Meet Brenda. Brenda is my sourdough starter. Like most of things I do, it was on a whim that I made some sourdough starter. Wanting to get it right I spent many hours trawling through online recipes and advice and by the end of it I knew less than I did to begin with. It was too late though, Brenda was already bubbling away in a jar on my “fermentation station” so I had to muddle on with it. Turns out it’s not actually as complicated as Aunty Google had me think, so I’ve put together this super simple (i.e. lazy person’s) guide to sourdough starter.
What is sourdough?
In short, it’s a type of bread that you can make using just plain flour and water. Super fantastic if you’re on a really tight budget. You can use just about any type of flour, including gluten-free flours, but word on the internet is that it’s best to start with plain flour. Apparently it’s easier to digest too, which I’m excited about because bread makes my tummy miserable.
Why don’t you need to use yeast?
You are using yeast, wild yeast. It is present in everything, especially flour. The store bought stuff is like a super fast acting version. My only issue with yeast is that recipes only call for a small amount and in my household bread doesn’t get made very often so by the time we go to use it for a second time it’s already beyond being effective.
Do you really have to keep discarding half?
One of my biggest issues was that there seemed to be an awful lot of instructions telling me to discard portions of my starter, which just seems wrong, so I’ve opted to discard that information instead!
My understanding is that the discarding of half of the starter each time you feed it is so that you can maintain the right amount of sourness without getting an overload of starter, and only needs to be done if you’re using it multiple times a week and therefore feeding it multiple times a week to maintain volume. There’s a massive group in the NZ fermentation community who swear they have never thrown any away and there is no need to at all so that’s good enough for me.
What do I need?
A large jar. I made Brenda in one of my smaller kombucha jars, about 3L I think.
A wooden spoon
A measuring cup
**THIS RECIPE WILL YIELD 4 CUPS OF STARTER**
Day 1 – Day4
Every day, once a day – Mix 3/4 of a cup + 2 Tablespoons of all purpose/plain flour with 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Mix together thoroughly and scrap any excess off the sides of the jar. It should be a sticky blob.
Loosely cover with a lid or piece of plastic wrap.
Day 2 or 3 small bubbles should start appearing – yay! If they don’t don’t panic, they will.
You’re probably good to get started. Use half your starter, feed the other half as above. If your starter isn’t bubbly or sour enough, keep feeding for a couple more days then use.
You have several options available to you depending on how frequently you’re going to be using your starter.
Several times a day – leave your starter out on the bench, feeding daily as above
Once every couple of days – leave your starter on the bench and feed daily but only half the amount (56g flour, 1/4 cup water)
Once every week or two – refrigerate 6 out of 7 days. Pour off the dark liquid (hooch) and feed full amount once a week, then leave out of the fridge for a day after feeding ***DO NOT PUT YOUR STARTER IN THE FRIDGE UNTIL IT IS ABOUT A MONTH OLD. It will be near impossible to revive it***
Much, much less often – 1) feed a double portion of flour + 1/2 cup water to make a super thick batter then leave it in the fridge, or 2) smear it into a thin layer on a hard flat surface. Let it dry completely then break it into flakes. this can be stored in an airtight container for several months.
To start using it again – dissolve 1/4 cup of flakes into 3/4 of a cup + 2 Tablespoons of all purpose/plain flour with 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and follow day 1-5 instructions.