I’d like to start with a story of my one hundred year old starter, passed down from generation to generation but alas this is just not so. It started with this little packet of freeze-dried magic from Ed Woods… who I assume was a real person but I’ve no personal connection to except for our http://www.com encounter. I ripped open the packet and followed the instructions to start developing my newbie starter. It took a mere five days if I remember correctly. We have had a relationship for about 18 months now so the beginning is a little fuzzy.
I continued to nurture it with additional flour and water and the powdered stuff came alive
Until it nearly exploded
Full of life it was…I had to get used to the idea of either using and replenishing or tossing a little to feed it. I even had two jars going so I’d have a back-up. But I’m working from just one jar now.
My original inspirations and methods were sparked by Audra at Girl Meets Dirt. She has a very informative post to read word for word. She’s made some beautiful bread.
I also refer to this simple recipe from Stone Soup blog – rustic sourdough.
I somewhat sacrificed my Creuset dutch oven, unintentionally. I do believe a dutch oven has been one secret to success. I would also buy a cheap one if I was starting over.
It really only takes one baking round at 500° to toast and speckle it black inside and out. But the enamel has not cracked and the handle has not melted.
I start the night before by weighing all the ingredients… Check out Stone Soup. Sometimes I’ll use 20% whole wheat. So 65 grams of whole wheat bread flour and 260 grams of unbleached organic white flour.
I tend to keep a fairly hydrated starter. You can see the consistency here- it’s practically pourable. Here is a site that explains in detail about hydration. I have a broader sense of hydration and just sort of eyeball it. I might get more into it if/when I’m ready for the next learning curve.
I just bring the ingredients together with a spoon. I let it do its thing overnight.
And when my starter has had regular attention it will go something like this-bubbly and alive. When not, I just try to give it a little more time to develop.
I have also just started with a sponge and it too is happy when the starter is- The sponge is just the starter with a portion of the flour added to work a little before the rest of the flour and salt are added. Sometimes I skip the sponge.
The next morning I massage it out to a rectangle and start the ‘no knead’ method. Brilliant
Then fold the long edge on top down and the bottom edge up and fold in thirds
I love to make bread on a day off and just do the turns every 45 minutes or so- I go for 3-4 total. After the last turn I put it in a clean, floured tea towel. Or if I want to make it during the work week- I’ll do it in stages over a couple days in and out of the fridge and it will get nice and sour. The trick, I think, is not to be in a rush.
I wrap it up in the floured towel for a final rise for an hour. During the last 30 minutes I set the dutch oven in the oven and put it up to 500°- My oven temp can run a little under- so I might vary 25-50 degrees.
I gently unwrap the tea towel and it goes carefully, topside down, into the hot dutch oven. I will score the top with a sharp knife (a bread razor is ideal). The lid goes on, back to the oven, and the loaf begins to cook. The trapped steam creates an incredible crust and I’m not having to mist the oven to create humidity. Out comes something like this
And this… sourdough pizza crust cooked on a stone in my gas grill at about 500+°- SO GOOD! It was last summer with all our garden veggies for toppings- you may see this again.
When the starter is neglected –
You will see this brown liquid forming- just a little alcohol and acetic acid. If it’s pink and stinky you are in trouble and it may be time for the garbage disposal funeral. The King Arthur site has some good info here. And it really takes some serious neglect to do it in.
When we are in gluten free periods the starter gets a little put off. I take it out for a night- drain the liquid off the top and let it get good and warmed up say overnight. Then I leave about a cup of starter and feed it for a couple days. Sourdoughhome.com is another valuable resource.
Here’s the latest loaf after a little starter revival..not too shabby.
This one was particularly holey.
It toasted up nicely with some homemade orange marmaladeLast but not least – I want to give you a link to a woman in the UK- She offered kind assistance when I first called for starter rescue help. I love her recipes and philosophy. A good place to start on her site is with an informative post on why sourdough is easier to digest than “healthy” store bought bread.
Happy bread making and eating:)