My Sourdough Starter

Discussion in 'The Cooking Channel' started by np307, Jul 12, 2019 at 10:15 AM.

  1. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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    So I go through cycles of my cooking projects. My favorite is homemade bread, but it gets hard to conceal IWB if I make it all the time. So I haven't made much bread recently but I'm getting back to it, which starts with making a sourdough or levain culture. I've mentioned it before and always intend to post a guide, but this time I actually am going to.

    There's tons of information online and I am not an expert, but sometimes it's easier to jump into something if you can ask questions, so feel free. Just remember that until pretty recently, this is how all bread was made. It's not really that tough.

    I'll start with what you'll need. The basics are: a container large enough to hold the starter mixture, water, and flour. If you wanted to, you could get by with just that stuff, but to make things easier, I also like to use a scale and to be specific about the kind of flour I use. All I use is King Arthur just to be consistent.

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    I keep all purpose, bread flour, and whole wheat flour on hand. I like these sterlite containers because they'll hold a whole bag at once.

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    This starter is a 100% hydration starter, which means that the flour and water are mixed at a 1:1 ratio by weight. I start with a clean, empty container. This is a 7 cup container I believe and you'll see that I have the dry weight marked, which becomes important later on.

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    Next I add 300 grams of whole wheat flour. Whole wheat is the best to begin a culture with because it has more parts of the wheat kernel which allows fermentation to start more quickly. You could do this with AP flour but it would take a couple days more than this will.

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    Next I add an equal amount of warm water. Some get really specific about water temp, I dont worry about it. You'll also see it goes a couple grams over, no big deal.
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    Now just mix it up and let it rest. You could leave it on the counter, but I start mine in the oven with the light on just so it's a bit warmer to encourage the fermentation to start. I'll leave it alone and check it this evening, then tomorrow morning.
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    And that's pretty much all for day 1. The process from here on is basically just removing and replacing flour and water until you have a usable culture.
     
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  2. JimB

    JimB Picking it up slowly. Benefactor Charter Life Member

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    Do you use bottled or dechlorinated water? Seems that the chemicals in tap water would slow things down.

    My mother had a sourdough starter that she got from her MIL, my paternal grandmother, and kept going for decades. The family swore it was always better to use an old one than a new, probably BS.
     
  3. wvsig

    wvsig Well-Known Member

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    Pro bakers have starters that they keep alive for years and years. There are starters still being used that are over 100 years old. They feed it to keep it “alive”. If you use a wild yeast from the air your bread will be different than one started in say CA. It will have a “regional” local flavor.
     
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  4. noway2

    noway2 Senior Member Charter Life Member

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    My grandfather ran a bakery back in the day. He made this bread called salt rising bread that was made with a non pasteurized corn meal. It wasn't great bread but made wonderful stinky toast with a delicious flavor. Govt. regulation changed the corn meal and it was never the same. He spent years after he retired, even bought corn and had it ground special at a mill, but could never duplicate it. Probably had something to do with the starter that was reused.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019 at 1:39 PM
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  5. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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    No I dont worry about the water. I'm sure it does slow it down, but it only takes 4 or 5 days to get it going.

    People get funny about sourdough cultures, but in reality it's all the same yeast that you're cultivating. There can be minor differences in the air or water that contribute to flavor, but that is only true for where the starter is at the time. Some people make a big deal that their culture is from San Francisco or France, but after a couple days it adjusts back to your local climate.

    I have kept a starter for a while before and didnt really detect a difference between it and a new one.
     
  6. teamglock2002

    teamglock2002 Member Life Member

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    Sour dough bread makes the best grill cheese sandwiches. Heard yesterday about cooking GC sandwiches in bacon grease instead of butter.
     
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  7. Jeppo

    Jeppo Very LARGE Member Supporting Member

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    Sourdough bread makes life worth living. :)
     
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  8. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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    Alright, day 2.

    You can see how much this rose and how gassy it is. This is because of the heat in the oven with the light on.
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    The smell isn't going to be great at this point, but dont worry. Itll develop a much more pleasant sour aroma over the next few days. When baking, starter is measured by the weight of the flour in the starter, so discard what would be considered 200 grams by that measurement. If you are weighing the whole amount in the container, you will be discarding 400 grams and left with 200 grams, plus the weight of the container. This is why it's important to have written down how much your container weighs. Thus, I needed 375 grams of total weight remaining.
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    Now just add flour and water equal to what you removed, mix it up and store. Since the culture is already so active, I will leave this on the counter from here on. Tomorrow it should be active enough that I will switch to a mix of 80% ap flour and 20% whole wheat.

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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    Day 3. This starter has been very active and stabilized quickly. A couple hours after mixing it yesterday morning, it had done this:

    [​IMG]

    This morning it smelled fruity and sour, exactly how it should. This is probably a usable culture at this point, but I'll give it a couple more days before I use it. If you're making one yourself, dont worry if it still isn't very active or doesnt smell right just yet. I've had them take as long as a week before they are right. At this point though, we are going to switch from whole wheat flour to a blend of all purpose and whole wheat. If you wanted to keep it whole wheat only, you could. Sometimes I will take some of my regular starter and start a second one of only whole wheat for certain loaves. Nothing wrong with it, I just dont prefer it all the time.

    Also, this is when you get pick about how much starter you remove and add. You will have to ultimately be the one who determines this based on the temperature and activity of your starter. If you remove too little, it will over ferment and eventually turn bad. If you remove too much, you will be removing more of the yeast than can reproduce. It's a balance, but it isn't too difficult to find the balance. You'll know you're removing the right amount when the starter is still bubbly and active the next day, but has fallen some from its highest point and does NOT smell "off". I cant describe "off" but you will know it when you smell it, I promise.

    I will use 75 grams total weight as my reserve amount and add 200 grams of flour (160 ap + 40 ww) and 200 grams of water. You can see that the resulting mixture is lighter and more liquid than before, that's because of the ap flour.
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    Now it's just a cycle of discarding and feeding each day till the culture is stable and usable.
     
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  10. Diablos

    Diablos Senior Member

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  11. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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  12. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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    Day 4

    This starter is ready to go. Tomorrow I will make the first loaf with it. When I fed the starter this morning it was very bubbly and active and had a sour, fruity smell.

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    For right now I'll keep discarding all but 75 grams of total weight and then feeding 400 grams of total weight.

    The discard can be used in several ways. You can add it to any other dough you may be making, it's especially good in pancakes. You can always give it away or just discard it.

    If you arent going to be baking a lot of bread, the starter will keep very well in the fridge. Feed it in the morning, let it sit a few hours, then store in the fridge. When you're ready to use it, take it out a day ahead of time and feed it then place in a warm place and it'll be good to go by morning.
     
  13. ripv2

    ripv2 Rooster Bullets Benefactor Charter Life Member

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    Thank you for sharing this.

    After stabilizing how long will it store in the fridge without feeding it?
     
  14. np307

    np307 Happy to be here. Supporting Member

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    The longest I've gone is 2 weeks. It's also possible to spread it very thin and let it dehydrate, break it into pieces and store it in an airtight container. Supposedly that will keep indefinitely and can be rehydrated, but I've never tried it.
     
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