I made and photographed this bread around Dec 10th but it’s now Jan 23rd so I’ve held off posting for well over a month. Why? A few reasons: Holiday season, other breads wanting to get made, getting a wee bit “done” with the challenge, among others. But now it’s time to try and get back into the groove, especially since we’re now into the Sourdough section of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice which I was probably most excited to get to during this Challenge. So yes, this is really an “old” post that I’m simply finally getting around to writing up.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to get around to the next several breads in the Sourdough section in a more timely fashion.
You see this question pop up all the time in sourdough discussions:
“Why do I have to discard? I hate the idea of throwing anything away. Can’t I just keep feeding the starter?”
Although reducing the waste we produce as a species is a good thing, there are times when it’s actually more logical to NOT do so. And feeding a starter is one of those times.
Let’s first see about the starter when you’re just starting it up from scratch.
Early in your starter’s young life, within the first two weeks or so of starting a starter from scratch, there is absolutely no good reason to save the excess “flour soup” you’re cutting back. It has done it’s job and is spent, and unless you’re building excessively large amounts (see the Starter Step by Step series to see the recommended quantity), it should only be about 2 tablespoons of flour each day, this is not worth worrying about. Even if ditched directly into the trash or compost, it’s still not “wasted” any more than that nice dinner you ate yesterday was “wasted”: it was used to feed your starter, so it had a purpose and served it well. So right off the bat, we need to get out of this idea that bit of flour you used to feed our yeast is wasted.
I’m a very big fan of rye breads and one of the primary reasons I got into bread making was to make this style of bread. Early on in my quests for good “deli” style rye, I came across a recipe that Mark from the Back Home Bakery in Kalispell, Montana had posted on his website along with a few other recipes. He has at this point removed those recipes (I ran across them literally two days before the removal deadline) since he was moving his operation up in scale and set up a real live bakery in his house. If you want to see what a small artisan bakery is like, be sure to drop over to his site at TheBackHomeBakery.com. And if you’re lucky enough to live near Kalispell, you can visit his booth at the Whitefish Farmer’s market on weekends and get fresh (made that very morning!) baked goodness.
(NOTE: Mark has since closed the Back Home Bakery and moved his operations to the Bozeman, Montana area and set up his new “Sinclair’s Bakery” workspace in a gorgeous, custom built bakery-mobile trailer, very impressively put together, drool-worthy in fact – if bakery set ups impress you. Be sure to check out Mark’s online space on Facebook.)
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.
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, Step-by-Step & Side-by-Side: Intro”