Sourdough Starter

My mother in-law gave me the June issue of The Oprah Magazine to read after she finished it.  I have found so much good reading in this issue.  Every time I leaf through it I find something I missed the first, second, and third time around.

One thing I didn’t miss the first time around was a recipe for sourdough starter.  I’ve never made sourdough bread before so of course I was eager to try it. 

Today is day one…

Just as I was starting this post I decided to take a quick trip over to Wikipedia to conduct a little research on sourdough, and boy was I intrigued.  Here are a few things that I learned about sourdough starter.

Sourdough starter is based on a biological and chemical process where fermentation will take place and no yeast is needed.

The only two ingredients needed to start this process are flour and water and they act as a natural leaven.

Unbleached flour will produce more micro-organisms (a good thing) than processed flours. 

The volume of the starter increases with the addition of water and flour (called refreshments) over several days.

Using dough from a previous batch of starter is called mother dough.  The original culture can be used for years without spoiling.

The flavor of sourdough bread can vary.  It’s all contingent on the method used, the hydration of the starter, the final dough, the refreshment ratio, the length of the fermentation periods, ambient temperature, humidity, and the elevation.

Sourdough was thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt.

Experienced miners and early settlers in Alaska and Canada use to carry a pouch of starter with them during the Klondike Gold Rush.  They would try to keep the starter from freezing but they didn’t realize that freezing it wouldn’t kill it, but heat could.  (Salt-Rising dough is the opposite – it  thrives on heat.)

Sourdough is associated with San Francisco’s culture which started back during the California Gold Rush days.

Sourdough Starter Recipe from Oprah Magazine (for step-by-step instructions click here.

Mix 2 cups of unbleached flour with 1 1/2 cups warm, filtered water in a bowl and stir.  Cover this cheesecloth; place near an open window. 

Stir the batter every 12 hours for 2-3 days, then add 1 cup flour and enough water to return it to the original consistency.  Keep stirring a few times a day until you see a layer of foam an inch thick.

Combine 1 cup starter with 3 1/2 cups flour, and a dash of salt.  Let dough rise overnight at room temperature. Shape into a loaf; wait for it to triple in size. Bake at 375 degrees. When your ready to bake again, use the leftover mixture stored in your refrigerator to start the next loaf.

Now, I have to tell you that I did not have unbleached flour so I used bleached.  I think it will be interesting to see if it hinders the growth process.  I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever made sourdough bread before?  Any tricks you’d like to share? 

And what’s after sourdough bread?  Salt-rising bread.  I will need to hunt down my grandmother’s recipe for this one.


16 thoughts on “Sourdough Starter

  1. Tried making Cuban Bread once
    The dog loved the “dog biscuits”!
    Started this recipe today. Hope it works.
    Good luck everyone

    1. Connie, They suggest you use unbleached flour because the yeast is suppose to grow better with the less processed flours. I used bleached flour with mine and I believe it worked like it was suppose to. I think my biggest problem came during the rising process. Hope this helps:)

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  3. Any suggestions if I don’t have an open window!? I mean…I can have an open window but I don’t know if I can keep it open that long with the A/C on.

    1. Caroline, I did not worry about keeping my starter near an open window. Now, with that said I have to tell you that I had some issues at one point with my starter, and the final outcom, but there were other factors that might have contributed to that. I’m going to publishing my results with photos so people may learn from my experience (like I’ve done.) I wasn’t happy with the results…

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  6. I keep saying I want to make a sourdough starter but each time I try to make it, I end up having an emergency come up, which leaves the poor starter to fully rot. 😦 I desperately want to start my own yeast and make sourdough bread! Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wait to see the salt rising bread. 😀

    1. I can definitely see how an emergency could interupt the process. That’s a bummer D. I’m sure you will get a chance to make it soon. I’ll be sure to let you know if mine turns out (or not). I called my dad today and told him to start digging through the recipe box for the salt rising bread recipe 🙂

  7. This is terrific! A sourdough starter has been on my list of ‘must do this’…for some time now. I attempted to make a starter that was made with yeast. The thing had a mind of it’s own and became a monster! It ran out of the container and was a huge mess. I discarded the ‘thing’ and have not gotten back to the lab! This starter with only flour and water sounds like a winner! I will be watching…and perhaps get my lab coat back on and see what I can create! 🙂

    1. I just took pictures of the starter today (day 3) and added my flour and water. I’ll be sure and post so you can see it. It has definitely taken on a sour smell but it’s not a beast – lol…

    1. I noticed by late yesterday afternoon that the starter started to smell sour. Today I add more flour and water and watch for 1″ thick foam to appear – lol… I will definitely keep you posted Amy. If I can do you – you can do it!

  8. We love sourdough bread and it’s pretty much the only loaf bread I buy. Years ago there was a starter dough called “herman’, don’t know if it was the same as sourdough. I can imagine how good this will smell while baking!


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