For me, in the wake of the global pandemic, baking bread transformed from a simple pastime into a symbol of resilience and creativity. As the world has steadily moved into a post-COVID era, the art of baking, especially sourdough, continues to capture the hearts of culinary enthusiasts and beginners alike. There’s something deeply rewarding about nurturing your very own Sourdough Starter, a process that connects us to ancient traditions and offers a meditative escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Now, more than ever, is a wonderful opportunity to embark on the journey of making sourdough bread from scratch. Whether you’re looking to refine your baking skills or seeking a new hobby that brings warmth and delicious aromas to your kitchen, starting your Sourdough Starter is a delightful project. Let’s dive into the world of sourdough, where patience meets reward, and every loaf tells the story of your unique touch.
Sourdough Bread and Camping
Bringing a fresh loaf of sourdough to your camp adds an unforgettable touch to any outdoor adventure. The joy of slicing into a crusty, warm loaf, sharing it around a campfire under the stars, creates moments of connection and warmth that elevate the camping experience. It’s not just about the food, but the shared satisfaction and the simple pleasures that a homemade sourdough brings to the great outdoors.
To start your starter – and for each subsequent feeding – you will need:
20 grams rye flour or whole wheat flour (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
20 grams white flour (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
40 grams room temperature or warm water (about 3 tablespoons)
Start by combining flour and water in a glass jar or bowl. You can mix them using a utensil or your fingers, aiming for a thick pancake batter consistency. Once mixed, cover the container with a cloth, plate, or lid and place it in a spot that is warm, but not hot.
Make it a routine to stir the mixture several times daily, whenever it crosses your mind.
Within a few days to a week, bubbling should appear. If the mixture begins to emit a sour, fruity, or even feet-like smell, it’s time to start feeding your starter daily.
Proceed to transfer about 80 percent of your starter to a clean glass jar or dish. This portion is to be set aside and forgotten; it’s the discarded starter. You can store it in the refrigerator to use later for pancakes, waffles, or crackers. There’s no need to feed this portion of the starter.
In the original container, you’ll have about a tablespoon of starter left. To this, add 40 grams each of fresh flour and water. Stir the mixture, then cover it and set it aside once more.
Continue this daily feeding process as previously described: remove most of the starter, add it to the discard pile in the refrigerator, and feed the remaining tablespoon of starter with fresh flour and water – 40 grams of each.
After maintaining this feeding routine for about five days to a week (possibly twice a day), the starter should double in size within about four to six hours of being fed, before gradually settling back down. At this point, your starter is robust and ready to bake bread. Now is the time to give it a charming name.
Should you decide to pause the daily feedings after your starter is well-established, simply store the mature starter in the refrigerator. Once a week, take it out to feed it, allowing it to rest at room temperature for a couple of hours before returning it to the fridge.
Creating your own sourdough starter can be incredibly rewarding for both novice and experienced bakers. Not only does it allow for a deeper understanding of the bread-making process, but it also provides a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, a homemade starter can yield bread with a unique flavor profile that reflects your local environment, something commercial yeast cannot offer.
The best flour for a sourdough starter is a matter of personal preference and what you aim to achieve with your bread. Rye and whole wheat flours are often recommended for initiating a starter due to their high nutrient content, which helps to quickly establish a vibrant community of yeast and bacteria. Over time, you can maintain your starter with a blend of whole grain and white flours or switch entirely to white flour, depending on the flavor and texture you prefer in your sourdough bread.
A 100% sourdough starter is made entirely from flour and water, with no commercial yeast. To create one, mix equal parts (by weight) of flour and water in a jar or container. Whole grain flours like rye or whole wheat are great for beginning a starter due to their rich nutrient content. Maintain the starter by regularly discarding part of it and feeding it with fresh flour and water until it’s active and bubbly. This process can take a few days to a week or more, depending on various factors like temperature and the type of flour used.
Discarding part of your sourdough starter during the feeding process is crucial for maintaining its health and vigor. This practice prevents the starter from becoming too acidic and diluted, which can hinder yeast activity and growth. By discarding a portion, you ensure that the remaining starter can fully utilize the fresh flour and water, promoting a strong, active culture that’s capable of leavening bread effectively.