Category Archives: Step-by-Step Sourdough Starter

Starter from Scratch: Vermont Three Ways

As recently noted, I decided to give the two new starters, Wally and PJ, a little bit of a competition and threw my standard starter, Carl of Oregon (a purchased starter that originated in 1800’s), into the mix to basically see which, if any, was the best of the lot. Just to explain, Carl, regardless of his ‘roots’ has been an active starter in my house for well over a year so has had plenty of time to become mature. So he’s up against two “new kids”.

V3-CulpritsNow I didn’t get into the usual step-by-step photo thing for this post because it was actually a little too hectic keeping track of everything. I basically had to mix three different batches of dough each with it’s own starter. I also decided this would be a good time to work up the next BBA Challenge bread: Kaiser Rolls.

Yeah, pretty much nuts.

So last night I set up the levain build, as per Hamelman’s instructions, but with a distinct change: I took the recipe and divided everything by three. So into each jar I made 1/3 of the levain ingredients but using PJ, Wally and Carl in each. Those got set aside for the night while I worked on the poolish for the Kaisers.

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Sourdough Starter – 1 Week Update

Intro • Day 1 • Day 2 • Day 3 • Day 4 • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts[Day 15]

2009_08_26-Day15Day 15 Update

It has been eight days since this Step-by-Step Starter from Scratch project was posted on Day Seven and here is where the boys stand right now.

After about 5 days of twice a day feeding at 15g:30g:30g [S:W:F] for a total of 75g, I’ve reduced them further and they are now at 10g:20g:20g, a total starter size of 50g. Although this amount may seem small, it would actually allow, from the excess, 30g of starter which is all that the Vermont Sourdough recipe needs, still leaving 10g more of extra starter. So this is still plenty and means there’s less flour needed or discarded. Any recipe that required more starter would simply need that 40g of “excess” built up to the necessary amount a day or so prior to baking. That 40g can immediately be built up to 200g in just one feed using 40g:80g:80g.

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Sourdough Starter, Step-by-Step & Side-by-Side: Intro

Juice added & stired

Does the thought of starting your own Sourdough Starter from scratch make you break out in cold sweat? Don’t let it because it’s EASY!

Looking at the blog’s stats, there’s a constant stream of people who pop in here searching “sourdough starter” and it is becoming apparent that it may be helpful for me to finally get one written up.

Instead of starting an experiment “from scratch” and sort of poking my way around the technique and making a lot of guesses, good or bad, in the process, I figured it would be more logical to take a very well researched and detailed account and simply follow along, giving an illustrated account of what’s happening in my kitchen.

After doing a fair bit of searching, I have chosen to follow a formula designed by Debra Wink who is not only an excellent home baker but also a trained microbiologist. The combination of interests seems to me the best source of information to get both the “what’s actually going on in that paste” and “this makes great bread”.

The formula that she created, with help from a number of other sourdough enthusiasts, follows this basic philosophy:

A simple flour and water paste can be made into a sourdough starter but offers a good environment for much more than the specific strain of yeast and bacteria we desire; these other organisms can impede the growth of our “friendly” critters and make the actual development of a viable starter take much longer than it needs be. Continue reading

Sourdough Starter, Day One: Getting it Together

Intro[Day 1] • Day 2 • Day 3 • Day 4 • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15

Basic Procedure for Making Sourdough Starter

by Debra Wink

If you are the curious, investigative type (or a sourdough purist :-) ), this can be done with just water in place of the juice throughout. But for many (not all), a vigorous gas-producing bacterium will grow on day 2 and quit growing on day 3 or 4, followed by a few days or more of agonizing stillness. The fruit juice or cider should keep this bacteria (and a few others that are smelly) from growing and delaying the process. Either way, the end result will be the same sourdough starter.

Starter-Setup

Our Sourdough Starter Mis-en-Place:

Walter will live on the left and get normal tap water (Walter, water.. get it? Oh, I are soooo clever!) PJ will be on the right and get unsweetened Pineapple Juice. Yeah, that’s avery large can of pineapple juice for three servings of 2 Tbsp each. Continue reading

Sourdough Starter, Day Two: Mid-day Surprise

Intro • Day 1[Day 2] • Day 3 • Day 4 • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15

Day 2:

add . . .
2 T. whole grain flour*
2 T. juice or cider

20090813_Day2A 20090813_Day2B 20090813_Day2C

Other than a slightly lighter/yellower colour and a slight aroma of pineapple in the right hand jar, neither mixtures show any change from how I left them the day before. Even the spatula marks in the goo stayed the same.

(Side note: As with nearly all photos on this blog, you can click on small ones to see them full size.)

I add the rye flour and appropriate liquids to both and set them aside for one more day. We now have 4 Tbsp flour and 4 Tbsp liquid in each jar. The kitchen temp is currently 79ºF/26ºC. We’ve turned the AC on at night.

Tomorrow is our last day to add rye flour and pineapple juice. This second/third day period is typically when “other” bacteria(s) start to perk up and give a rise while our desired yeast is still dormant, waiting for the environment to be just right. Wally’s jar should therefore show activity or a “false rise” which will last a day or two then die out, then not much happening for a few more days before the pH is at the point where the desired yeast decides to wake up. Continue reading

Sourdough Starter, Day Three: Trading Places

Intro • Day 1 • Day 2 [Day 3] • Day 4 • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15

Day 3:

add . . .
2 T. whole grain flour*
2 T. juice or cider

Peeked in on Walter at about midnight and he seemed to have peaked out pretty much where we last saw him. Here are the boys at feeding time today:

20090814_Start

By the way, Walter still stinks… badly! PJ’s slight bubble production indicates he may be inching (millimetering?) into phase 3 already: developing more acid-tolerant bacteria. Continue reading

Starter from Scratch, Day Four: Going on a New Diet

Intro • Day 1 • Day 2 • Day 3[Day 4] • Day 5 • Day 6 • Day 7 • Final Thoughts • Day 15

Starter from Scratch: Day 4:

(and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 c. after stirring down–discard the rest)
1 oz. flour** (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)

** You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. If you’re new to sourdough, a white starter is probably the best place to start.

Starter Day Four: an Overnight Jump

Yowza!! PJ has expanded a huge amount overnight! Continue reading