Sourdough Starter - Your Little "Pet" In The Kitchen - A Glimpse of Me Blog at Allrecipes.com - 119603

A Glimpse of Me

Sourdough Starter - your little "pet" in the kitchen 
 
Aug. 19, 2009 11:52 am 
Updated: Aug. 21, 2009 12:14 am
 
Almost a year ago, I decided to stop buying bread and start baking it.  I've been very good about sticking to my guns and have only bought maybe half a dozen loaves of bread in that time.  As part of my bread baking adventures, I decided to venture into the world of sourdough.  I had never made sourdough bread myself, much less created and/or maintained a starter, so I did some research online.  One of the most awesome things I discovered was a group known as The Friends of Carl Griffith. 

Carl Griffith was a gentleman who was born in Oregon in 1919.  He had a love of sourdough bread and wanted to share it with anyone who was interested.  He gave away, free of charge, sourdough starter to anyone who asked for it and even started sending dried sourdough starter to anyone who would send him a self addressed stamped envelope.  When Carl died in March 2000, his friends wanted to carry on his tradition of sharing sourdough starter with anyone who wanted it.  They organized a group of people who maintain, dry, and mail out starter to anyone who sends them a self addressed stamped envelope.  They are continuing this tradition even now and plan to keep it going as long as they possibly can.  They even have instructions on their web site { http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/source.html<  } telling how to request the starter from outside of the United States!  The very best thing about this starter that they are sharing is that it had been kept alive by Carl's family for over 150 years!  I had the good fortune to obtain some of this starter and it makes the very best sourdough bread I have ever tasted.

Whether you revive a dried starter or you create your own from scratch, you have to nurture and care for it.  It is a living, breathing thing and you must treat it as such.  After following the instructions for reviving the dried starter or creating a new starter, keep it in a glass jar (I use a 1-quart mason jar with a paper towel over top held in place with the metal ring).  Also, keep a clean, empty glass jar handy for pouring your starter into after you feed it.  This helps to prevent mold from growing in the crusty ring that will form around the top of the starter, which will contaminate it and then you have to throw it out and start all over again.

I like to keep my starter on the countertop so it's ready to use any time I might decide I want to bake with it.  This means I have to feed it every day.  If I'm going to be gone for a length of time, I feed it and wait for it to get nice and bubbly and then I pop it into the fridge.  As soon as I return home, I pull it out, bring it to room temperature, and feed it two times the first day and then daily after that.

Feeding your starter is really easy.  First of all, you will probably notice a layer of liquid sitting on top of the starter and it probably smells a lot like beer.  This is called "hooch".  It's the alcohol created from the yeast fermenting.  Stir that stuff back in!  In has a lot of that great sour flavor you're looking for and the alcohol will burn off when you bake the bread.  After that, measure out half of your starter and discard it (or you can feed it and give it to a friend).  The reason for discarding half of the starter is you want to maintain a high ratio of new flour in the mixture, because this is the food the yeast feeds on.  After discarding half of your starter, pour the remaining half into a plastic or glass mixing bowl.  Add flour and WARM water in amounts equal to the amount of starter you discarded.  This means, if you poured out 1/2 cup of starter, you will add 1/2 cup of flour AND 1/2 cup of warm water.  Stir the starter well with a wooden or plastic spoon and then pour it into your clean jar.  I usually run my jars through the dishwasher so they're sterilized and won't contaminate the starter.  Never, ever use metal utensils or bowls when feeding your starter.  The metal reacts somehow with the yeast and can end up killing your starter.  I have used metal utensils when creating my bread "sponge" and mixing up a batch of dough and haven't had any problems, but I don't want to chance killing my starter, so I stay away from metal when feeding it.

My favorite recipe for sourdough bread comes from a great web site I found when I was researching { http://www.io.com/~sjohn/sour.htm }.  I really like it, because it uses only the natural yeast in your starter to rise the bread.  I think this gives it a more authentic sourdough flavor. 

Okay, before you can bake your bread, you first have to make a bread "sponge".  You should start this several hours before you want to begin making your bread dough.  To make the sponge, pour all of your starter (don't discard half of it this time) into a plastic or glass mixing bowl.  Stir in 1 cup of warm water and 1 cup of flour.  Cover the bowl lightly with a kitchen towel and put it in a warm place for several hours.  I usually mix up the sponge and put it in my oven with the light on overnight.  When the sponge is frothy on top and has a sour smell, it's ready to use, but the longer you let it sit, the more sour the flavor will be.  This is why I let mine sit overnight.

When the sponge is ready to use, measure out 2 cups of sponge and set it aside.  There will be some sponge left in the bowl.  Feed this with 1/2 cup of warm water and 1/2 cup of flour, then pour it into your clean jar.  This is your starter for the next time you want to bake.  Remember to feed it daily if you keep it on the countertop or weekly if you keep it in the fridge.

SOURDOUGH BREAD

2 cups sourdough sponge
3 cups unbleached flour (This measurement is approximate.  I use bread flour instead.)
2 Tbs olive oil or softened margarine (This is optional.  I always use olive oil, but you can omit it.)
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt

Combine the sponge, oil or margarine if using, sugar, and salt and mix well.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, using just enough flour to get a good flexible bread dough.  Remember, flour will vary in absorbency based on the humidity where you live, so you might need more or less than 3 cups of flour.  The dough should be about the same consistency as a regular white or French bread dough.  Knead it until it's smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes by hand or you can use the dough cycle on your bread machine, but take it out after the kneading part of the cycle stops.  Form the dough into a ball and put it in a lightly greased mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl lightly with a kitchen towel and let the dough sit in a warm place (the oven with the light on is great for this, too) until it's doubled in size.  Depending on how active your starter is and how warm it is in your house, this can take as little as 1 hour or as much as 4 or 5 hours.  Just keep an eye on it.  After it's doubled in size, punch it down and knead it a little more.  Form it into a loaf (I usually make a round loaf) and place it on a baking sheet sprinkled liberally with cornmeal.  I like to make criss-cross slits in the top of the loaf.  Cover it lightly again with a towel or plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and put it back into that warm place to rise again until doubled in size.  After it's risen the second time, place the dough into your oven and turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes.  Do not preheat the oven before putting the bread in to bake!  The loaf is done when the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you thump on the bottom of it.  Let it cool on a rack for about an hour before slicing it (or just dig in when it's piping hot like we usually do!).

Sourdough Mickey Mouse
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Mickey Sourdough baked
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Comments
Aug. 19, 2009 12:31 pm
Wow Keri thanks for all this info! I had never made sour dough bread, but may give it a shot now. Great tutorial, and you a have a lot of knowledge on this subject! Good for you, be proud :)
 
Aug. 19, 2009 12:46 pm
Before reading this blog, I had no idea what everyone on the exchange was talking about when they said sourdough "starter'. Thanks Keri, for putting me in the know! You explain things really well. Now, I'm hungry for some home made bread.
 
Aug. 19, 2009 12:48 pm
Thanks, Keri !!! Now I won't have to bother you when I have a question !!! LOL Great blog !!!!! &hearts;
 
Aug. 19, 2009 12:49 pm
Awesome! So helpful!
 
K-Dub 
Aug. 19, 2009 12:58 pm
WOW Keri thank you so much! I've always wanted to make my own bread but have been intimidated. Sour dough is my favorite and now with your blog its given me the confidence to try it out. I've printed your instructions and while I don't have time this weekend I do look forward to making my starter! Mind if I bother you for help if I need it?? Thanks again for such a great blog. :)
 
Aug. 19, 2009 1:01 pm
Great blog! I have been baking my own bread for many years and are selling it small scale in healthfood shops & friends, but only got into sourdough a year ago. What you say its so true, its a living beeing! My first stop after a few days away is my "baby" (as it is known in my family). Question, have you ever frozen your starter? I have heard its poss, but have not dared doing so. Keep enjoying your baking!
 
SB 
Aug. 19, 2009 1:22 pm
Wow never knew it took all that to make sourdough bread!! Great Blog!! I say "pimp it out", who cares what other people say there just jealous..hehe! Thanks for all that great info. I might actually have to try this sometime.
 
Aug. 19, 2009 1:27 pm
How wold we know to read the blogs if they aren't pointed out to us! Personally, I want to know when a new one is posted! Thanks, Keri for an informative article.
 
Keri 
Aug. 19, 2009 1:37 pm
Thanks ladies! K-Dub - if you see me at the Exchange and you need help, ask away! I'm always happy to help if I'm able to. I've loved baking bread and I'm especially enjoying my sourdough, so if I can help someone else enjoy it too, it'll be awesome. Love to cook - I've never frozen my starter personally, but my mother has frozen a type of sourdough starter, called "Herman" (kinda like Amish friendship bread starter), and had quite a bit of success with it regenerating after being thawed. You just have to thaw it in the fridge and then feed it for several days to wake up the yeastie beasties.
 
Aug. 19, 2009 8:07 pm
Keri, thanks so much! I read the whole thing and it's great tips! So, you leave your starter out on the counter all the time? I thought I had to refrigerate it. And making the sponge I didn't know anything about that. For my first bread baking with the starter I just took the starter from the jar and into the bread machine on the dough cycle. Am I supposed to always make a sponge? HELP??>!!!! Thanks Keri so much for all your information.
 
Aug. 20, 2009 3:11 am
Thanks Keri, might try with half the starter, so I don't loose all if it is not working.Happy baking.
 
Aug. 20, 2009 3:20 am
Just an after-thought, if you hear from me with gaps, its that I' m in a different time zone to you gays.When you get going, I'm ready for bed. So, sorry if I'm not straight away responding, its not supposed to be rude.
 
sueb 
Aug. 20, 2009 4:18 am
Great description of sourdough! It is fun to keep up!
 
Aug. 20, 2009 7:38 am
Keri, loved this blog! Very informative!
 
Aug. 20, 2009 5:10 pm
Great blog, Keri, & I love your bird picture.
 
Aug. 20, 2009 8:09 pm
Great information - thanks for sharing! Love the Mickey Bread!
 
Aug. 21, 2009 12:14 am
Great blog! I love the Mickey Mouse loaf. I want to try Carl's starter, too. It's great to see the way his friends are sharing his original starter with everyone.
 
 
 
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Keri

Living In
Antelope Valley, California, USA

Member Since
Jul. 2008

Cooking Level
Intermediate

Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Frying, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Italian, Dessert, Kids, Quick & Easy

Hobbies
Reading Books, Music

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About Me
I have loved cooking since I was a young girl helping my mother make dinner or bake cookies during school vacations. My favorite class in elementary school was "Nutrition", because we cooked almost every day. I have two daughters who love cooking and baking as much as I do and my husband is even getting interested. He recently started making bread from scratch and he's doing an awesome job of it! We share our home with pets of all different kinds, including birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, a rat, snakes, frogs, a tarantula, and a turtle. We also provide foster care for a local dog rescue, taking in abused, neglected, abandoned dogs and giving them a safe, loving environment to live in until they find their "fur-ever" homes.
My favorite things to cook
Rosemary garlic roasted chicken with roasted garlic gravy; Skillet cabbage; Almost any baked goods; Anything I can make in my slow cooker! Somewhere around September 2008 I decided I was going to start baking all the bread my children and I eat. I'm COMPLETELy loving it and my kids like to brag that "my mommy MADE this bread!" Their favorite is when I make bread items that aren't your traditional loaf of bread, like hamburger buns, bagels, and soft pretzels.
My favorite family cooking traditions
For several generations, my father's family has made a "family tradition" dessert item at each major holiday. At Easter, it's Italian Cheesecake, made with ricotta cheese and anise flavoring (published as "Italian Cheesecake II", if you'd like to check it out). At Thanksgiving, it's "Roly Polies", which were invented by my great grandmother when she had leftover pie crust dough she needed to use up. My absolute favorite, though, is Christmas, when we make Birds Nests. These are made out of walnut-sized balls of a sweet pie crust type dough rolled out very thin. Then we cut slits in the dough without cutting through the edge, gather every other strip, twist them up into a jumble, and then deep fry the pastries. When they are cooled, we sprinkle them with powdered sugar. It doesn't matter how many we make, they all get eaten!
My cooking triumphs
I managed to make decorated sugar cookies for Christmas 2008 that turned out awesome!! I've NEVER gotten sugar cookies to turn out good looking enough to warrant decorating them. They always turn into shapeless blobs. This particular time I reduced the amount of butter in the recipe by 25% and chilled the cut-outs for 15 minutes immediately before baking them. They turned out beautiful!
My cooking tragedies
My first attempt at making Fairy Food candy (also called seafoam candy) was a disaster! I tried cooking it too quickly over too high of heat, so it burned, smelling up the entire house for DAYS. Thank goodness I still had enough ingredients (and courage!) to try again, and everyone at my family's Christmas gathering was impressed with my second attempt. I conveniently "forgot" to tell them about the first batch :-)
 
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