about sourdough starter

I have this sourdough starter, and no, I have not named it.  I should say “them”, perhaps, as there are 2 of them.  They live in the fridge together, and come out to feed on a regular basis.  They need to feed, and develop themselves, just like any other living creature, I suppose….

I thought I’d pull together some thoughts here, as sourdough seems to be trending in these parts, and I’ve issued instructions via email on more than 1 occasion.  Is nice to hear that these starters bred in James Bay have made their way to such exotic wild-yeast destinations such as Esquimalt, Mt. Douglas, near Colquitz Creek, and Central Saanich!

The first starter I bred from a seed-culture, based on the formula offered by master baker Peter Reinhart in his classic text The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  That was in 2009, and it is still with me today.  Even after I lost it once, but that is another tale, that has a heroic outcome.

The 2nd starter was a gift, from a colleague that wished to pass on a package of the famous Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter.  By now, I am sure these 2 starters have merged in a glorious union of sourdough barm activity, but who knows.  I’d recommend that you read Suzie’s Sourdough Circus to get the complete picture as to what it is really like to carry on life as a member of a wild-yeast colony.

Here is the sourdough cycle that I’ve been on for a few years now:

  1. take starter out of fridge, feed starter
  2. use some starter for bread dough
  3. put starter back in fridge
  4. Go to 1

I have found a way to moderate volume of starter kept, vs. amount needed to make bread and consumption by family.  I’m currently keeping 2 starters, about 10 oz., and bulking them tto make bread, about four 25 oz. loaves per week.  Sometimes 6, depends on how much bread people are eating.  Family of 6 in the house.

Feeding Instructions

I store the starter in the fridge, in a ceramic bowl, with a saran-wrap cover that is held in place by elastics.  You may hear of starters that are kept under more tightly-lidded conditions, and may blow their lids off – has never happened to me.

After taking the starter out of the fridge, I see if any hooch has developed since last feeding.  If so, I generally dump it down the drain.  Really not something to enjoy in a cocktail, but you might as well take a sip, just so you know what your starter is developing.

I’ll also reduce volume of starter kept to about 8 oz. before feeding.  Seems to work out well as far as volume goes.

I always double the volume when I feed the starter.  So, for 8 oz. of starter, I’ll seek to double the volume to 16 oz. of starter in a single feeding.  I’ll add 4 oz. of flour, and 4 oz. of water to make it so, because 8 + 4 + 4 = 16

Stir in the new flour and water, and leave out on the counter for an afternoon, or a day, or overnight – as long as you want to observe the sourdough action, and watch the wild-yeasts bubbling away. You may want to co-locate the bowl of starter with a wild-yeast source in your home, if you find a preferred one. Wild yeast tends to congregate in all sorts of places, so have fun with this aspect of maintaining your culture. I keep mine by a bowl of ripening fruit, and a container of fresh compost clippings destined for the backyard, but that is just me.

Ingredients

You may want to experiment with types of flours, and the liquid ratio to achieve a more-firm or less-firm starter.  I don’t mess around too much here, and have settled on these products :

  • Flour : Anita’s Organic Unbleached White Flour (13% protein)
  • Water: Aquafina bottled water

Tap water may do the trick, depending on what they’re putting in the water in your area.  Your mileage may vary.

So – once you have doubled the volume of the starter by mixing in flour and water, just let it sit out and expand.  You’ll want to find a container that can accommodate sourdough expansion.

Have fun, and may your wild yeast prosper!


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