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HOW TO TEND TO YOUR SOURDOUGH STARTER

Starting a culture is simple. Maintaining it is the most difficult part. Once established and refreshed, a culture can live for a lifetime, maybe even several. If forgotten it will not immediately perish or do you harm if ingested. The value of tending a culture lies in the care it needs to stay alive. While we strive to do our best, it should also be a process free of stress.

First Feeding & Standard Refreshment

100% 200g Bread flour

100% 200g Water

30% 30g Starter

230% 430g

Tools

  • Digital scale

  • Spoon

  • Container or crock that can hold 430g starter

When you receive your starter, it will need a little TLC after it’s adventure in the post. It may look flat (no bubbles) or smell quite sour. This is no cause for worry. Your new starter is simply exhausted and needs to be fed flour and water.

Step 1. Transfer the starter to a clean container container and feed it 200g lukewarm water and 200g bread flour. Cover loosely and let rest on the counter top for 8 hours at around 70 degrees. You should begin to see bubbles appear in the batter and on the top. It will expand and smell a little fruity.

Step 2. At the 6-hour mark discard (remove from the container) all but 30g and again, feed it 200g lukewarm water and 200g bread flour. Let rest for another 8 hours at 70 degrees. The starter, at this point, should be lively and bubbly. It should smell sweet and sour like a strong yogurt. You have now activated your starter.

If your starter is sluggish and isn’t showing bubbles, continue refreshing, step 2, until it’s expanded and billowy.

Once the starter is ready you can get baking!

If you don’t plan on baking right away store your starter in the refrigerator.

Trouble shooting

The more refreshments you do the livelier your starter will be. Keep this in mind if you won’t be baking frequently. If baking once per week, plan on at least two refreshments prior to your bake.

Your starter goes dormant in the refrigerator. Just because it’s become “thin” and smells sour doesn’t mean it’s dead. It may also develop a layer of alcohol on the top. This is also very common. If this happens simply stir the starter thoroughly and refresh until it’s back to life.

To revive your starter after it’s been in cold storage simply bring it out and start feeding it 200g lukewarm water and 200g bread flour. You do not need to wait for your starter to come to room temp before beginning refreshments.

Taking good care of your starter means using it frequently. This helps train the yeast and bacteria. I keep mine in the refrigerator until Monday, pull it out, refresh it once and then create a leaven with it overnight so I can mix my bread dough on Tuesday to bake Wednesday. After I make my leaven on Monday night I store the leftover starter back in the refrigerator till the next Monday. I find that by doing this weekly bake I don’t need to bring out my starter and feed it at any other time and it comes back to life quickly.

It’s normal for your starter to smell acidic and alcoholic when you retrieve it from the refrigerator, but if it ever has mold growth, smells markedly different or develops a dark or pinkish hue it’s time to start over.

You may want to time your refreshments with other baking to capture the flavor of sourdough. Discarded starter can be put into cakes, cookies, crackers and my favorite…..pancakes.  

Pancakes with starter

Makes approx. 10 pancakes

350g Starter

350g Pastry flour

350g Buttermilk

28g Sugar

45g Sunflower oil

6g Baking powder

¼ teaspoon Salt

2 Eggs, separated, whip whites to stiff peaks

Tools

  • Digital scale

  •  Measuring spoons

  •  4 medium mixing bowls

  •   Stand mixer or hand blender

  •  Skillet

  • Wooden spoon

  • Spatula

  •  

Method

Separate the eggs. Whip the whites to stiff peaks. Weigh together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the egg yolks, oil, starter and buttermilk. Whisk together. Fold into the dry mix. Stir till combined. Fold in the egg whites. Bake on a hot, buttered skillet approx. 3 minutes on each side.

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