Sourdough Starter

You can always tell how well I’m doing with my work by how well other things around the house are going.

A couple weeks ago I made sourdough starter, so you can guess how I’m doing at work.

I’ve always wanted to try having a sourdough starter. I try baking periodically with varying degrees of success, and this seemed like having a pet that also makes you bread.

Plus, sourdough is delicious.

So while Kevin was in Richmond for a work trip and I was desperately stalled on a scene, I started a, well, starter.

I know, it’s so impressive.

It’s actually extremely simple. You put four ounces of water and four ounces of flour into a bowl/jar/container, mix it up, and stick it somewhere warmish. Do that for five days and voila, sourdough starter.

But there’s so much more to it. What do you do once you have the starter? If you keep adding flour/water, it’s going to get massive!

I had a lot of questions and a lot of panic. Here are a few of my questions, and the resources I went to for answers:

The Kitchn was the place I began. They have step-by-step instructions on how to make a starter

King Arthur Flour has a blog (who knew!) that a friend recommended when I asked for advice.

And finally, my friend Krissy, who knows everything there is to know about everything, but I can’t link to her because she is a real person. You’ll just have to trust me that she knows everything. I love her.

My sourdough starter questions:

What is strong flour? It turns out you can’t bake so well with, I guess, weak flour. I learned this after I baked my first loaf and it turned out very sad and very dense. Sourdough starter apparently needs a lot of gluten to get a rise going, and for that it needs strong flour. For those of us who don’t live in the U.K., that means bread flour.

Can I keep it in a jar? According to Krissy, yes. You just might have to burp it occasionally. That sounds adorable.

Can I keep it in the fridge? Yes. In fact, for me that’s preferable, since I don’t want to have to feed my starter every day (or twice a day!), which is recommended if you’ve got a counter starter. In the fridge you feed it every week. According to the kitchn, that just means that when you want to bake with it, take it out a day in advance, feed it, and let it hang out warmer over night, then cook with the extra.

What do I do if it’s too much? Well, the first recommendation is bake with it. According to Krissy, you can make a ton of stuff with sourdough starter, not just bread. And it’s true! I’m strongly considering buying a waffle maker. The second recommendation is to decrease the amount you feed it. The Kitchn says start with 2×2 instead of 4×4.

How do I bake with it? I’m… actually still not sure. My plan is to just find recipes that have starter listed as an ingredient.

It’s not very sour. How do I fix that? According to this entirely different website, there are a few different options. Once is just waiting it out. Apparently older starter is more sour. Another option is letting your dough rise for a day or two in the fridge. Apparently a long, slow rise increases your sourness. Also if you’re impatient, you can increase the ratio of flour to water, since a dry environment will also make it more sour. (This website seems to approach sourdough with a kind of “eh, see what happens” attitude.”)

Apparently there are options for if you want to keep your starter alive, but won’t be able to take care of it for a while. My current plan is just to ask a friend to watch it and bring them a little container with its food, like it’s a pet.

Anyone out there have sourdough advice? What’s your favorite sourdough starter recipe? Let me know!

P.S. My manuscript is slightly above 50,000 words. That’s progress!

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