Sourdough can seem like a complicated topic! When I first began I wasn’t sure what the terms meant-starter, discard, lame, banneton, and more. Which lead to me to analysis paralysis, and just not wanting to start making sourdough. Come with me to learn some basics about sourdough and simple recipes (from another homesteader) to get you started, and set you up for success while using sourdough starter. As you go you can learn more about sourdough and sourdough terms. However, I want you to know that you can do this! You can do this without fancy equipment, and with basic things you have around your kitchen already.
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Basic Sourdough Terms that you actually need to know
- Active Sourdough Starter-Active sourdough starter is the combination of flour and water that turns bubbly after feeding the sourdough starter, anywhere from 2-12 hours after feeding. If making a brand new starter from scratch you will need a period of 7-10+ days for your starter to turn bubbly and active.
- Float Test –I have never once done this. However, I can see where this would be helpful. The float test is used to make sure your sourdough starter is active and bubbly enough to float. You add 1 teaspoon of starter to at least 1 cup of room temperature water and see if the blob floats. If it floats, it is ready and active enough to bake with. As I mentioned, I have never done this, and everything has been fine! I do like to make sure my starter has doubled in size, has great bubbly action, and when jiggling it, it is bouncy, not liquidy.
- Doubling in Size- Doubling in size is just like what it sounds like. This is when your sourdough starter is active, fed and bubbly. You’re wanting to make sure it has doubled in size before baking with it (especially for things that require good structure, like a loaf of sourdough bread). That is why you see so many jars with rubber bands on them. People are looking to see that their starter has doubled in size. *Pro Tip* Make sure you have a large enough jar to allow for your starter to double in size. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a ½ pint of starter in a quart jar (for very long) because once you add 1 cup of starter, plus 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water you don’t allow for very much room for the starter to expand (keep in mind 1 quart is equal to 4 cups). It’s also a great idea to put something like a pan under your jar to make for easier clean up in the event your jar does overflow. Ask me how I know!
- Feeding a Sourdough Starter– Try to stick to 1:1:1 for a typical sourdough starter. 1 cup sourdough starter, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water. Now, you can feed your sourdough starter with whatever flour you’d like. However, I would recommend you maintain an all purpose flour-based starter because it’s cheaper, and generally a little less finicky than other flours. Then when you want to make something using another flour like, einkorn, rye, or another grain, take out 1 cup of your all purpose flour fed sourdough starter, add 1 cup of your desired flour and 1 cup of water.
- Non-chlorinated/filtered water– You cannot use chlorinated water to feed your sourdough starter. You will kill off the good bacteria you’ve grown, and that you want to have in your sourdough starter. You will need to use filtered water, or well water, that has not been treated with chemicals. However, you can avoid having to purchase water by filling up a jar with the water you need for your recipe (or a larger amount, so you don’t have to do this all of the time), leaving the lid open on it for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate off. You can also boil the water for 15 minutes. However, knowing me, I’d probably get ahead of myself and use too warm of water and kill the bacteria in my starter. So, be careful with the boiling water scenario.
- Sourdough Discard– Ok, this term is used in a couple of different ways. First, sourdough discard is used to describe your sourdough starter after it has “deflated” and become not so bubbly any more. It can no longer be considered an active sourdough starter. Second, this is used to talk about discarding sourdough starter when you’re first starting your sourdough starter from scratch. If you get a sourdough starter from someone, you will not have to discard until you feel like you have too much sourdough starter to work with for your needs. Many recipes talk about throwing away (or discarding) half of what you’ve grown each day, usually for a period of seven to ten days. This is just to help you in the end so you don’t have to feed your sourdough starter so much by the end.
Just think-if you were given 1 cup of sourdough starter, you would then feed it 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. But after a day or so, you notice your starter losing bubbles, and forming a layer of hooch. Your active sourdough starter is turning into sourdough discard. So, you can either: 1- make something with it that is considered a “discard” recipe, 2-feed it the whole amount it needs (remember 1:1:1 based on how much sourdough starter you have), and/or a combination of these things so you don’t have to feed it as much flour and water. More than likely, if you’re following this example, your active sourdough starter will double in size after 2-24 hours. Then you’re left with over four cups of starter. Then, to follow the ratio of 1:1:1, you would need to feed it 4 cups flour, and 4 cups of water. WOW! That’s a lot of sourdough starter.
- “Hooch-this is the alcohol layer that is left on top of your sourdough starter once it’s becoming hungry! Feed that sourdough starter some flour and watch that layer disappear. Also note that if you have hooch, you certainly can pour it off and still use your sourdough starter. You can also mix it in, but know that stirring in that layer of hooch will make your sourdough really sour! “Hooch-this is the alcohol layer that is left on top of your sourdough starter once it’s becoming hungry! Feed that sourdough starter some flour and watch that layer disappear. Also note that if you have hooch, you certainly can pour it off and still use your sourdough starter. You can also mix it in, but know that stirring in that layer of hooch will make your sourdough really sour! “Normal” colors of hooch are clear, yellow, brown, gray, black. NOT normal/usable, RED/PINK. I just think nature is speaking loud an clear here. It’s saying caution, don’t try this…you really don’t want to.
Come back to learn more about the following sourdough topic areas and more helpful information about sourdough starters and sourdough products:
- Stretch and Fold
- Bulk Ferment
- Dutch Oven
People that are local to the Humboldt, Iowa area may have joined me for my sourdough demonstration at the Humboldt Farmers’ Market.
Recipes used during demonstration at The Humboldt, Iowa Farmers’ Market
Lisa from Farmhouse on Boone has been an inspiration for me getting my blog up and going, and I love her recipes! Go check her stuff out here!
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When I started making and using sourdough starter I used the following equipment:
- Small silicone spatula-to stir sourdough starter and to mix up different recipes
- Serving dish – got something similar for a wedding present, and the size is nice for making loaves of bread that are a good size for sandwich bread
- Parchment paper -different recipes say they reuse their parchment paper when making loaves of sourdough bread. I highly do NOT recommend this. I may or may not have starter a small fire with reused parchment paper.
- Tin foil – I used tin foil to cover my sourdough loaves for the first bake in the oven with the “lid on,” then I would turn the oven down and remove the tin foil. I reuse this until there are tears through the tin foil.
- Tea Towels – I use tea towels to cover dough, sourdough starter and more! I love tea towels!!
- Cooling Rack– you’ll need to put the bread out to cool, and you’ll need a place to put that super hot pan from baking your bread!
If you’re interested and really invested in this sourdough journey, you might want to consider some of the following tools and equipment. However, please please please know that you can likely use the kitchen tools and equipment you already have.
Sourdough Tools and Equipment you may want (but totally not necessary!)
ECOMERR 9” Banneton Bread Proofing Basket – Set of 2 Round & Oval Rattan Proofing Baskets for Sourdough Bread Baking with Bread Lame + Steel & Plastic Dough Scraper + Linen Liner Cloth + Dough Whisk
Superbaking Banneton Bread Proofing Basket, Sourdough Bread Baking Supplies, Round 9 inch Sourdough Starter Kit, Proofing Basket for Bread baking, Bread Making Supplies Tools, Banneton Basket Gift Set
Recsrdce Bread Knife，Bread Bow Knife， bread knife for homemade bread, 15.7″ Serrated Bread Knife （Bamboo handle – right hand）
2PCs GUY DREAM Silicone Baking Mat for Dutch Oven – Non-stick Bread Sling – 8.3 Inch Reusable Bread Baking Mat – Silicone Dutch Oven Liner with Long Handles & 1 Set of Silicone Brush & Spatula
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Please join us for part two about sourdough, coming soon!