Starting and Maintaining a Sourdough Starter

This will work with Turkey Red Heritage Wheat, white or sifted flours. It is a very good substitute for commercial yeast.

 ½ C Heritage Wheat flour

 ½ C Water –Well water, bottled water, or filtered city water. If you use filtered city water, it’s best to let it sit out for 24 hours before using in order to evaporate any remaining chlorine.  Luke warm is the best temperature, not above 100F.

 Mix by hand and leave on the counter with a cover over it. The mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter. A warmer place on the counter where the temperature is above 70F or more is best.

 Each of the next five or six days – take out half the mixture and throw away. Add equal amounts of flour and water (½ C or less) maintaining the batter-like consistency. Mix this together again, adjusting the water and flour mixture so it’s a thick pancake batter consistency.

Somewhere around day 6-8 bubbles should start to appear and there should be a yeasty smell. Now you can start building up the amount of starter for use in bread recipes. If it looks like the starter is actively working don’t throw any of it away, just add 1/2C of both water and flour as before and mix well by hand.

Next day add 3/4 C water a 3/4 C flour.

Next day – 1 C of each.

Now you should have enough starter to take out 20-30 grams of starter to start a poolish – see our recipe for sourdough bread.

Estimate what starter you have remaining and add enough flour and water to double it in size. The is not a critical measurement at this point. Maintain the starter’s quantity in the future based on whether or not you plan to bake bread. Build up the volume if you are planning to bake, and halve it and maintain it if you are not planning to bake for a while.

If you plan to use frequently, more than once a week, leave on the counter and feed every couple of days. If you are going to use it less often, place in a covered container in the refrigerator and feed every three days or so. Take out a day or so before using.

 Using starter – To obtain a more sour taste, if that is what you are looking for, it will require longer fermentation in your dough. Experiment with poolish and biga preferments that are one or two days old by keeping them in the refrigerator or on the counter depending on the ambient temperature. The more time and temperature the more sour the bread will be.

Longer and cooler is sometimes the best. Leaving a preferment in the refrigerator for one to several days seems to develop the best taste. You will want to experiment to discover what best suits your taste.

Going away for a week or two. Take a tablespoon-sized portion of the starter and add flour until it is a stiff dough ball. Place the dough ball in a small jar, and cover the ball with flour.

When you return take out the ball add water and flour as if you were just starting out. This time it should grow into a usable starter in a few days. Open the ball and take out a small portion of the inside and discard the rest.

Remember, starter is a living thing so it needs to eat!