It still seems amazing to me that, within a couple of weeks, I’m hooked on sourdough. That was the last thing I expected to happen when I set out to explore what sourdough was all about.
My hesitation was rooted in a lack of information. The only sourdough breads I had ever consumed were served in restaurants. While they were tasty enough, they couldn’t hold a candle to the breads and other baked goods I’m making now.
Here are some sourdough facts I never knew. They may help you decide if you want to try your hand at baking with sourdough.
- The “yeast” that initiates sourdough fermentation is found in the flour.
- Sourdough starter isn’t limited to using in bread; it can be used in baked items such as cookies, cake, pastries – anything that contains flour.
- Fermentation processes the starter’s flour, making it easier to digest. It also reduces the sugar spike regular bread causes when we eat it.
- Sourdough starter has two ingredients: water and flour. Use filtered water so nothing used to treat tap water affects the fermentation.
- Sourdough bread keeps at room temperature far longer than regular bread. My sourdough bread sat on the counter for one week without any molding issues.
- Why the longer shelf life? Bread baked with a sourdough starter has its own culture of microbes – good bacteria – which fight off bad bacteria, the kind that brings on mold.
- While it takes 12-14 days for your initial starter to be ready for baking bread, for the rest of the starter life its refrigerated and “fed” 1x/week.
- Why do you need to feed sourdough starter? Once fermentation begins, the yeast must have something to “feed” on, the flour. Unless it’s fed, it will eventually die off.
- What does “feeding” involve? Mix water and flour then add to the starter and stir it into the starter. It takes about 5 minutes to complete this.
- Isn’t all this “feeding” pretty inconvenient/time consuming? No and no. When you start developing your own starter, you’ll feed it 1x/day for 7 days. For an additional 5 days, you feed it 2s/day. Regular feedings – 12 hours apart – are best. If you miss a feeding or fall behind on the time, it’s okay. Just don’t make that a habit.
- Don’t use a metal bowl to mix feedings or house your starter. The fermentation is an acidic reaction and will eat through the toughest metals. The metal will dis-color and the starter will take on an unpleasant metallic taste.
- Don’t use a metal spoon to stir feedings or when handling starter. Either wooden or Teflon spoons or Teflon spatulas are recommended.
- Flour and water used in sourdough starters can be measured by weight or volume. Weight is highly accurate; volume will be most convenient.
- While all-purpose flour works fine, bread flour is preferred by some bakers because it has extra protein in it.
If you decide to enter the sourdough arena, don’t be discouraged with the time it takes to get a starter established and learn how to use it. I assure you the final products are well worth the effort.
You will also learn that every baker has some of their own unique takes on creating/using starters. Explore what works best for you – and enjoy!