How to Make Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter does double duty in bread dough, serving as both a rising agent that will make your dough light and fluffy, and as a flavoring agent that gives sourdough bread its distinctive tang. Read on for an easy step-by-step guide to creating this basic building block of sourdough bread. All sourdough bread recipes call for a starter; the average amount is between one and two cups of starter per loaf. When you master how to make this fun ingredient, you will open up a world of baking opportunities! Plus, starter is a gift that keeps on giving. Once you make a sourdough starter, you can keep the batch alive and well in your fridge for years, “growing” it along the way, so that you will always have some on hand when you need it. Even if you are a novice baker, you can quickly learn to master the art of sourdough. This article will give you all the details of making an inexpensive starter from scratch, growing it so that you can have as much as you want, and keeping it so that it lasts for years.

How A Starter Works

Basically, when you make a starter, you are creating an ideal home for yeast, and then inviting them in to ferment. As the fermentation process continues, your starter will catch a mixture of wild yeasts from the air in your kitchen. These yeast micro-organisms live and reproduce in your starter, creating the gases that give sourdough bread its unique texture and flavor. Making a starter from scratch requires seven days of fermentation; luckily, you will barely have to tend your starter at all during this period! By the third day of the process, you will start to notice a change in the look and feel of your starter. This comes from the small bubbles of gas that the yeast produces as it lives and breeds. If you look closely at your starter, you will see these bubbles rising slowly to the surface.

Making Your Starter

These directions will take you through the process of making the simplest sourdough starter. First, combine 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour and 1.5 tablespoons of warm water in the bottom of a plastic or glass container, preferably a bowl with a wide mouth so that it will be easier to stir later. Cover your bowl loosely with plastic wrap, then let it sit at room temperature for a full twenty four hours. After the first waiting period, add another 2 TBSP flour and 1.5 TBSP water, and let your sourdough starter sit untouched for another full day. Continue to repeat the process of adding ingredients and letting them ferment overnight until you’ve had your sourdough starter going for a total of seven days. Congratulations! You’ve just created your first full, vibrant batch of sourdough starter. That’s all there is to it. Now, you can use your starter to bake a loaf of bread, or you can “grow” it according to the directions below.

Growing Your Starter

Because sourdough starter contains a type of yeast made up of living organisms, if you feed a starter new materials, it will reproduce and increase. To “grow” your starter into a bigger batch, just add more flour and water. In twenty four hours, the organisms in your sourdough starter will have thoroughly incorporated these new materials, lending them the same taste and texture as the rest of the batch. You can add as much “food” to your starter as you want, so long as you follow the proportion of one generous of cup of flour to a cup of water. Stir gently, but don’t worry about mixing the ingredients too thoroughly; leaving a few lumps of flour is fine, as these will simply get digested by the starter.

Keeping A Starter

To preserve your sourdough starter, keep it in your refrigerator in a plastic container. Don’t seal the mixture completely, as the micro-organisms in your starter need oxygen in order to survive. However, it is important to cover the mixture so that it doesn’t dry out in your fridge. To best protect your sourdough starter, loosely drape a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the container. Stored this way, sourdough starter can last untouched for up to a month. Whenever you want to use some of your starter, just “grow” it according to the directions above, then leave some in the fridge for next time. If you grow your starter once a month, you can keep it going for decades!

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