I’ll be posting a sourdough bread recipe soon but in order to make that bread, you need to know how to refresh sourdough starter. Here’s my method.
Step 1: Get some sourdough starter. This is easier than it sounds. Anyone who bakes with sourdough should be willing to give you some. A very generous baker friend gave some to me and (I think) she got it from the baker at Atwaters, here in Baltimore. She walked into the bakery and asked to buy some and it was just given to her. If you’re in Baltimore and you want some starter, leave me a comment and I’ll be glad to give some to you. I have some extra whole wheat starter in my fridge right now! If you’re not close enough to get some from me, be brave and ask around. I’m sure you’ll find either a home or professional baker who will be glad to give you some.
You can also start your own starter. Here’s one way of doing so. Finally, you can buy some starter online. I would choose this option last, just because it’s more fun to have some starter with a story behind it. But if you do want to buy starter, this is one place you can get it.
Step 2 – Refresh/make enough starter: The night before you want to make bread, mix equal parts (by weight) of starter, flour, and water. If you have 200 g of starter, you will need to add 200 g each of water and flour. Stir really well, incorporating lots of air, cover with a damp cloth, and allow to sit overnight at room temperature. You’ll know it’s ready if it smells sour (good sour!) and is bubbly all the way to the top. Also, you’ll be able to tell that the texture has changed. When it’s first mixed up, it us relatively grainy from the flour and fairly thick. When it’s ready, it looks pretty smooth and flows smoothly.
This is what it looks like when it’s ready, as I’m pouring it out into my mixer bowl.
If you are starting with a small amount of starter, you may need to follow this process 2-3 times until you get to the volume that you need to both make your recipe and save some for next time. (See step 3.)
Step 3: Before you use it all up for baking, TAKE SOME OUT to save for next time!! I usually save around 320-350g of starter, which (when refreshed as in Step 2) makes just enough for my bread recipe and leaves around 320-350g leftover to save in the fridge for the next time.
Step 4: Put your seed starter into a glass jar, cover tightly, and put it in the fridge. It should easily last a month or even longer between feedings. I bake with mine at least once every two weeks. Leaving it much longer makes me nervous because I’ve managed to keep mine alive for over two years now, which feels like a major accomplishment! (Although, really it’s not because there are starters out there that are supposedly over 100 years old.)
Step 5: Bake your bread! I’ll be posting a recipe soon for a super-easy, hands-off 100% whole wheat sourdough bread, which we eat for breakfast almost every day.
Some other items of note:
1. If you have a whole wheat starter, be sure to feed it with whole wheat flour; if it’s a white flour starter, feed it with white flour. This isn’t a hard and fast rule but I do maintain two sourdough starters – a white flour one and a whole wheat one.
2. If you’ve stored your starter in the fridge for a week or longer, you’ll notice that there is dark liquid that has separated out to the top of the starter. This is totally normal. It’s alcohol from the fermentation process. I just pour it off, discard it, and then proceed with Step 2. Some bakers stir it back in. That’s your choice.
It’s been around a week since I baked with this. When I’m ready to bake with this again, I’ll pour off that dark liquid.
3. Don’t forget to save some starter for next time. Forgetting to do this is my nightmare. So I’m going to warn you about it twice in the same post.
4. This is just my method for maintaining my starter. There is lots of advice out there for what to do with sourdough starters. Here are a few more articles for more reading if you’re interested:
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