This is Part II of III in the sourdough series to aid my attempt to climb the Alaskan ladder to the “local” status of a Sourdough. In Part I, I dished our family recipe for Sourdough Pancakes and Waffles. Part III is Jeff’s recipe for Sourdough Pizza Dough.
As a quick review, sourdough starter is a yeast culture that is allowed to ferment over time. It produces a distinct sour flavor that is used in baked goods. The reason that a long time Alaskan is called a “Sourdough” is that early pioneers to the west and settlers to Alaska often carried a sourdough start along with them to use as a the leavening agent in their baked goods.
Many of these starts were handed down over the years. They developed a stronger, more distinct flavor. Our family had a 150 year old start from Jeff’s Grandmother, which we left in the care of a relative before we moved to Hawaii. Unfortunately, they neglected it while we were gone and the start died. When we returned from Hawaii, we had to make our own sourdough starter from scratch.
Making your own Sourdough Starter
If you are unable to bribe a local bakery into giving you one, you can’t find an acceptable kit to purchase, or maybe like us, you just want to give it a go yourself, it’s easy to make your own start! We’ve actually grown starts by two methods. (Jeff is a big time experimental cooking perfectionist, and he wanted to see if there was a difference in flavor plus have a “natural start”. I mainly just eat and enjoy!)
Before you ever start, here’s a couple of tips:
- Use filtered water for your start and recipes. Treated city water generally contains something like chlorine which can kill the yeast in your start.
- When storing your sourdough starter, use a container that will breath. I like the jar we have above as the lid is attached, but we took the rubber gasket off to allow air in. You can do the same thing with a mason jar, just don’t screw it down tight. Nothing metallic when initially growing or storing your start.
- On a similar line, when you are making you sourdough starter or just growing your start for use in a recipe, cover it with a breathable cloth or if you do use plastic wrap, punch holes in it to allow airflow.
- Most people will just use all-purpose flour, but if you like, substitute fresh ground wheat flour for about 1/4 of the flour you use in developing your start. It does have a higher concentration of yeast and may provide a slightly different flavor, but using whole wheat flour alone may not provide enough “food” for the yeast.
- You have to feed your sourdough starter. If you are not regularly using your start, it will die. Remember, this is a “living” culture and eventually the yeast will use up all the available sugars for energy. Once weekly, add about 1 tbsp of flour mixed with 1 tbsp of water to an established start. If like us, you use it regularly, you may only need to feed it 1-2 times per month.
- If your start separates in the fridge with a thin liquid on top, that’s normal. It’s the alcohol rising to the top, which of course cooks out and leaves the sour flavor. Just stir it back in.
Yeast Sourdough Starter
This is the easiest way, (although according to my husband, maybe not the most authentic as with the dry yeast, you are aiding the process of developing a natural yeast.) I’m good with it either way you choose to go. Besides, when your great-great grandchildren inherit the start who’s going to care.
- In large non-metallic bowl, mix together 1 (0.25 oz) pkg active dry yeast, 2 cups luke warm water, and 2 cups all-purpose flour and cover loosely.
- Leave in a warm place to ferment, 4 to 8 days. Depending on temperature and humidity of kitchen, times may vary. Place on cookie sheet in case of overflow. Important: Feed daily with 1/4 c. flour mixed with 1/4 c. water, mix in gently.
- When mixture is bubbly and has a pleasant sour smell, it is ready to use. If mixture has a pink, orange, or any other strange color tinge to it, THROW IT OUT! and start over. Keep it in the refrigerator, covered but able to breathe, until ready to bake.
Jeff’s Grape Method for Sourdough Starter
Ok, here’s the “natural method”. I have to say, this produced just a slightly different flavor. Of note, many people don’t even add the grapes and just use the flour and water. Flour itself also contains natural yeast.
With the chemicals that are added to foods now, it’s getting harder to find an acceptable grape. Basically you are looking for a couple of grapes with a white film on the skins. This is a naturally occurring wild yeast.
- Place 1-2 white filmed grapes in 1 c. luke warm water mixed with 1 c. all-purpose flour, in non-metallic container cover loosely.
- Leave in warm place to ferment. Ours took off in about 3 days, but it may take 5-8 days in a colder climate. Feed daily with 1/4 c. flour + 1/4 c. water.
- Take the grapes out when it is bubbly, but continue to feed for another day or so until you feel confident that it is growing nicely. Refrigerate as above.
And there you have it! Two ways to make your own Sourdough Starter. Give it a try and let me know how it goes, or if you have questions, email me and I’m happy to answer them!