This post isn’t really a tutorial as much as it is my thoughts on our first experience creating a sourdough starter from spelt and sharing with you some resources that I have found to be helpful. I am not a sourdough queen. I am still learning and working my way through new recipes, adjusting favorite recipes, and learning from my mistakes.
Sourdough starter was something we had wanted to try for quite some time. I had some of the other traditional foodie basics under my belt, basics such as water kefir, kombucha, and lacto fermentation. When it came to sourdough however, I balked.
I’d heard from someone somewhere out there that it would be very difficult to start a starter. I was under the impression it was better to just purchase a starter and keep it going.
Because it was reportedly so difficult I thought it would take more than one try. Experimentation in the kitchen is not something I’m fond of. I will be the first to admit that I am short on patience. I like things to work well and work on the first try with the results looking like a foodie magazine photo shoot.
I had sourdough starters before but I somehow couldn’t keep up with the weekly feedings. Trying to remember to keep my kombucha and kefir going was difficult enough. To add to that regimen a sourdough starter? I wasn’t so sure.
One January afternoon however, I decided to set my reservations aside and give it a try.
I combined 1/4 cup of spring water with about 3/8 cup of spelt flour in a glass jar, covered it with a clean coffee filter, set it in a warm place in the kitchen, and let the yeast do her work. The spelt flour was my choice, but any kind of flour will work. It is also important to note that treated water will not work for making your own starter.
Within twenty four hours I was thrilled to discover happy little bubbles breaking on the surface of my starter. Seeing quick results was encouraging and I was motivated to keep up with it.
Every twelve hours, I fed the mixture by again adding another 1/4 cup of water, 3/8 cup of flour, and stirring it down. After the first few feedings, I began discarding 1/4 cup before adding the new flour. A healthy starter grows and expands, discarding some before feeding keeps it from overflowing the jar.
The mixture continued to bubble and grow, and in two weeks I felt the starter was strong enough to use in a recipe. Among my first sourdough creations was a batch of simple pancakes which we enjoyed. (I just googled for a recipe but if you decide to bake something keep in mind: advance prep is needed for the starter and flour to soak overnight.)
Now, some three and a half months later, my starter is happily bubbling away in my fridge and has continued to provide us with many wonderful sourdough baked goods. (Be sure to drop by next week for a sourdough recipe!)
As far as the upkeep….it hasn’t been too bad. I’m pretty laid back with it. I currently store it in my fridge and if I remember to feed it mid-week; I do. Otherwise, it comes out on Saturday where it is used, fed and returned to the fridge.
In fact, I’ve even used different kinds of flour for feeding. One evening I didn’t have any spelt flour milled so I just plunked in some einkorn flour. My starter didn’t seem to mind and was still pretty happy; in fact, it seemed to have responded better to the einkorn flour than the spelt.
Preparation is very similar to soaking (read more about that here) in that the starter is combined with flour and liquid and allowed to sour overnight. As the mixture sours, the sourdough works on the flour to make it more digestible.
The results however aren’t always consistent. The starter, which then acts as yeast can be fickle and temperamental. Some things rise better than others; some things taste better than others. I have learned a lot by working my way through the sourdough eCourse through Gnowfglins, which I highly recommend.
This course takes you step by step right through the process of making a starter, and then using it in several really great recipes. We’ve enjoyed the artisan bread recipe, as well as the sourdough chocolate cake and English muffins.
Info is also available through an ebook. This month, five free videos are included with an ebook purchase! Among them: sourdough cakes and sourdough English muffins. Click here for more details.
Do you use sourdough? What are some of your tips for a successful starter?