The Care and Feeding
of Sourdough Starter
Last month, I wrote about the origins and uses of sourdough in The Joy of Sourdough Baking. This month, we'll dive into the flour and make things happen.
Making the Starter
The be-all and end-all of sourdough baking is the starter, sometimes called the sponge. Let’s make some!
* Crock or glass container (I use a Coca-Cola pitcher). Should hold at least 8 cups because the starter will grow
* Spoon or whisk
* 2 cups Flour (white or whole wheat, doesn’t matter--I generally maintain the starter with white flour. More on this later.)
* 2 cups Water
Mix the flour and water together in the container, cover with cloth, and put aside (room temperature).
Here’s where it gets difficult:
Pop a beer or diet coke and relax. It's time for the little sourdough beasties get busy.
At the top of the mixture, you should see a liquid with dinky little bubbles. This is the airborne yeast at work for you.
Stir the starter two or three times (you'll feel the gluten forming), then cover with cloth. Forget about it until tomorrow. Yes, the beasties are at work again.
Stir again and cover.
Your starter should be smelling sour by now. Lots of little bubbles should be on top and through the sponge itself.
Remove half the starter and throw it away.
1 cup flour
1 cup water
Cover and forget about it for two days.
Day 1: mix up starter
Day 2: stir and send good thoughts to the little airborne yeasties
Day 3: stir again
Day 4: remove half the starter and feed
Day 5: let it work
Day 6: guess what? You can make pancakes!
Are you ready for breakfast?
I love sourdough pancakes. In fact, since we started eating them, I don't even care for the regular baking powder variety anymore. Sourdough pancakes have less sugar, salt (because there's not a tablespoon of baking powder), and oil so they're much better for you. If you're watching your cholesterol, you can eliminate the egg, although I prefer to use 1/4 cup EggBeaters.
Recipe for Sourdough Pancakes
If you have a big family, mix up 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water and stir into starter the night before, then double the recipe.
2 cups starter
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 or 2 Tbs oil
Mix all ingredients in a 2-quart bowl (the batter grows!). If the batter is too thin, add a little extra flour. Too thick? Add a spoon or two of water.
Feed starter with 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of water. Don't forget this step!
Fry as usual.
Butter, syrup . . . Yum!
Our family prefers whole wheat so the day before I take a cup of starter and mix with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Then feed the original starter. I use the whole wheat starter to make the pancakes. Actually, that should be in past tense because I don't eat wheat anymore. Spelt should work but I haven't tried it yet.
The longer you leave the starter, the more sour the taste. Nowadays, many people prefer the sourness, but in the Old West, they wanted light, fluffy, sweet pancakes.
Some more tips and tricks
- The starter needs to be used every four or five days at least. If you're not going to use it for three days, refrigerate it, but be sure to remove the starter from the refrigerator the night before you cook with it.
- Don't use plastic bowls or utensils. Ever.
- After you've used the starter a few times, you'll end up with a whole lot more than you need. Share with friends!
- Freshly-ground flour makes all the difference in the world. Give it a try!
- For johnnycakes: the night before, mix one cup of starter with one cup of cornmeal and one cup water. Use the same recipe as pancakes. Delicious!
Jacquie Rogers, author of the
♥ Hearts of Owyhee ♥ series
#1 Much Ado About Marshals (RttA Winner)
#2 Much Ado About Madams
#3 Much Ado About Mavericks
A short story: Willow, Wish For Me (Merlin’s Destiny #1)
Website * Twitter * Facebook * Romancing The West * Blog