If you haven't started a sourdough starter yet, now's a great time!
(Start a sourdough starter...say that 5 times fast! :)
Sourdough baked goods are the ultimate in nutrition, they are often much cheaper and can be lower in calories and carbs.
Several of the recipes I'm planning in the next month have sourdough as the leavening.
I don't use the traditional way to start a starter that recommends 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. (If you kept up with that, you'd be filling a rubbish barrel with sourdough in no time! Not to mention all of the flour/money wasted.)
Here what I do to start a starter :)
-Using a clean, quart canning jar (or other similar sized, non-metalic container) stir together 1/4 cup water and 1/3 cup flour. Cover with a coffee filter that's been secured with a rubber band. Leave in a warm place for 12 hours.
-12 hours later, give the mixture a vigorous stir. Scrape down the sides of the jar, recover with the coffee filter and rubber band and put it back in it's nice warm home for another 12 hours.
-Wake up your starter with a gentle stir, then add 1/4 cup water and stir until combined. Next and 1/3 cup flour and again stir until combined, scrape the sides of the jar and recover with the coffee filter and band.
-12 hours later, give your starter a little stir and then remove half from the jar (you can put this in your compost pile or start a second starter.) Next you need to mix in 1/4 cup water and stir until combined. Then add 1/3 cup of flour and again, stir until combined, scrape the sides of the jar and recover with the coffee filter and rubber band. (Feel free to change the coffee filter or re-use if possible.)
By Day 3 you should see some bubbling going on in your jar. I am always thrilled to see new life and your sourdough starter is now a living colony of yeast. You need to keep feeding it and caring for it until it's strong enough to work for you, but this is the exciting point, when you see the fruits of your labors. It's also a great science lesson for the kids!
- Wake up your starter with a little stir and then remove half from the jar (again, you can put this in your compost pile.) Next you need to mix in 1/4 cup water and stir.Then add 1/3 cup of flour and again, stir until combined, scrape the sides of the jar and recover with the coffee filter and rubber band.
-12 hours later, give your starter a little stir and then remove half from the jar. Next you need to mix in 1/4 cup water and stir.Then add 1/3 cup of flour and again, stir until combined, scrape the sides of the jar and recover with the coffee filter and rubber band.
-Days 4, 5 and beyond look the same as day 3.
After day 5, you can start saving the cast-off sourdough starter and bake with it. It's fine for using in pancakes, muffins, tortillas etc. It may need a few more days to be strong enough to rise a whole loaf of bread. At this point I also start using a more permanent home. I have found several canisters and crocks at thrift shops, and I usually use one of those with a loose fitting lid. Anything made from glass, ceramic, etc. is fine.
-You can feed your sourdough starter with any kind of flour. I personally use rye flour because I happen to have quite a bit of rye on hand, and it seems to keep my starter really happy. You can use wheat, spelt, white, whatever you have on hand. I have even heard of some people using oats in a pinch!
-Water: you need to make sure that the water you use with your starter doesn't have chlorine in it. You can buy expensive bottled water, or you can pour a pitcher of water from the tap, leave it for 24 hours on the counter, and all of the chlorine will have dissipated. (Remember to put a loose cover on the pitcher...we don't want dust, pet hair etc. floating into it :P)
-I feed my starter 2 x's a day, in the early morning when I wake up and in the evening when I'm preparing dinner, roughly 12 hours apart. (4:30 am and 4pm) I have found that feeding my starter twice a day keeps the yeast to bacteria ratio healthy, I rarely have hooch (that yucky liquid that forms on the top of some starters,) and my sourdough baked goods are light and sweet...and we prefer to have a lighter flavor, not the pungent sour that almost tastes spoiled.
If I neglect my starter, it will take a couple days of regular feedings to get it back into the shape that we like.
-One of the big mistakes many people make is not saving back some of their starter to keep on hand. You can re-build your starter by feeding it every few hours throughout the day 'til you get the amount you need or like to maintain. Just make sure you don't water/feed it more than a 1-to-3 ratio...as in you have 1 tablespoon of starter, make sure not to feed it more than 3 Tbsp of water or flour in that first feeding. At the next feeding, you'd have almost half a cup of starter, and you could feed it up to 1 1/2 cups water/flour. And you can keeping building up your starter until you have what you need. If that makes sense? lol.
-After a 3-4 weeks, your sourdough starter is probably strong enough to "hibernate" in the refrigerator. You can store a small amount there and then build it back up when you are ready to use it. (See above tip.) Make sure you don't have the starter in a sealed container, as it can continue working and bubbling for a bit and then blow it's lid. Put the lid on loosely at first and after about a day in the fridge, it's probably safe to snap it on tight.
-The last tip I have is don't stress! Pioneers traveled in covered wagons across the continent, and still managed to keep their sourdough going! You can do this too :)