February 22, 2012

Sourdough Continued: Feeding Your Starter


If you've started your sourdough, how is it going? If your still uncertain and my endorsement isn't enough, here is some more inspiration. I wanted to share a few more ideas about keeping a starter and getting comfortable with itbefore I post my recipe for the actual bread.

Keeping sourdough going is often likened to having a pet on your kitchen counter. It is alive and requires regular attention, if you treat it right, it will love you back in the form of wonderful bread. On the other hand, when you don't have time to feed it or bake bread you can store it in the refrigerator and pretty much forget about it. If it feels like a little pet, it is not unheard of to give your starter a name. For some reason I've never felt that impulse.

Aside from using it for bread, it is good to get to know your starter. I have a laid back relationship with mine and feed it once a day. When I first started it, I carefully measured the flour and water but now I just eyeball the amounts to take out and put in and it is still thriving. Precision and giving your sourdough the best possible conditions can't hurt, but it is also important to make sourdough feeding and baking something that you can easily fit into your lifestyle, otherwise you'll never do it.

I usually bake one loaf each week and when I don't have a use for the extra starter, I refrigerate it until about 48 hours before I want to bake again. I have read that refrigerating will make the starter more sour. I haven't noticed a huge difference and for me it is easier to let it chill for part of the week rather than keeping it at room temperature and feeding it daily.

Keep an eye on your starter when it is on the counter. After you feed it, the starter will slowly rise and increase in size. When it reaches its peak, it will start to deflate slightly. It is best for using in bread dough before it has begun to deflate. As you are getting to know it, observe how long it takes for the starter to reach its full rise after feeding. That will be the optimal time to mix the bread dough.

After taking it out of the fridge, I feed my starter for a couple of days. I also make sure to feed the starter about 12 hours before I want to mix the bread. I use most of the starter for my bread dough but take what is left over and feed it again. With this small amount of starter, I can feed it several times (approximately doubling it each time) until I have enough to bake again. Thus, I don't have too much left over starter to throw out or find a use for.

A few resources that I have used for learning about sourdough: The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum, and The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book (ideal if you want to make whole grain sourdough). Of course there are many other resources out there.

Tomorrow I will share my bread recipe and next week I'll have some ideas for what to do with the extra starter. Do you have sourdough going in your kitchen?

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