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So many people take pride in making homemade bread. There are almost 140 different kinds of bread and an assortment of ways to make them. Some call for yeast and some do not; some are savory and some are sweet.
If you have made sourdough bread before you already know it requires a little extra attention.
What Is Sourdough Bread?
Sourdough bread is a unique type of bread in that you don’t use regular yeast to make it, you don’t have to have a bread machine to make it and it can be made without kneading it.
This type of bread is made with a fermented starter that helps it have a nice crisp crust and the inside of the bread is much easier to digest due to the fermentation.
How Do You Make a Sourdough Starter?
You can purchase a sourdough starter online from a place that specializes in flour and other baking products, you can use one that has been given to you, or you can make your own from scratch.
Be prepared: this is not a fix-it-and-forget-it kind of process, this starter becomes a live yeast that needs to be fed to stay alive.
You can make your own sourdough starter very simply with flour and water. In a clean 1-quart glass container combine one cup of whole wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of cool water.
Stir this mixture completely so that none of the flour is dry. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. The starter needs to sit in a warm area, around 70 degrees, for the next 24 hours.
The next day you won’t see much of a change but you will need to remove and discard half of your starter which is about a half-cup. Now you need to take a cup of unbleached all-purpose flour and add it to the leftover starter along with 1/2 cup of cool water.
Repeat the same steps as above – mix completely, cover the bowl, and let it sit for another 24 hours at room temperature.
The next day will be the third day of your starter and it will show some signs of activity. The starter will have expanded and it will have a definite aroma and with be bubbling.
From this day you will be feeding your starter twice a day. For each feeding, space it out so that it is evenly spaced. Take a 1/2 cup of starter out of the bowl and get rid of what is left.
Put the 1/2 cup back into the bowl and add a cup of unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water. Cover and let it sit out for another 12 hours before you repeat this step.
On the next two days day 4 and day 5, repeat the steps as above. You will soon see the starter has doubled, is extremely bubbly, and you will be able to get your first whiffs of the aroma.
You will continue feeding your sourdough starter until it is ready for your recipe. At that point, you will give it one final feeding and then you will remove what you need to bake your starter to create your delicious sourdough bread.
There are many variations to creating a sourdough starter if you commit to this type of baking you will have plenty of areas to expand the flavors.
How Can You Tell if Your Sourdough Starter is Bad?
If you are making your own sourdough starter from scratch it will take anywhere from a week to 10 days.
After putting this much time into creating your sourdough starter, how and when can you tell if your starter is bad? You don’t want to wait until you are ready to bake your bread to realize you are not going to see the results you hoped for.
Luckily, once your starter has developed fully you won’t have to worry. It is getting it to that point that will take your attention.
Here are some ways that can affect your starter:
- If your starter gets too hot, the yeast will die. You should keep your starter at a room temperature of around 70 degrees. Some people put their starter in the oven to give it a warm atmosphere but forgot to take it out before turning the oven on.
- Make sure you tend to your starter regularly because it can develop mold or bacteria that is not the kind you need for your bread. If your starter shows a sign of mold that is pink or orange in color, toss it out and start over.
- As your starter is developing you may find a liquid on top that is referred to as “hooch.” As the yeast begins to ferment this liquid shows up if the starter has not been fed regularly enough. The hooch can change colors and still be okay but if you see a streak of orange, get rid of the starter and begin again.
- When you first begin your starter don’t be alarmed if you don’t see any activity, like bubbles, for a few days. You may even see some bubbles one day and not the next. Don’t be too worried but continue feeding your starter and they should return in a few days.
The best thing you can do to create a good sourdough starter is:
- Be consistent – feed your starter at the same times every day.
- Keep the temperature around 70 degrees – any deviation that makes it too hot or too cold can kill your starter.
- Make sure you feed your starter the exact proportions listed. Too much flour or water or too little will lead to a bad starter.
- While you can use a metal spoon to stir your starter you should not use anything that is made of aluminum or copper.
With a sourdough starter, you will be able to produce a delicious and different type of bread. The attention and time you put into it will pay off and you will be hooked.
Once you get immersed in this type of baking you should check online sites that offer variations for the starter as well as tips on how to store your next starter and ways you can make use of portions you are supposed to discard.
If baking bread in bulk, be sure to check out these ideas for making use of your leftover bread.