This summer I discovered sourdough baking, perhaps inevitably given my blogging history. It’s been a pleasant adventure in dough and doughy waistlines.

For starters, one needs starter. I worked from The Clever Carrot’s guide and after a month or so of false starts, my starter is healthy and active. Some notes:

  • Temperature is quite important. I didn’t see much activity until I began monitoring the room temperature at which the burgeoning starter was kept. The starter responded well to warmth generated by the computers in my home office.
  • Ratios are important. I had much better success using a kitchen scale after trying to “eyeball” it.
  • Feed the starter when it has any stink. The odor can vary even with the same starter. Mild and slightly yeasty smell is fine.
  • The starter seems to need air, at least for the first bit.
    • exposing more of the starter’s surface area to air seems to be helpful, so increasing the starter’s size isn’t always profitable if the starter’s in a jar.
    • bowls seem to be better than jars.
    • stirring the starter half way through a 24 hour cycle helps a lot.
  • This method for refreshing the starter works well:
  • Cutting the starter in half seems to help ramp up the activity slowly.

Feeding Strategy

Feeding to avoid enormous amounts of un-used discard requires a bit of planning. Once the starter is established, here is one method for baking a small daily loaf of bread (an excellent way to gain experience with the bread baking method):

  • Feed the starter until there’s a little more than 165g, then:
    • 75g for bread dough
    • 55g is fed 1:1:1 for the next round
    • 33g is discarded or waste (some waste is inevitable with such a sticky substance)

My starter seems most active at 8-12 hours, but definitely needs feeding after 24, so here’s my rough timetable:

  1. At hour 0 (usually 8-9 PM), feed 50g 1:1:1, yielding 163g of starter
  2. At hour 12 (usually 8-9 AM), take 75g for bread dough
  3. At hour 24 (new hour zero), repeat

I store discard in the fridge for backup and discard recipes. If I haven’t any active starter to feed the next round, discard from the fridge works just as well.

Reviving Starters

Pantry Mama has a good rejuvenation guide that helped me through some false starts.