Starting the Starter

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Feeding the Starter »

Here's the plan.

We'll do some baking together - asynchronously.

What does that mean?

Now and then I'll post something that you are welcome to do when I post it or anytime in the future.

For something like the sourdough starter that we'll begin with this post, you'll need to pick a day to do the steps in this post and then do the steps in tomorrow's post one day later and so on.

So I'm posting on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,....

If you decide to start on Thursday, do Monday's post on Thursday, Tuesday's post on Friday, Wednesday's post on Saturday, and so on.

You should read the post before you begin so you don't get to the last step and realize you're missing an ingredient or that you need to let something rest or rise more time than you have.

Oh about rising times. I'll remind you later, but rising times depends on the temperature of your environment. Professional bakeries need to worry about this more than we do because they're baking different sorts of bread that need to be in the oven at a particular time.

If your house is cooler then it will take longer for your dough to raise. That's seldom a big deal.

We will be feeding our sourdough twice a day. It's nice if it's about 12 hours apart, but I wouldn't worry too much about that.

Again, I try not to worry about too much - I'll tell you when we get to an important step that you need to worry about.

If you're following along with Wednesday's pancake recipe - do it any time you want on any day.

Let's get started with the sourdough starter.

We're just making a plain old sourdough starter. Later on we'll make a rye sourdough starter.

Even so, I'm starting my plain old sourdough starter with rye flour. If you don't have rye flour, maybe start with whole wheat flour. If you don't have anything but all purpose flour, use that.

We're not going to be very fussy about things.

The idea of a sourdough starter is that the stuff that makes it sour is all around us and we're making a mix that will capture some of it and let it grow.

Some people buy a starter from somewhere else and grow that. It doesn't really matter. Even if you start with a San Francisco sourdough starter, pretty soon it will become a starter that represents the world closer to you.

So you'll need a clean container - I'm using a glass bowl but I've happily used a plastic container or a stainless steel bowl. As long as it's clean, we're good.

After we've baked together for a while, if you decide that you love baking and are going to stay with it, the best piece of equipment you can buy is an inexpensive digital kitchen scale. You don't need one yet, but at some point you'll find that it makes your cooking much easier. And at some point I'll switch to giving instructions using grams.

Measure out a cup of rye flour (or whatever kind you're using) and put it in the glass bowl. If you have a scale, I measured out 125 g.

Next, add 3/4 cup of water to the bowl. By weight, I added 150 g water.

I used tap water. If your tap water is really chlorinated, leave it out overnight before using it.

Finally, add a half a teaspoon of honey. I think this is about 2 g. I've used recipes where I fermented grapes first and others where I used some sort of juice. The honey is just a little food to help the things you are capturing grow.

Mix the three ingredients in your bowl. You should be able to stir it with a spoon until it is thick like an oatmeal. If it is way too thick add a little water. If it is way too runny (more like a soup) then add a little flour.

The exact consistency really doesn't matter that much.

Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap or something that will allow air in but won't let things fall into the bowl.

Put the bowl somewhere warm and safe. By safe, I mean somewhere your dog or cat won't get into it.

Tomorrow, we're going to throw out half of this mixture and add more flour and water.

See you then.