bubbling sourdough starter

The Sourdough Experiment – Week One

Many years ago (thirty, but who’s counting?), my neighbor on Fort Lee gave me some of her mother-in-law’s sourdough starter. This was a new experience for me–I had baked bread for years, but sourdough was a novelty to me. Oh my goodness, that starter and her recipe for Soft Sourdough Bread made THE most incredible bread! If you’ve ever had those soft, pillowy rolls at Texas Roadhouse or Ryan’s, think of those in a loaf format. Amazing.

Fast forward two years, and The Woman Who Kills Air Ferns and Aloe Plants managed to kill (or neglect?) the starter. Despite having the original starter recipe for the Soft Sourdough Bread, I was never able to replicate it. [Cue Sad Husband.]

Last week, my friend Robin asked me to join her on her journey to sourdough mastery. (Okay, so we really just wanted to see if we could last a week at this….). Here, friends, is our journey….. [Dramatic music plays.]

bubbling sourdough starter
Sourdough Starter, Day 3, morning

The original plan was the brainchild of Heather, a.k.a.  The Kneady Homesteader – you can see her challenge/invitation here on youTube.

I thought I took photos on Days 1 and 2, but maybe I just figured you didn’t need to see what some flour mixed with water looked like. That’s all it was. Fresh-milled rye flour and slightly-warmed bottled water (no chlorine allowed) for Day 1 and Day 2. I also went off-script a bit on Day 2 — 50 grams just looked like SO little, so I left in all the starter (no discard –made it roughly 4 oz) and added 4 oz water and 4 oz flour.

 

By Day 3, I had repented of my straying from the plan, and went with the 100 grams assigned. At this point, I switched to a fresh-milled rye/whole wheat combo and a bit of unbleached all-purpose white (about 3:1):

                  Day 3, evening

Day 3

Today is Day 4, and I can’t bring myself to discard so much of the not-ready-to-use-yet starter, so instead of dumping it, I’ve been putting it into yet another jar and feeding THAT one, too. My kitchen is starting to look like a scene from Signs.

Day 4. My name is Vicki, and I may have a problem.

I know this 4-day-old starter isn’t really “good” for anything and we’re supposed to dump it, but I just can’t yet (hence photo above). So I found this pancake recipe  and used the bit I hadn’t fed and was about to trash…. Since the starter is active but not yet mature, this recipe uses a smidge of baking powder, but I might could have gotten away without it –these were so light and fluffy!

The recipe says to let the batter rest for 30 minutes. Not happening. I’m not that patient. I got 9 good-sized pancakes from half a batch, using about 1/3 cup batter per pancake. These were amazing! I can hardly wait to taste what we can do with this when it’s a mature starter!

Some things I’ve discovered so far:

  • The stuff expands a lot, so use a bigger jar than you think you need.
  • No metal utensils.
  • No flimsy plastic spatulas (ask me how many pieces mine is in right now).
  • Try to use a jar with as much access at the top as possible. A totally-straight sided jar is ideal.
  • Wipe out the smeary places inside the jar after feeding (use non-chlorinated water on a cloth) or it will dry like concrete. Forever. And. Ever.
  • I so appreciate the tare feature on my kitchen scale.
  • I still love the smell and feel of freshly milled grain.
  • Edited to add: I did give away one of those seven jars, and then got the others down to just three: One for a friend for later, and two for me in case I kill one before maturation. While it seems wasteful to throw it away, it’s even less frugal to keep feeding even more perfectly good flour to something I won’t use later.
Won’t you join Robin and me on our sourdough journey? I’ll post more as the adventure progresses. (Hopefully not a starter obit, but a bread photo!).

A few of my top picks for this post:

(Affiliate links don’t cost you any more for the products, but helps me make a bit here and there to bring you fun content!)

(Note on the Le Parfait jar: I wanted a straight-sided-all-the-way-to-the-top jar in this size so I didn’t have a collar to stir under, but I didn’t realize till after I got this that the lid is ATTACHED — not sure how I missed that, but…..So I had my husband remove the metal parts so I have a lid with a top that sits atop it. It does not seal down. My preference for this purpose.)

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