…or “Having 10,000,000 New Mouths to Feed”
Obtaining a Starter
You can buy starters on line, usually in dehydrated form. You can get them at Cultures For Health (where I bought mine) or other sites. Or, someone that already has a starter can give you a small amount and you can grow it. If you live near me (Littleton, CO area), I can give you some.
When you buy a dehydrated starter, it will come with instructions on how to bring it back to life.
Maintaining a Sourdough Starter
Once you’ve gone through whatever instructions came with your new, dehydrated starter, you will need to feed that starter on a regular basis. I recommend keeping your starter in the fridge, which will slow down the yeasts’ metabolism so you don’t have to feed it so often. Yet, they are still alive and eating, so if you don’t feed them, they will starve to death. I keep my starter in a lidded quart canning jar. Once a week Il add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup or less water, stir and place back in the fridge. It should be a pancake batter consistency.
Sometimes you’ll find a gray-ish fluid on top of the starter. This is an alcohol called hooch, a by-product of fermentation. You can stir it in or pour it off, your choice. I stir mine in. But, it also means you need to feed your starter either more flour, or more often. Logically: If there’s more sourdough in the jar, say 1-1/2 cups as opposed to 1/2 cup, it’s going to eat up the added flour more quickly. There’s a lot more information about keeping a starter here: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/sourdough-troubleshooting-faq
Preparing Sourdough Starter to Make Bread
By the time I’m ready to make bread, I have a pint or more of starter in the jar. The morning before I plan to bake, I take the jar out of the fridge, feed it 1/4 c flour and 1/4 c water (more or less, to keep the consistency), mix well with a spoon, and leave it on the counter to bubble. I usually just leave the spoon in the jar since I’ll be using it throughout the day. In about 4 hours (usually around noon) it will have bubbled and risen a bit and then begin to settle down. At that point, I’ll add more flour and water, and then repeat around dinner time and the right before I got to bed.
The next morning I’ll pour what starter I need into my bread mixing bowl. There only needs to be about 1/4 cup of starter in the jar. I’ll feed the jar of starter 1/2 c flour and 1/2 c water (more or less) and put it in the fridge for the next baking, feeding it once a week.
The Final Rise
Once I’ve mixed up my bread dough, I’ll let it sit in my oven, covered (and with the light on for warmth) to rise and bubble until ready for baking. See my bread recipe here for more instructions on the actual bread-making process.
Note to self: Put sticky note on oven door while the dough is rising so no one accidentally turns the oven on.