Sourdough starter, an alchemy of flour, water and the terroir of your very own kitchen, becomes richer, more flavorful, and more fermented and bubbly with time. It may seem daunting, but creating your own starter is straightforward. All you need is water, flour, time and a bit of instruction, which we're providing here.
Build a starter in a week or so, keep it alive with a feeding every week and in a surprisingly short period of time the starter becomes a nuanced, rich, flavorful base for bread, rolls, pancakes, waffles, crackers, English muffins and more.
To build a starter, mix equal parts flour and water and let it sit on the counter for a day. Every 24 hours, feed the starter first by discarding all but about a quarter of what you start with, adding back equal parts fresh flour and water. Every day, the ferment grows and transforms the once rough, dense mixture into a bouncy, wheat-scented bowl of hopefulness.
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Get the recipe here.
Use all-purpose flour initially to build a bubbly, fermented starter and once it is reliably rising, add any other grain that inspires - whole wheat, rye, spelt, einkorn - when feeding. Plan a week for the fermentation to happen. The temperature in your kitchen can effect how long this takes.
If you've been given a sourdough starter, or if you've started one yourself, it's something you must keep alive. Like the Tamagochi toys of our childhood, with minimal effort, this is not insurmountable. Sourdough starter may be kept on the kitchen counter, which is a good place for it if you are making bread every day.
If you are a bake-bread-once-a-week (or less) kind of baker, keep your starter in the refrigerator and feed it weekly. If you are only making bread occasionally, you will still need to feed the starter weekly. It is not unusual for the starter to have some liquid around it. Stir it well before using it in a recipe or before starting the discard-and-feed cycle.
If the starter languishes for months, it may be possible to reinvigorate it with regular feedings. If it turns pink or smells spoiled, throw it away and start again.
By Cathy Barrow for the Washington Post.