The Thankful Mama

Sourdough Starter

Bread making is one of my favorite hobbies. This simple pleasure gives me the opportunity to acquire new techniques, learn history, express creativity and provide a delicious meal for my family.
My great grandfather was a baker and a pretty darn good one from what I hear.

Granddaddy Standing On Right

Granddaddy Standing On Right

I only knew him when I was a very small child, so I don’t remember his glorious cooking and Sunday dinners. I know, though, that my interest and love of bread making is a part of Granddaddy in me. My other inspiration has come from a visit to Boudin Bakery in San Francisco. Their sourdough bread is famous for it’s distinct taste and history. It’s fascinating to watch the bakers cutting and shaping the dough into loaf after delicious loaf…and the smell! Well, after a visit to the Boudin Bakery I was excited to get back into making bread again.
I’ve managed to teach myself the basics, starting with a bread machine and letting it do all the work. I’ve since progressed to shaping by hand, grinding my own flours and making sourdough from my own starter. I love learning and my hubby loves eating the results! 🙂

I’ve decided to start a new sourdough from scratch…again! I let my sponge go a few months ago…shame on me! I also wasn’t baking much since in the summer it is nearly 100 degrees in the afternoons and cranking up a hot oven isn’t appealing. So with the cooler temps comes my itch to bake! I’ve begun a new starter based on the techniques explained in Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart. This volume is extremely informative and detailed about the fine art of making superb quality bread at home. His books have given me valuable knowledge of the construction of a loaf of bread from the ingredients to the oven. I highly recommend all of his books for anyone wanting to study the art of bread. I’m using the master formula for the barm sponge starter, which he uses in his San Francisco style sourdough recipes. I’ve completed day one, which calls for a mixture of whole wheat flour, barley malt powder, honey and water. I ground up some wheat berries for the first batch and used local honey.

DAY 1

DAY 1

I didn’t have the barley powder, so we’ll see how that goes. After 24 hours the mixture wasn’t very bubbly or fermenting, which is apparently normal. I fed the sponge more unbleached white flour, honey and water for day two to ferment for another 24 hours, before feeding again.

DAY 2

DAY 2

I hope this turns out to be a great tasting sourdough. I’m looking forward to the results and to getting my hands back into the dough again!

10/01/2009: Day 3

Today is day three of the five day process of fermenting the sourdough starter. The starter is quite bubbly and has doubled in size! It has a very distinct “sour” smell, almost vinegary. I

DAY 3

DAY 3

refreshed it with just water and unbleached white flour. After mixing together the ingredients, the starter has a beautiful creamy white batter appearance. So far so good!

10/02/2009: DAY 4

Today the starter has definitely grown. It has almost reached the rim of the bowl.  Fortunately, today is also the

DAY 4

DAY 4

day to discard half of the mixture. After doing this, the starter is then refreshed with the same amount of unbleached white flour and water as the previous two days and allowed to ferment for 24 hours. The starter still has a nice creamy pancake batter consistency and a noticeable vinegary/sour smell. Perfect!

10/03/2009: DAY 5

DAY 5

DAY 5

I made it! I successfully completed the five day growing of the sourdough starter. It looks wonderful and smells quite tangy. The refreshment amounts for day five doubled, calling for twice as much flour and water as I was using. I decided to keep with the same amounts I was previously using. This gives me a reasonable amount to store in the fridge, and allows for enough starter to make 1-3 loaves at a time, which is more than enough for me to make. After refreshing, the starter ferments for about four hours and then finds a new home in the refrigerator where it can happily repose until bread baking day.

I’m very happy with this method of growing a starter. Although it’s several days of upkeep, the end product is really worth the effort. Making a wild yeast sourdough starter is a great kitchen experiment. It provides the chance to create a masterpiece from scratch. Sourdough breads have a taste to them that just makes you feel history. It’s quite easy to bite into a sourdough biscuit and imagine it was baked in a iron skillet over a campfire by a gold miner in California. That’s a pretty romantic description for a bowl full of thick piquant batter in my refrigerator!

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