Happy Fermentation Friday! Today we’re veering away from sauerkrauts and beverages to look at fermented breads.
Specifically sourdough bread! Sourdough has to be one of my favorites, it’s a bread I remember loving as a kid. My first affair with carbs if you will. Toasted with a bit of butter, there’s nothing better than when that sourdough tang spreads along the tongue.
Mmmm! I wish I had a slice right now!
Most bread has a simple base of flour, salt, water, and yeast. Sourdough is that plus the addition of ‘fermented’ flour water concentrate. You can’t just leave flour and water out on the counter, you usually have a starter—the existing culture—to jump start things. It’s like a SCOBY to kombucha. The starter/concentrate grows and develops at room temperature before adding it to the rest of your bread mixture. You can find starter online, at a health food store, or snag some from a friend.
Here’s the truth about maintaining sourdough bread starter. It’s HIGH MAINTENANCE. Incredibly so.
You have to feed it–on a schedule and use it regularly for fear of being swallowed whole or dump some out regularly.
I went through a couple phases with it where I was pretty good at maintaining its glory and baking with it to ignoring it for months to reviving it to ignoring it again and throwing it out. I just couldn’t keep up. I’m a bad person.
But if you see the picture above, I want you to know that I revived that mess. That grey strange looking mess. I brought it back to life and baked with it for several months. So, never fear, you too can bring your sourdough starter back from north of the wall. Just like Jon Snow. Although he wasn’t north of the wall when it happened. You get my gist.
The grey liquid has a special name. Hooch. Low-quality booze. If that. But that’s where we begin.
How to Revive Sourdough Starter
- Discard the hooch, drain it off, send it on its way
- Skim off the top layer of discolored starter using the back of a spoon
- Use a spoon or tablespoon to transfer some starter into a large clean bowl
- Reseal the original starter and put back in the fridge (for back-up purposes)
- Measure out 1/4 cup filtered water + 1/2 cup plain unbleached flour
- Add the water to the bowl with starter and whisk well
- Using a sieve add the flour and whisk until it forms a nice looking dough
- On an 8-12 hour schedule repeat the feeding with water and flour
I’ve seen sources recommend tossing half the starter before each feeding – I don’t remember doing that, but you do you
- If you set the time up right, you can end up with a morning/after work feeding schedule that doesn’t require trips home at lunch time
- In about 3 days it should be ready to use
This will get thick and fluffy over the next 3 days. It doesn’t bubble or make noises like sauerkraut, but it smells good and you can tell it’s alive.
Here’s a batch of homemade sourdough bread baked in our Lodge cast iron dutch oven. Swoon.
Local peeps, if you’re interested in making homemade sourdough, there’s a gentleman—Ray Templeton—with a booth at the Moscow Farmers Market. He sells spice mixes, starters, and even a sourdough recipe book.