(Part 1) 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.]
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):
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.
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! [Edited to add: After a few more feedings, I no longer needed the baking powder.]
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.
A few of my top picks for this post:
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(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.)
Le Parfait Super Terrine – 1L French Glass Canning Jar w/Straight Body, Airtight Rubber Seal & Glass Lid, 32oz/Quart (Pack of 4) Stainless WireSilicone Jar Spatula | 600F Heat Resistant Non-Stick Rubber Scraper | Perfect for Jars, Smoothies, Blenders | One Piece Utensils | Durable Kitchen Cookware (UpGood Professional Spatulas, Teal)Ball Mason Jar Pint Wide Mouth Clear Glass W/Lids and Bands, 16-Ounces (Set of 4)Elastic Cloth Jar Covers | Set of 3 | Unbleached & Chemical-Free Organic CottonSet of 72 Reusable Elastic Bowl, Dish & Plate Covers – 3 Sizes 24 of each size (72)Ball Quart Jar with Silver Lid, Wide Mouth, Set of 2Ball Mason Jar-32 oz. Aqua Blue Glass Ball Collection Elite Color Series Wide Mouth-Set of 4 JarsEtekcity Food Digital Kitchen Scale Weight Grams and Oz for Baking and Cooking, 0.67.35.7 in, Stainless Steel(2019 Upgraded)GreaterGoods Digital Food Kitchen Scale, Multifunction Scale Measures in Grams and Ounces (Grey)Food Scale, Homever 15kg Digital Food Scale with 9×6.3 in Big Panel, Digital Kitchen Scale with 1g Accuracy and Back-lit LCD Display. (silver)Digital Kitchen Scale, LOFTer Multifunction Food Scale with LED Display for Baking Cooking, 11lb/5KG Capacity, Ultra Slim, Easy to Clean, Tempered Glass Surface Touch Screen, Battery Included, WhiteOXO Good Grips 5 Lb Food Scale with Pull-Out DisplayOXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display, 11-PoundPowerful Electric Grain Mill Grinder for Home and Professional Use – High Speed Electric Flour Mill Grinder for Healthy Grains and Gluten-Free Flours – Electric Grain Grinder Mill by WondermillKoMo Classic Mill, BeechwoodBosch MUM6N10UC Universal Plus Stand Mixer, 800 watt, 6.5-QuartsBosch Universal Plus Stand Mixer – Black 800 WattBosch Universal Plus Stand Mixer Baker’s Package with Additional Baking AttachmentsNutriMill Baker’s Package for Bosch Universal Plus & Classic – Bowl Scraper, Cookie Paddles, Cake Paddles, Metal Whip DriveBosch MUM4405 Compact Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield, 400 watt, 4 Quart