Monday, July 22, 2013

creating your own sourdough starter: the beginning of great breads


creating your own sourdough starter: the beginning of great breads


I was looking for sour dough recipes and found this:
for more wonderful recipes see:kingarthurflour



Sourdough.

Whether it conjures up a crusty, flavorful loaf of bread or a bubbling crock of flour/water starter, sourdough is a treasured part of many bakers’ kitchens.

But where does the path to sourdough bread begin? And how do you start?

Start in your own home kitchen. And begin by creating your own sourdough starter.



First, a word of advice. Sourdough baking is as much art as science. This method for making sourdough starter isn’t an exact match for the one you read on another site, or in a cookbook, or in your great-grandma’s diary.

If you have a process you’ve successfully followed before, then hey, stick with it. Or try this one and compare. All good.

OK, ready? Let’s go.


Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it'll work for any of our gridded photos.

The following timeline assumes you can find a relatively warm place (68°F to 70°F) to grow your starter. More on that below.

Day 1: Combine 4 ounces (1 cup) whole rye flour (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour with 4 ounces (1/2 cup) non-chlorinated cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this. Here, I’m using a 4-cup glass measure.

Note that whole grain flour (whole wheat or rye) is used at the beginning of the process. This is because whole grains contain more nutrients and sourdough-friendly microorganisms than all-purpose flour.

It’s also important to feed your starter with non-chlorinated cool water; from now on, we’ll refer to this simply as “water.”

Stir everything together thoroughly; make sure there’s no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours.

A note about room temperature: the colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. If the normal temperature in your home is below 68°F, we suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to develop your starter.

For instance, try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Or, set it near a heat source (baseboard heater, etc.).

Another option: set the container of starter on a folded dish towel laid atop a heating pad on its lowest setting – as I’ve done in the photo above.

A temperature-controlled bread proofer is the absolute ideal solution; if you bake lots of yeast bread, you might consider investing in one of these tools.



Day 2: You may see no activity at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a bit of growth or bubbling.

Either way, discard half the starter (4 ounces), and add to the remainder 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it’s cold).

Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours.

Note: Why do you need to discard half the starter? It seems so wasteful…

Well, it’s necessary for three reasons. First, unless you discard, eventually you’ll end up with The Sourdough That Ate Milwaukee – too much starter. Second, keeping the starter volume the same helps balance the pH. And third, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it; it’s not fighting with quite so many other little yeast cells to get enough to eat.

Also, you don’t have to discard it if you don’t want to; you can give it to a friend, or use it to bake. There are quite a few recipes on our site using “discard” starter, including sourdough pizza crust, sourdough pretzels, and my all-time favorite waffles.



Days 3, 4, & 5: By the third day (pictured top left), you’ll likely see some activity – bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows.

For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous ½ cup, once it’s thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter.

Add 4 ounces (a scant 1 cup) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) water to the 4 ounces starter.

Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.

Repeat two-a-day feedings on days 4, 5, and as many days as it takes for your starter to become very active.

The photo at bottom left shows the starter 12 hours after it’s been fed on day 3. Pictured at bottom right is that same starter, 12 hours after feeding, on day 6 – see how vigorous it’s become?

After about a week of consistent feeding, your starter should be ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe.





How do you know when your starter is ready to use?

After 12 hours, the starter will have risen nicely. You’ll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little “rivulets” on the surface, full of finer bubbles.

Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma – pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering.



The starter should at least double in volume 12 hours after it’s been fed; in the pictures above, it’s taken about 4 hours to double; so this starter is ready.



Here’s our starter, 1 week after we began the process: I’d say that’s good to go.

Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Pour off all but 4 ounces. Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface.

Remove however much starter you need for your recipe (no more than 8 ounces, about 1 cup); and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in long-term.

Ah, success…

But wait – what if things haven’t gone exactly according to schedule?



No worries. If, after a week, your starter isn’t ready, don’t lose heart; keep feeding it regularly, and it will gain strength – really!

Be patient. The conditions in your kitchen may be more or less conducive to building a starter, depending on room temperature, the season, humidity, or how much you’ve been baking.

Remember, the keys to developing a successful starter are using good (unbleached) flour; having a consistent feeding schedule, and ripening (growing) the starter in an environment that’s adequately warm (at least 68°F, and preferably in the 70s).

When your starter is strong enough, it’s time to go ahead and make yourfavorite sourdough bread.

Once your starter has been fed, and you’re ready to mix up your bread dough, you’ll want to reserve and maintain a small portion of the ripe (fed) starter (about 4 ounces; about 1/2 cup, stirred down) for future baking. Unless you plan on continuing to feed the starter twice a day, refrigerate it for future use.

Good luck! And enjoy.
maintaining your sourdough starter: food, water, and time

April 8th, 2012 by PJ Hamel


Recipe: none




How’s your starter doing?

Fresh sourdough starter is a wonderful resource. Bread, pancakes, waffles, cake… there are so many delicious directions you can take with sourdough.

The key: maintaining your sourdough starter so that it’s healthy, happy, and ready to go when you are.



Once you’ve successfully created your starter, you’ll need to feed it regularly.

If you bake a lot of sourdough treats, you may want to keep it on your counter, at room temperature. While this means feeding it twice a day, it also means your starter will be ready to bake with at the drop of a hat (er,oven mitt).

However, many of us don’t want the commitment of twice-a-day feedings. If you’re a more casual sourdough baker, it’s possible to store your starter in the refrigerator, feeding it just once a week.

Let’s take a look at both methods.

But first, a word of advice. Sourdough baking is as much art as science. This method for maintaining sourdough starter is just one of many you might choose to follow. It doesn’t exactly match the process in our Baker’s Companion cookbook, nor some of our recipes online, nor what your neighbor down the street does. And that’s OK.

If you have a process you’ve successfully followed before, then hey, stick with it. Or try this one and compare. All good.

Maintaining your starter at room temperature

Room temperature is the best environment for the yeast and lactobacilli that inhabit your starter, and you can learn a lot about your starter by observing a twice-a-day feeding regimen with the starter at room temperature.

If you’re willing to maintain your starter at room temperature by feeding it twice a day, here’s how:



Stir the starter well and discard all but 4 ounces. Add 4 ounces non-chlorinated, room-temperature water (hereafter known simply as “water”) and 4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (hereafter known simply as “flour”). Mix until smooth, and cover. Repeat every 12 hours.

A note about room temperature: the colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. If the normal temperature in your home is below 68°F, we suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to develop your starter.

For instance, try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Or, set it near a heat source (baseboard heater, etc.).

Another option: set the container of starter on a folded dish towel laid atop a heating pad on its lowest setting.



Maintaining your starter in the refrigerator

For most home bakers, daily feeding is impractical; so you’ll need to store your starter in the refrigerator, and feed it once a week.



Take the starter out of the fridge. There may be a bit of light amber or clear liquid on top. Either drain this off, or stir it in, your choice; it’s alcohol from the fermenting yeast.

Remove all but 4 ounces starter. Use this “discard” to make pancakes, waffles, cake, pizza, flatbread, or another treat; Buttery Sourdough Buns is one of my favorite “unfed” sourdough recipes. Or, simply give to a friend so they can create their own starter.

Add 4 ounces lukewarm water and 4 ounces flour to the remaining starter. Mix until smooth, and cover.

Allow the starter to rest at room temperature (about 70°F) for at least 2 hours; this gives the yeast a chance to warm up and get feeding. After about 2 hours, refrigerate.

Getting ready to bake

If you’ve been maintaining your starter at room temperature, you may want to increase the volume of starter to the amount needed for your recipe. You can do this by feeding your starter without discarding; or by discarding, and feeding it 8 ounces flour and 8 ounces water.

If your starter has been refrigerated, you’ll want to both increase its volume, and raise its activity to a more energetic level. You can do this by giving it a couple of feedings at room temperature.

Take the starter out of the fridge, discard all but 4 ounces, and feed it as usual with 4 ounces water and 4 ounces flour. Let it rest at room temperature for about 12 hours, until bubbly. Repeat as necessary, every 12 hours, until you notice the starter doubling or tripling in volume in 6 to 8 hours. That means it’s strong enough to leaven bread.

For the final feeding, make sure you add enough flour and water to use in your recipe, with a little left over to feed and maintain the starter for the next time you bake.

For instance, if your recipe calls for 1 cup (about 8 ounces) starter, add 4 ounces each water and flour. If your recipe calls for 2 cups (about 16 ounces) starter, add 8 ounces each water and flour.

Once the starter is bubbling and vigorous, remove what you’ll need for the recipe and set it aside. Feed the remaining starter with 4 ounces flour and 4 ounces water. Mix until smooth, and allow the starter to work for about 2 hours at room temperature before putting it back in the refrigerator.



Troubleshooting your starter

Living creatures sometimes get sick, be they humans, pets, or even sourdough starter. If you find yourself becoming a sourdough doctor, here are some symptoms and possible cures:

If your starter lacks acidity

Feed with half whole-rye (pumpernickel) flour or whole wheat flour for a few days. The extra nutrition in the bran and germ can increase the starter’s acidity.

Be sure your starter has a chance to ripen (develop) fully before it receives another feeding; before you use it in a recipe, or before refrigerating it. An ideal feeding regimen for a starter kept at room temperature (in the low 70s) is two feedings a day at 12-hour intervals.

Find a slightly warmer (in the mid 70s) area in which to ripen the starter after its feeding.

If your sourdough is too acidic

You may be letting the starter ripen too long before using it. Once your starter is bubbling and vigorous, it’s time to make bread, feed it again, or refrigerate until its next feeding. Don’t let it become bubbly, rise, and then fall and start to “calm down;” that’s adding acidity to its flavor. Reduce the duration of ripening as necessary.

Ripen your starter in a slightly cooler area, so it doesn’t digest its meal of flour and water too quickly.

Reviving a dormant or neglected starter

Sometime you may find yourself with a starter that’s gone far too long without a feeding.



Covered in a clear, dark liquid (alcohol, a by-product of yeast that’s been deprived of oxygen), the starter will lack bubbles or other signs of activity, and will have a very sharp aroma.

Although the starter appears lifeless, its microflora will spring into action again as soon as they get a few good meals.



Stir the liquid back into the starter. Discard all but 4 ounces, and set the bowl or crock on the counter; you’re going to be leaving it at room temperature (at least 70°F) for awhile.

Feed the starter 4 ounces water and 4 ounce all-purpose flour twice a day, discarding all but 4 ounces of the starter before each feeding. It should soon become healthy, bubbly, and active.

Sourdough starters are hearty, and easily resist spoilage due to their acidic nature. The pH of a sourdough starter discourages the proliferation of harmful microorganisms.

However, if your starter turns ominously pink or red; shows signs of mold growth, or smells decidedly putrid, throw it away and begin again. Luckily, in our experience, this rarely happens.

OK, after all of that – how about baking some sourdough bread? OurRustic Sourdough Bread is a great place to start.




ingredients

1 cup "fed" sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

tips from our bakers
For an assertively sour loaf, read our recipe for Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread.
Want a brick oven effect? Rather than dividing the dough into two separate loaves, shape it into one large ball, and place it in the base of a round covered stoneware baker, such as La Cloche. Put the lid on, and let the loaf rise for 1 hour. Make two slashes on top of the bread, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, removing the lid of the baker for the final 5 minutes of baking.



directions


see this recipe's blog »





1) Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough.







2) Allow the dough to rise, in a covered bowl, until it's doubled in size, about 90 minutes.






3) Gently divide the dough in half; it'll deflate somewhat.



4) Gently shape the dough into two oval loaves; or, for longer loaves, two 10" to 11" logs. Place the loaves on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.







5) Spray the loaves with lukewarm water.







6) Make two fairly deep diagonal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.







7) Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

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