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Sourdough starter

lorian's picture

Sourdough starter (post #63318)

in

Can anyone give me an easy recipe for sourdough starter.  I know this has been talked about before, and believe me, I've tried so many different methods unsuccessfully.  Here I am in the "Gold Country" where the stuff is rumored to be from and can't seem to get a recipe to work for me.  I'm pretty sure the gold miners of way back when didn't have to fuss as much as I have.  Thanks in advance.

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
case4's picture

(post #63318, reply #1 of 421)

The one I made successfully many, many years ago was from Nancy Silverton's Breads From La Brea Bakery. She gives a lot of detail (? too much). Patience seems to be the key.  I have given some of my starter to friends. Do you know anyone who makes sourdough bread? Failing that, I'd be happy to send you some dried, but I'm not too sure how easy it would be to send "white powder" across the border (I'm Canadian).

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #2 of 421)

Lorian, the easiest way I have found is to start with a whole grain flour -- either whole rye or whole wheat -- and use a fruit juice instead of water for the first few days to control the pH. Pineapple juice, apple cider and orange juice all work well.


I'd be happy to work through it with you -- I have a pretty good record of helping people get starters going. Do you have a scale, or will you be measuring by volume?

lorian's picture

(post #63318, reply #4 of 421)

I would love the help!  I have whole wheat flour, but does it have to be organic or anything special?  I've had it for a few months, does that matter?  If you could let me know the amounts and methods, I be much abliged.

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #5 of 421)

Happy to do it -- this will be fun. Starting with large amounts and discarding throughout the process is wasteful and unnecessary, so let's make it easy and start small. Organic isn't required and the flour you have will probably do just fine, because even if there are fewer viable organisms, once they start to grow, they grow exponentially. Do you have any of the above-mentioned juices on hand?

 

You'll end up with a starter that you can maintain in any manner suitable for the recipes you want to do. You don't have to keep it in a special spot unless your house is particularly cool. Anywhere in the 70's is fine. Below 68, things might be a bit slow to develop. Keep the container covered to keep out mold spores, dust, undesireable bacteria and insects. Don't worry, it doesn't need fresh air to work, but by day 3 or 4 it will need room to grow. Make sure to use a container about 4x the volume of freshly fed starter or you may have a mess on your hands. Wide-mouth canning jars are nice to gauge and view the rise. Straight-sided Rubber Maid containers work well too.

 

Edited 12/5/04 to say that the improved version can be found in message #128.

 

Day 1, mix:

 

3 tablespoons whole wheat flour - 1 oz.

2 tablespoons juice (pineapple, orange or apple cider) - 1 oz.

 

 

Day 2, add:

 

3 tablespoons whole wheat flour - 1 oz.

2 tablespoons juice  - 1 oz.

 

 

Day 3, add:

 

3 tablespoons whole wheat flour - 1 oz.

2 tablespoons juice - 1 oz.

 

 

Day 4 and once daily until it is at least doubling in 24 hours:

 

Stir the starter down and measure a scant 1/4 cup. To that add 3 tablespoons bread flour and 2 tablespoons water.

 

 

The first and second 24-hour periods you probably will not see anything happen. Between the day 3 and day 4 feedings, you might see a little activity -- bubbles forming and the level starting to rise -- but don't be disappointed if that doesn't happen until after the day 4 feeding. It's actually a good sign when all is quiet for the first few days. Exact feeding times aren't critical -- about the same time each day. Exact flour amounts aren't critical either, but a scale is the easiest tool for consistency. Anything from a soft dough to a thick paste is fine, but paste is easier to mix.

Edited 11/22/2004 8:25 pm ET by macy

Edited 11/25/2004 3:33 pm ET by macy

Edited 11/29/2004 3:33 pm ET by macy

Edited 12/1/2004 7:31 pm ET by macy


Edited 12/5/2004 6:37 pm ET by macy

Peter10002's picture

(post #63318, reply #9 of 421)

This probably goes without saying, but don't use an airtight lid or the container may burst from the pressure.

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #10 of 421)

Ah yes, good call -- it's easy to underestimate the power of sourdough. That's another reason I like to use a canning jar for storage. The lids are designed to vent pressure. Plastic containers with tight-fitting lids will pop their tops. Gladware doesn't seem to have that problem. For the first few days of this procedure, you can leave the mixture in a bowl and set a plate on top. Saran Quick Covers work great too.

lorian's picture

(post #63318, reply #11 of 421)

I'm so excited to have a tutor walk me through all of this.  I do, however, have one teeny, tiny little problem.  I'm going out of town for a few days for my anniversary, so can't get started right away.  Hope this doesn't nullify the offer!

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #12 of 421)

Not at all -- this'll keep.   Have a Happy Anniversary!

lorian's picture

(post #63318, reply #18 of 421)

Thanks much, we had a great time in Seattle!  Now I'm back, and ready to get started.

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #19 of 421)

Super! I won't be able to check in on Saturday, so it would be best if that is not day 3 or day 4. If things aren't moving along, that's when it will show up and I don't want to leave you hanging. I'm going to start one at the same time or just before, so we can compare notes. How about Friday or Sunday, or whatever's good for you. Do you know what kind of juice you'll be using?

deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #20 of 421)

I'd like to try this as well - I've not had any luck so far with sourdough starters.


deej

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #21 of 421)

The more, the merrier -- This is a fun thing to do as a group.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #22 of 421)

Can I join too? Did you decide Friday or Saturday?


Thanks. I love sourdough but don't have a stellar record feeding it.


 


 

 

 

lorian's picture

(post #63318, reply #23 of 421)

Friday is good for me.  I'll probably be using orange juice as I have oranges on hand.  Hope fresh is okay to use.

"If at first you don't succeed, maybe failure is your thing!"   --bumper sticker
macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #25 of 421)

Oh there you are -- we were posting at the same time. Friday it is then. Is that good for everyone else? I don't see any problem with using fresh OJ.

deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #27 of 421)

I'm ready as well.  I've got a couple of oranges in the fridge, so I'll use oj.


deej

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #24 of 421)

Canuck, you're very welcome to join in. Still waiting to hear back from Lorian about a start day. I'm also going to modify the procedure I gave earlier. I did a trial run, starting one culture with wheat and the other with rye. The wheat one took a couple extra days to finish this time with a new bag of flour, so I'm trying a tweak that should help bring it around faster and save some frustration :-)

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #26 of 421)

I'm in, thanks. Will we wait for a starter's gun?

 


 

 

 

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #28 of 421)

:-)))   I'm not sure how to shoot a pistol into cyberspace :-) Pick a general time of the day--morning, afternoon or evening--that will be convenient to feed every day for the next 4-5 days. It'll only take a few minutes, and if it varies a few hours from one day to the next, that's okay.


On Friday (tomorrow) mix together 1 oz. whole wheat flour and 1 oz. orange juice. That's about 3 slightly mounded tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons OJ. It will probably come together more like a very soft, sticky dough than a batter, but a thick batter would be okay too. You can leave it in the bowl, covered, or you can put it in a small storage container with a loose-fitting lid. Set it in a spot that won't be too cool--try to keep it in the 70's for the most part. 75-78º would be ideal, but you needn't go out of your way to achieve that. The low 70's will do fine.

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #29 of 421)

I'm off! I put the flour out last night to remind me and DH put it away, so I'm already 4 hours behind! Anyway, it's a soft dough, wrapped up to keep cozy in front of a heating vent (chilly November day here in Toronto). I'll check in again tomorrow.

 


 

 

 

deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #30 of 421)

I'm still at the starting gate - today's our big office potluck, so starting the sourdough took a back seat to getting my contributions together.


However, I'll start it as soon as I get home tonight.


deej

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #31 of 421)

Hm...I might tag along on this journey. I could pick up some OJ on the way home....

My house is never above 68, though. I might try putting it in a soft-sided cooler next to the radiator (hot water heat). I'm sure it would get too hot if I just set it on the radiator. But, maybe if it's in the cooler it'll be insulated enough? Hm...Or I could wrap in a towel and put up on top of the cabinets, near the ceiling...might be warm enough up there....

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #32 of 421)

I know, I have the same problem.  The optimum place in our house is on top of the water heater.  It's a gas heater, and gives off a nice, gentle warmth that doesn't seem to deviate much from 23° C.  Would that work for you?


deej

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #33 of 421)

Hm...I hadn't thought of that. I've got a gas hot water heater. I'll check how warm it is when I get home. :)

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #34 of 421)

Our numbers are growing -- this is great. The more feedback, the better. I gave the test one its day 3 meal today per the changes, and it is looking very good so far. I edited message #6 yesterday and will add to it when I decide what I'm going to do tomorrow for day 4. Basically what we are building in these first few days is what some call a chef or mother. All that means is that we're harnessing all the little buggers we need in a sourdough starter. Sort of a wild yeast roundup, if you will. Once the chef is up and running, we use it to inoculate the starter, which is used to make the preferments, and on and on. Sounds more complicated that it needs to, because they are all basically the same thing--water, flour and wild cultures.


Another solution for those of you with cool houses, is to turn on a desk or table lamp and set your container in the vicinity. Light bulbs put out quite a bit of heat. Be sure to take a temperature reading of the site and set the starter where it won't be warmer than 79º. 75-78º is perfect; 70-75º is fine too. Cool is better than too warm. If the starter develops a crust at any time, move to a cooler location.


If yours progresses like mine, 24 hours after mixing, the dough won't have changed much. It should smell nice, not foul -- wheaty with a hint of orange. The top surface that is in contact with the air may be a little darker and wet looking. Let me know if you see something drastically different.


Tomorrow, add 1 oz of whole wheat flour and 1 oz oj and let it sit another day. With sourdough, patience is a virtue :-) It may not look like much is happening, but rest assured it is already very much alive.


Edited 11/26/2004 6:47 pm ET by macy

Edited 12/5/2004 6:56 pm ET by macy

Edited 12/5/2004 6:57 pm ET by macy


Edited 12/6/2004 12:03 am ET by macy

soccermom's picture

(post #63318, reply #35 of 421)

Whew! I'm glad to read your email, because mine looks exactly like it did yesterday. Will now add the 1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp oj and check in again tomorrow.


 


 

 

 

deejeh's picture

(post #63318, reply #36 of 421)

I'm a day behind.  I started mine this morning.  I'll feed it again tomorrow, and benefit from the observations of you guys who are on schedule.


deej


<edited to say:  Attn Canuck - Macy says day 2 feeding is 1 oz each oj and flour, not 1 tbsp.>


Edited 11/27/2004 1:29 pm ET by deejeh

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #38 of 421)

That's okay, if we have any trouble, we can fix it before you get there. Sourdough should fit into your life and not the other way around :-)

DeannaS's picture

(post #63318, reply #39 of 421)

Well, I just did my Day 2 feeding. There was a bit of liquid on top of the goo. I have it loosely covered (cause it's downstairs on the hot water heater and it's kind of dusty and spider-webby down there). But, it smelled the way you described.

My dog also ate the organic whole wheat flour I bought for this experiment (and which I used yesterday). The only other WW flour I have in the house is KA white whole wheat. It's going to have to do for today as I took a nasty spill this afternoon and I think I have a slight concussion. So, I don't plan to drive anywhere to get more organic WW flour. Ooo, my achin' head.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

macy's picture

(post #63318, reply #43 of 421)

Ouch, I hope your head is okay.


I sometimes see a small amount of liquid separate out in the early stages, it's fine. The white wheat should be fine too. I haven't used it for starter, but it is a whole grain, and that is what matters. The wild yeast and bacteria grow on the surface of the grain in the field, and so are associated more with the bran portion which is processed out of white flours. It doesn't need to be organic either. Organic is probably higher in total numbers of viable microorganisms, but it is higher in the ones we don't want as well as the ones we do. I have done lots of these with non-organic flours and it works fine. The yeasts are there.


Your dog eats flour?