About a week and a half ago, I decided that I would try creating a new sourdough starter. I had one in Oregon, which died when I was in the hospital with the blood clot in my leg. I knew they did well there, but I wasn't sure how they'd do here in the heat and humidity of Texas. Well, it turns out that they do pretty well. As long as you don't water them with the highly chlorinated city water here in Denton. I'm pretty sure that's what killed it off, but what I do know is that it's now gone down the sink. And there's a new jar sitting on top of the fridge.
So, how does one go about creating a batch of sourdough starter? Well, for me it's a mix of 1/3 cup of Bob's Red Mill Organic Dark Rye flour and 1/4 cup of moderately warm water. The water in this case is regular tap water which has been filtered through a Brita pitcher. That's what I used last time, and it seemed to work fine until I just added the unfiltered water. Some of the websites and such that I've seen recommend using distilled or bottled water, but I don't see any reason not to use the water from the pitcher, since most of the crap has been filtered out of it.
I use the Red Mill organic flour because that's what one of those same websites recommended. They didn't specify the brand, but they said that it should be an organic stone ground flour, and I think they said that dark rye flour seems to have a good strain of yeast, or the right ingredients for yeast to thrive off of, or something like that. In any case, that's what I used in Oregon, and I still had half a bag left, so that's what I used here. I'm sure other organic flours would probably also work just fine.
You take the water and the flour, nothing else, and mix them together and put them in a covered, but not airtight, container. If you put them in an airtight container, the waste gases from the yeast will eventually poison them, and you'll wind up with nothing but a slurry of flour and water which wouldn't make a pancake rise, let alone bread. Personally, I take a dish towel and put it over the top of a wide-mouth mason jar, then secure it on with one of those big rubber bands that comes wrapped around newspapers on the weekends. Put the container in a warm place to let the yeast grow. I put mine on top of the refrigerator, but if you have a nice warm cupboard or something, that'll work just fine, too. Just don't get it too hot or you'll kill the yeast.
A few hours after you mix the stuff together and put it in the warm place, you should start seeing some bubbles forming in your slurry. If you really feel like watching it for a while, you'll be able to see it rise to nearly twice it's original height, before settling back down to near the original depth. If you don't happen to feel like watching a blob of goo all day, and you're not lucky enough to see it near the peak, you can still tell that it's alive because you'll be able to see the little smears on the glass from when it rose and fell.
Every day, add the same amount of flour and water to the mixture, making sure to stir it very well and making sure that the water isn't too terribly hot. Heat will kill the yeast in the mixture. Cold, on the other hand, will just slow down it's reaction without harming the actual yeast. In face, if you have to leave your house for a while and can't feed your sourdough mixture, the best way to prevent its dying is to just stick it in the fridge. In the chiller, your sourdough starter can go for up to a month without feeding if need be.
Anyway, the starter's on the fridge and we'll see how it goes...
Labels: baking, sourdough