also have one made with organic, stone ground whole wheat.

Inside the jar before feeding number 2.

So, here’s a picture of the top.  See the bubbles?  This one is going really well.  Must be the heat wave.  It got up to 45 yesterday!  Oh, and the darkish stuff is just shadows.  Really.

Now remember that yours may not look exactly like mine and that’s ok.  I have had some starters that didn’t do anything for 3 days.  Just to clarify something here in case I have confused anyone-you don’t have to make a new starter every time you make bread.  I have made several using different flours and temperatures of water and even types of water, trying to find the easiest and best way.  What I have found is that it doesn’t matter what kind of flour you use, or whether you use tap or bottled water.  The starter is going to work with pretty much anything.  The only concern would be if you don’t drink your water because of contaminants, you might want to use filtered water for your sourdough.  Since you’re going to be eating it and all.  Some instructions specify using cold water when feeding the starter.  I’m not sure why, though.  I usually use warm water.  But be careful, if the water it too hot, it may kill the yeast.  (That is only an assumption on my part, since I have never used hot water.)

Now, I stir it down and remove about 1/2 of what is in the jar.  Then I add 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour.  Stir it up, scrape down the sides, and put the frilly little bonnet back on.  This is what it looked like after the feeding.

Right after feeding number 2.

And by the way, I don’t want you to drive yourself crazy over exact measurements.  I use my 1/4 cup measuring cup, fill it with warm tap water and dump it in the jar.  I stir in the water, dry out the measuring cup and put it in the flour jar.  I use what I’ve heard called the “scoop and sweep” method.  You “scoop” up some flour with the measuring cup and use your finger to “sweep” across the top to make it level(ish).  Then I dump that in the jar and refill my 1/4 cup about 1/2 way with flour and dump that in the jar.  Then stir.  Bread making can be more of an art than a science at times.  So, don’t be intimidated by the long process here with the starter, or fret over measurements.  Just have fun!!

Ok, time for feeding number 3.  This is what it looked like before I stirred it down.

Before 3rd feeding.

So, there is more hooch and more bubbles, just as it should be.  Here is a picture inside the jar.

Inside jar before 3rd feeding.

You can’t really see very well, (I’m using my phone for pictures), but there is a little bit of foam as well as bigger bubbles on the top.  That is perfectly ok.  Now, stir it down, remove about half of what is in the jar, and feed it the same amount of water and flour as before.

And here it is after feeding number 3.

After feeding number 3.

I put it in a clean jar so it would be easier for you to see what it looks like.  I would not normally do that, but ya’ll are special!

Ok, 3 feedings down and 11 more to go!  I’ll continue to post pictures as we go through the process, but it’s just the same thing we’ve been doing.  Stir it down, remove half, and feed.

Now, you may be asking, what in the world am I going to do with it when it’s ready?  Besides making the bread, of course.  Well, I’ve made bread bowls, pizza crust, crackers, pancakes, and English muffins.  I have also seen recipes for muffins and even chocolate cake.  As I take you through the starter process, I’m going to be experimenting with some other things to use the sourdough in.  When it comes time to actually start using it, I’ll post some recipes for you.

Do you have anything special that you would you like me to experiment on?  Let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Sourdough 101: Everything You Always Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

Well, OK, maybe not everything.  But a little bit about sourdough and then how to start a starter.  If you’re not interested in the sciencey/history stuff, go ahead and just scroll on down to how to start the starter.

The term “sourdough” is not just about what the bread tastes like, it also refers to the type of leaven used in the bread.  Ever wonder how people made bread before the cute little yeast packets showed up at the grocery store?  They used the natural, wild yeasts that are available in the air around us.  There are approximately 1500 strains of wild yeast that have been named and classified by scientists, and they estimate that is only about 1% of the total number of yeasts.  The cute little yeast packets in the grocery store use only one of those.  Just a thought, but if God created all those different yeasts that can be used for leavening bread, wouldnt’ t it be better to use more than one?  Now I am not a scientist or a doctor or a microbiologist, so I don’t know the answer to that.  But I do know that people made bread for thousands of years before the cute little packets made it on the scene.  In fact, in some European family owned bakeries, they still use the same sourdough starter that their great, great, great-grands used.

Basically, yeasts work by feeding off the sugars in the flour.  The sugars go through a fermentation process which produces alcohol and gas.  The gas is what makes the bread rise.  The alcohol is what causes the “souring”, and prevents the growth of mold and bacteria.  The sourness of the final product is determined by how “liquidy” (is that a word?) your starter is, and how long the bread is allowed to rise.   It is also determined by which of the yeasts are more abundant where you are using your starter.  That’s why traditional sourdough breads taste different in different places.  As the yeasts feed, they grow exponentially.  That’s why it takes about a week before your starter is ready to use.  The older your starter, the better it works!

OK, on to starting the starter.

To start a sourdough starter:

You need:

a glass bowl or jar (I use a widemouth quart canning jar)

1 cup flour (you can use any kind of flour-white, whole wheat, spelt, teff, etc.)

1 cup water (I use warm (not hot) water because it helps to kick-start the process and my kitchen is really cold.  You can use tap water like I do, or you can use bottled water.  I have used both and I haven’t noticed any difference.)

All you do is mix the flour into the water in the jar and scrape down the sides.  It doesn’t have to be smooth, it’s ok to have lumps.  Now you need to cover it to keep out dust and stuff.  It also tends to attract fruit flies in the summer.  I use a paper coffee filter secured with a pony tail holder.  You can also use a clean dishcloth.  Just make sure that whatever you use allows the gases to escape.  I also like the coffee filter option because I use a sharpie to write the date that I start it, and make a mark for every time I feed it.  Cause, you know, sometimes I lose track of days.  But that’s probably just me.

After you mix it up and cover it, put it in a warmish, out-of-the-way place so it’s not in your way all the time.  I understand the top of the fridge is a good place for some people.  I like to have mine a little closer to eye level so I don’t forget to feed it.  Ask me how I know that.

The Care and Feeding of Your Sourdough Starter

About 12 hours after you start it, you are going to need to feed it.  It may or may not have started doing anything by then.  Just feed it anyway.  To feed it, stir it down and add 1/4 cup water and 3/8 cup flour.  I like to mix in the water first and then the flour.  It mixes easier that way.  Again, it’s ok if it has lumps, they will go away.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides so none of it dries out.

In another 12(ish) hours you are going to feed it again.  This time, though, after you stir it down, take out about half of what’s in the jar and throw it out.  Add back in 1/4 cup of water and 3/8 cup flour.  Now, I know, I know, you’re thinking that throwing it out seems to be wasteful.  But it’s really important that you don’t starve your starter.  You have to give it enough to keep it feeding for several hours.  If you don’t through half of it out, you would need a ginormous container at the end of 14 feedings!

So, about every 12 hours, you need to get rid of about half of what’s in the jar, and feed it again.  I do it in the morning when I get up and at night before I go to bed.  Is that exactly 12 hours?  No.  But that’s ok, sourdough is really quite forgiving.  Even if you don’t think it’s doing much, just keep feeding it.  It may or may not at some time form a layer of clearish-yellowish-brownish liquid either on the top or bottom.  That is called “hooch” and is the alcohol forming.  Just stir it back into the rest when you feed it.  It might be kinda smelly, but that is ok too.  The smell and the color will depend on what kind of flour you are using.  My whole wheat starter smells different from my white flour starter.  If you miss a feeding, all is not lost!  Just pick up where you left off.  I like to mark the lid every time I feed it because you need to feed it at least 14 times before it’s ready to use.  By then, the yeasts will have multiplied to the point where there is enough to make the bread rise.  After about the third or fourth day, you should be able to see bubbles forming in the starter.  This may start happening before that, but should definitely be happening by the fourth day.  If not, you probably need to start over.  After about the fifth day it should be filling the jar 1/2 to 3/4 full between feedings.  The process can sometimes be slower if your kitchen is cold, so keep that in mind. 

I started a new starter this morning so I could take pictures to show you what it may look like at each stage.  I’ll post them every day until we get to the point when we can actually start using it.  Then I’ll post some recipes and suggestions on what to do with it.  You’d be surprised at what all you can do with a  sourdough starter!  Just know that after it is strong enough to use, you can keep about a cup of it in the fridge and only feed it once a week.  I don’t want you to think you’re going to be feeding it twice a day for the rest of your life!

So, ready for some pictures?

1 cup water and 1 cup flour mixed up with the sides of the jar scraped down


Same jar from the top. Kinda lumpy.


Now with a frilly little bonnet on, ready to go to work.

12ish hours later:

Right before 1st feeding. See the layer of hooch on top? And there are already some bubbles forming.


After 1st feeding. The starter fills up about half the jar.


It happened to be warm today, so things got going pretty quickly.  I don’t remember hooch and bubbles before the 1st feeding before.  So if you don’t get any, don’t worry.

Tomorrow I’ll give you an update on the starter, and some ideas on what you can do with it besides bread.

I shared this at the Homestead Hop.