Starting your own sourdough starter is easy-peasy. There is no immediate gratification in this, but it is effective. Of course, if you know someone with an already mature starter, beg to steal some and you’ll be baking by the next day. If you are on your own for this, you’ve got a week looking at you before you can start baking, and about a month until your bread takes on that signature sourdough taste.
Ready to find out how?
Then let’s play.
That’s it. All you need right there. A jar, 114 g flour and 114 g water.
As a note, I have date stamped all of these Igor 2.0 pics so you can see that even though I feed “every 24 hours,” that every 24 hours is give or take. This is a very forgiving process so don’t fret if you’re an hour early one day and 5 hours late the next. The yeasties will bounce right back.
Add your flour to your jar, add your water, and stir. I always use a silicone spoon or spatula for ease in scraping down the sides. I also avoid wooden spoons *just* in case of cross contamination. I know wood is supposed to be naturally bacterial resistant, but I take no chances. There is a fine balance of yeast to bacteria in this culture, I can’t see asking for trouble and upsetting that balance, even unintentionally.
This is what will be staring back at you.
Cut a length of cheesecloth (I use a double layer) and rubberband your cute little bonnet on top of your new pet. This serves a dual purpose: it keeps the bugs out but lets the wild yeasts in. There are wild yeasts *everywhere*!! I always have produce sitting on my counter top, which I think helps create a quicker poofiness — this one actually started getting poofy by Tuesday. There are of course wild yeasts in the flour and in the air naturally, so it is not mandatory to have produce hanging around. It just helps IMO.
Alright, day 2. I don’t take any off on this day, but from here on will scoop off enough to bring it back to day 2 level. Measure out 114 g flour, 114 g water, add to your starter, and stir. Re-cover with the cheesecloth bonnet. The first photo is Sunday’s original 114 g/114 g mix. The rest are flour & water measurements, and the stir.
So here we are on day 2 and both critters have been fed simultaneously. Photo 1 is directly after feeding time and photo 2 is the difference between a mature starter (Igor) and our new one day old starter. As you can see, the mature Igor is quite poofy after 4 hours and ready to rock and roll. Igor 2.0 has just not captured all the yeasts it needs yet. Smell is different too. Igor varies between beer, beer-y bread, and wine most days. He is pungent in a pleasant kind of way. Igor 2.0 on this day smells like… well, flour and water. Not even bread yet.
And here they are from above. Igor 2.0 is on the left, 1.0 is on the right.
Woke up to this on day 3, so we’re definitely seeing some action. Looks to be taking about 12 hours to get its poof on. This is good.
Creature feeding time again. They have both fallen back to about the same position, though 2.0 looks like it still has some poof to it. 1.0 would have fallen back into place within about 8 hours after feeding. 2.0 on the other hand is still a juvenile, grows slower and shrinks slower.
So our goal here is to pull off enough of the Igors that when we feed them today they will be right back at this level. I’ve been using a large soup ladle to do this and it takes just a bit over 1 ladle’s worth.
Pic 1 is right after pulling some off. You *can* save this discard, and I do with 1.0, but 2.0 is not quite ripe yet and wouldn’t give my pizza crust or crackers the flavor I’m looking for. I do recommend saving it after the first week or two though — makes some excellent noms. Pic 2 is right after feeding before stirring. Again, 114 g flour/ 114 g water. Every day.
Directly after foods. I’ve put a permanent marker mark on the jar so we can keep track of growth.
Here we are directly before feeding on day 4. 2.0 was a bit disappointing today. What you see in relation to the line is as far up as it went. As far as 1.0, he just got a clean habitat. Second pic is directly after feeding on day 4. We’ll see what tonight brings.
Day 5, first thing in the a.m. You can see that 1.0 poofed and is on his way back down to the line. 2.0 has decided to take a vacation.
Here we are on the left directly before feeding again. 1.0 has about worked itself out and 2.0 is showing a little action. I pulled off my ladle full and fed them their standard 114 g flour/ 114 g water.
404. Image not found. So Friday was a busy work day for me. I sucked at a.m. pics and didn’t get home until after 1 a.m. so my Friday feeding was actually Saturday in the wee hours.
To top it off, I was tired and lazy and didn’t pull off my normal ladle full. Just fed them both and went to bed. Was so tired that I didn’t even bother with a before feeding picture. I know. I suck. Deal with it. I did give them a new temporary level line though 😉
We can see that both the Igors grew overnight and shrank back down based on the upper “flour line” on the jars. This theory plays out later in the day after feeding.
Fed them both a bit earlier Saturday afternoon before I left for work. My daughter was kind enough to take a picture for me a few hours later. They’re keeping up with each other about neck and neck.
Here we are at the one week mark. Top left is pre-feeding, top right is post-feeding, and bottom is a few hours later. As you can see, 2.0 is holding his own at this point.
So, it’s been a week +, 2.0 is doing fan-freaking-tastic, and today’s the day. Igor 2.0 will be sacrificing some of its wild yeastie beastie self to produce its very first loaf of bread. In preparation for this grand occasion, everyone got fed early. The first pic is directly after discarding a bit and feeding the standard 114 g/114 g. The second pic is about 4 hours later. 2.0 is ready.
As you can see, we have some serious floaty action going on here. This just reaffirms that 2.0 is ready for the task I’ve set before him. I’m not going to go into all of the bread baking steps, but you can find them here.
After a few hours of hanging out in his mixing bowl, being periodically violated with the 4-point folds, he’s finally ready for his actual rise in the enamelware baking pan (photo on left). On the right you can see that he’s been transferred to the Dutch Oven (an hour of rising) and had slices cut in there in preparation for the magic poof (oven spring). Into the blistering hot cooking box he went!
500* F for 20 minutes later and I got to remove the lid and this was the awesome sight that awaited me. I cannot tell you just HOW MUCH I enjoy the freaking magic poof! It delights me every time without fail. Especially when you consider that I’m baking this loaf of bread with a baby starter. Anyway, back in the oven.
Mwahahahahahahahahahaha 😀 Perfect. 25 more minutes at 425* F and there it is.
The only thing that remains to be seen is…
The crumb. And just so y’all are aware, I’m am sitting here eating that piece I cut off for the photo and it is awesome. The outside is nice and crispy, the inside is chewy but soft. My son literally just walked in the door, made a beeline for the kitchen, and wandered off with a bowl of soup and a slice of bread within 2 minutes of being here. I can tell it’s still immature by the flavor of the bread as it is super duper mild comparatively speaking, but it still absolutely qualifies as sourdough. Water, flour, salt and some good ol’ wild yeasts. Sourdough.
1) I may not be quite right as I get very excited about bread rising and popping itself apart.
2) This one is dedicated to my mom. I keep telling her I have a perfectly good starter to share, but she may want to do it the hard way for the same reason I did. Oh yeah, Peggy & Barbara: If you’ve killed yours, here ya go 😉
3) Microscopic kitchen critters are fun. One of these days I’m going to have to get around to sharing the piima, kefir, and kombucha. Oh, and I started a sour cream experiment today. We’ll see what happens there. Not only are they fun to gather and play with, but they’re amazingly beneficial for your body. Even though we’re cooking the poor little beggars off here in the sourdough, it’s such a long, fermenty process that the bugs are basically pre-digesting all of the stuff in the grain (flour) that makes it not so great for human consumption. Which means we’re able to absorb more of the good stuff. It has nearly the same benefits as sprouting your wheat berries first. The other ones are real live actual cultures that don’t get cooked off so you just ingest them. Yay all around.
I’m not giving you quick instructions on this one. Do you have any idea how long it took me to organize all of those pictures… that all look the exact same???!! Go look at them dammit.
1 Jar, 114 g flour, 114 g water. Pour flour and water into jar. Stir. Cover with cheesecloth and leave on your counter. Feed approximately every 24 hours with the same ratio of flour to water, pulling some off before every feeding after the second day so you don’t end up with some bizarre horror movie going on in your house. This thing will grow and grow and grow if you don’t remove some. After a week, you should have a pretty lively culture. Bake Bread.