Feeding a Sourdough Starter

Later today, I will post a recipe for sourdough bread. First, however, I would like to talk about sourdough starters. In many of today’s breads, we use baker’s yeast to make the bread rise. This works well, because while the yeast munch away on the sugars and starches present in flour, they give off carbon dioxide, creating gas bubbles in the dough which rise the bread. While baker’s yeast is a pure strain of factory-cultured yeast, sourdough is a culture of wild yeasts and bacteria that occur naturally on flour. The bacteria acidify the dough, giving it a characteristic flavor and preserving the bread. By using a sourdough starter, you no longer have to buy commercially produced yeast. Also, sourdough bread keeps much longer than yeast bread, so you don’t have to bake as often to be able to eat healthy, fresh bread.

The easiest way to begin a starter is to get a bit from someone else, and feed it the way I’m going to show you. If you can’t get a live starter, you can start your own by putting half a cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water in a container (I use a pickle jar). Adjust the amounts until you get to a consistency somewhere between a thick batter and a thin dough. Then cover loosely and leave it on the counter. After 24 hours, you may notice some bubbles forming in the starter. These are the beginnings of your yeast culture. Now, add another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water, and stir. Eventually, you will notice your culture rising after you feed it. Repeat the steps above until the culture doubles in size between feedings. Then you can start feeding regularly. Young cultures are not very reliable, so don’t worry if the culture fails to rise for a few days. Just keep feeding it and it will come back.

A few words on flour: I have heard people say that the yeast and bacteria in sourdough come from the air and settle on the flour/water mixture. While there are undoubtedly some organisms that settle in from the air, the vast majority are actually already present on the flour to begin with. Whole wheat flour is best for this for two reasons. Firstly, it is less processed, so fewer organisms were lost during milling. Secondly, it will nourish the starter more effectively due to the wider range of nutrients present in whole wheat flour. That being said, it is very possible to start and run a sourdough culture with white flour, and rye flour is used extensively as well.

Anyway, here is how I feed my starter. As usual, comment if you do things differently, or if you have questions. Here is a view of my starter. I fed it in the morning, and the picture was taken in the evening. Notice how high up in the jar it has risen, and how many bubbles are present.

2-Before Stirring

Take a knife or spoon, and stir the starter down to make it easier to work with.

3-After Stirring

You will want one cup of this starter. The rest can be used for baking, or can be discarded (Give it to someone who doesn’t have a starter yet). You will also need one cup of whole wheat flour and 0.5 cups of lukewarm water.

4-Ingredients 2

In a bowl, add the starter and the water, and stir to combine. I feel that by suspending the yeast in the water, it will mix better through the new flour when that gets added. the mixture will foam a bit.

5-Mixing Wets6-Mixing Wets 2

Now you can stir in the flour, forming a very wet dough.

7-Adding Dry9-Back in Jar

I like to wash the jar so that I can see what’s going on inside. Don’t use soap, just rinse it down well. Then, you can add the fed starter back into the jar.

A tip for moving the starter: If you move fast, it acts as a solid and breaks. Do this to cut the starter or to scrape it off the bowl. If you move slow, it will run like a thick liquid, so you can pour easily.

Here’s the fed starter in a clean jar.

9-Back in Jar

To stay healthy, a starter at room temperature should be fed twice a day. I sometimes forget a feeding without too much of a problem, but it never seems to rise as well after the next feeding if I forget.

Look for my sourdough bread post, coming soon!

~The Homesteading Hippy

3 thoughts on “Feeding a Sourdough Starter

  1. Pingback: Hodge-Podge: Chicken Update and Sourdough Starter | Live Simple Natural

  2. Pingback: A Bounty of Breads | The Homesteading Hippy

  3. Pingback: Sourdough Pizza? | The Homesteading Hippy

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