Make your own bread, muffins, pancakes and more with this wild yeast sourdough starter. Here’s how to make it…
Mmmm…is there anything like a slice of hot, crusty sourdough bread with fresh butter and jam?
If the thought of making your own sourdough bread sounds both tempting and terrifying, you’re not alone! In fact, breadmaking is one of those skills that is slowly being lost in today’s consumerist culture, and most people now think of making their own bread as something so difficult they won’t even attempt it.
However, the reality is that making your own bread is amazingly easy! I will share my own favorite recipe soon – but first, you’ll need a starter….
Sourdough starter is incredibly easy to make and requires only 2 ingredients: flour, and water (plus time).
You can use whatever flour you like. I usually start with whole wheat, then over time add some white all-purpose as well when I feed my starter, but it’s up to you. For the water, make sure you are using bottled or well-filtered water that is free from chlorine, which will kill your yeast!
Your flour-water mixture will capture wild yeasts from the air to form a bubbly mass that you can then use to make your own delicious baked goods.
Here are a few tips from Mother Earth News on how to make your own wild yeast sourdough starter, as well as other materials you may need:
• 1 large glass NOT METAL jar (I love using mason jars with the rings—very convenient).
• cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or a piece of cotton material
• rubber bands (if you’re not using a mason jar with the ring)
• 1 chopstick (the handle of a wooden spoon can work, too)
In your clean mason jar, measure out 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup filtered water. Mix with the chopstick until you have blended them well. Cover with the coffee filter or two layers of cheesecloth, and secure on the top with rubber bands or the mason jar ring.
Note: It is very important to cover it thoroughly — fruit flies love starter, and will happily lay eggs in it if they can reach it. Don’t cover with anything air-tight, though — your mix needs to be able to breathe (it is going to be alive, remember!)
Put in a relatively warm, dark place. I found that a secluded corner of our kitchen worked just fine.
DAYS 2-5 (Longer in Cold Weather)
Every morning, discard half the mix into your compost and feed the starter 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm (not hot) filtered water, mixing well.
Right now, you’re waiting for the yeast that is naturally in the air to settle into your mix and start eating the starches in the batter you’ve made… Stir to aerate the mix again mid-day (if you can) and before you go to bed.
Signs of active yeast are bubbles, a layer of a clear or light brown liquid rising to the top and the start of a sour smell…
Things you don’t want to see at this stage are mold or fruit fly maggots. If you find these, don’t try to save it: it’s lost. Compost your tears and failure and start over. Thankfully, once your starter is well established, it will never mold: the yeast out-competes anything else alive.
After about 5 days, you may find that you are now in the possession of your own fledgling colony of free, local yeast. It should be the consistency of pancake batter, have a pleasant, beer-y aroma and bubbles…
Days 6 and Beyond
It’s time now to start building up your starter’s strength and preparing it for baking. You want to have starter that is strong enough that it can roughly double in size during the 4 hours that occur after a feeding… I finally began using my starter to bake bread about two weeks after initiating the whole process — you may be able to start sooner in warmer climates!
To maintain the starter, continue to halve what is in the jar and add the flour/water food (at a 1:1 ratio) every day or so. You can adjust how much you feed it by how much you’ll need to bake with the next day…
If you bake bread every week, you will find a good rhythm for feeding/using your starter jar, and you’ll never have to compost the extra (you’ll be baking with it!). If you don’t bake every week, you can refrigerate the jar to slow down its fermentation (just make sure to feed it at least once a week and make sure it can breathe)…