Since I had so much trouble this time with my starter I don’t think I should be telling anyone how to make a starter. I will though, just because there are a few things that can go wrong (although, ultimately it is SUPER easy) and maybe you can learn from my mistakes (and I promised). First off, I would like to refer you to Sourdough Bread: How To Begin by S. John Ross, which is where Joy the Baker got her info and where I got my bread recipe. Really, I just want to bring to your attention the cool science experiment that is a sourdough starter. Also, be warned of the myriad of things you can do not only with a starter (pancakes, pretzels, rolls, loaves) but also with just the bread itself. You are just going to be cooking with it all the time.
First of all, this loaf still had its issues. Last year, the wonderful starter I had could rise my dough ready for baking in about 3 1/2 hours total. That was just the time for my first rise this time. I still wish it had risen more but at least it rose enough and cooked all the way through. My first two attempts barely rose at all and were still doughy in center. I think maybe even though I had been feeding it faithfully over a week and it was bubbling and smelled awesome, ultimately my starter wasn’t ready for me to bake with it. I knew the starter itself wasn’t bad, so I just put it in the fridge for the rest of the week and came back to it when I had time over the weekend. I got it out on Saturday and fed it Saturday and Sunday and made the sponge for my bread on Sunday night. I could tell while making this bread that the starter had gotten better. It still did not compare to some weeks I had last year where it bubbled so much, even as I had gotten all the way to mixing the flour in for my bread dough, that I felt guilty baking it because it was so obvious I was killing something (even if it was bacteria) that was so totally alive! It really is the neatest thing. Science in my tummy!
So on Monday I followed my recipe and baked a loaf that was completely edible (third times a charm, right?). A loaf I could slice up and eat with dinner, a loaf I could make toast with, a loaf that I could make a Ten Pound Bun with! Have you ever had those at the fair? A-mazing! Last year, when I made my loaf a week, we would put cheese on the sourdough and melt it in the microwave and have it for a snack. This year after going to the L.A. County Fair, and eating what has been a staple of our fair food for years, it was like being struck by lightning! Sourdough, garlic spread, and colby jack cheese melted with the broiler-how simple, how decadent, and I can totally make this at home!
Don’t let a good sourdough die. Mine died just this spring. I took it out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before I fed it (which you don’t need to do) and didn’t get around to feeding it for three days! Then I could smell that I had killed it. Still so sad.
Keep trying. Although I had a great easy experience last year, this year has been more difficult. Remember, the longer it lives the easier it will be to bake or cook with it. You WILL get a feel for the health of your starter.
For good rising use your oven. Turn it on for a minute or so, then turn it off. If you accidentally make it too hot, crack open the door to cool a bit before placing your dough inside.
It really is easy. After your initial commitment of feeding it every day for a week or so, you stick it in the fridge to be fed once a week (after awhile, even less). If you bake a loaf once a week like I did, the whole thing becomes a no brainer.
Please ask questions if you have them. I hope I can answer any you might have, if not I am sure we can figure it out together. So if you haven’t started your starter yet, get cracking and if you have, get baking! You won’t regret it.
My GeekyLink this week is Hogwarts house stereotypes from my Pinterest page. I like it because it addresses some of the concerns that were brought up in the review of PotterMORE on the Nerdist website. I pretty much agree with the entire review. But she brings up something that I didn’t realize, apparently lots of people that were sorted into Hufflepuff abandoned their accounts. I was sorted into Hufflepuff (I was completely honest in my answers to the questions that decide where you go) and yes, I was kinda bummed about it but not enough to not try out the potential awesomeness that is Pottermore! Then I ran across my GeekyLink picture and I had totally forgotten that Cedric Diggory, the only legitimate Hogwarts candidate for the Triwizard Tournament, was a Hufflepuff. Then I felt much better about it.