Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sourdough! I Feel So Advanced!

OK, so it's not the prettiest loaf in the world (the slashes on the top were centered when I cut them, obviously in the oven there was some weird growth pattern that occurred), but it's cool because it's sourdough!  I had resisted sourdough for a while, because a) I usually wanted sourdough TODAY but the starter wouldn't be ready until at least a week from now, and then instead of starting the starter for the next time I wanted sourdough, I got lazy, and b) the thought of creating something that had to ferment and grow and be alive just seemed...intimidating!  But finally I took the plunge and I'm glad I did, sourdough has been a very welcome addition to my life!  :D

The starter was simple enough.  Flour, sugar, water, and yeast in a bowl, sitting on the counter for days.  I later read that adding yeast to the starter was actually quite blasphemous when dealing with sourdough pros, but I am no sourdough pro so I was willing to take that risk.  Even if it has started out as just a continued strain of my commercial , Red Star yeast, I'm sure that with time it will evolve and pick up other strains from the air and my kitchen (that's what I've read it's supposed to do, anyway).

Alive and Well
I followed the directions for caring for my young starter, and stirred it 2 or 3 times a day for 5 days.  It had usually separated out in to a hunk of wet dough submerged in a yellow liquid, but the stirring always brought it back together until the next time.  Until the 6th day, when I COMPLETELY forgot and didn't stir or even look at my starter for the entire day.  When I remembered on day 7, I was greeted not by my familiar submerged lump of dough, but what seemed like a wet pancake batter.  Is this right?  DID I BREAK IT?!  Do I have to start all over??  I scoured the net for resources on what the heck my sourdough starter should look like (since my book only told me "use when it's ready" - what does "ready" look like?) and found this very cool article which was so helpful, and that even talked about strains of starter that have been around since the 1840s!  Somehow it didn't even occur to me that you could just keep replenishing it for so long and keep it alive!  I've bookmarked it for future sourdough reference.

As you can see from the starting picture, the starter worked!  My bread was (sorta) beautiful, and had that slightly sour taste that I love so much.  I've heard that you can get sourdough starter from other places to use, not least of all from San Francisco (very well known for their sourdough prowess), so that's something I will have to try and see how it compares to my starter.  Interestingly enough, starter from other places only maintains that place's character for a short period of time, before it takes on the yeast in the air from whatever new place it's in.  So sourdough starter from the same batch that now live on opposite ends of the country could be entirely different in a year or so.

Obviously I'm fascinated by this, since it makes me feel a bit like a mad scientist, so as I play with this bread more, expect future posts with sourdough recipes and general madness!


  1. Your loaf looks delish. . . I have never tried making sourdough bread but you are making it look do-able. Maybe one day ;-) Thanks for sharing your "mad scientist" experience. . . looking forward to more.

  2. It is quite do-able! You just put ingredients together and let them turn alive! I do that in the fridge on accident all the time! XD