A n00b attempts Sourdough and Reports

July 14, 2009

Ok… what the hell is a starter?

Filed under: Rising, sourdough, Starter — Tags: , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 3:09 pm

Alright.  Sourdough basic – the STARTER.

You know how when you bake bread SOMETHING makes it rise?  Well, there are breads, like bananna breads, that rise in the oven like a cake does – usually I think the rising ingredient is baking soda.  I think.  It might be baking powder.  Honestly, I never really researched it.

In other breads – it’s yeast.  With yeast breads they rise OUTSIDE of the oven.  Because temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will kill yeast.  Which I’ve learned the hard way.  Which is also one of the reasons you wait for your bread to fully rise BEFORE sending it to the oven.  Otherwise you get this ridiculously dense loaf of bread which feels like it weighs a ton of bricks.  Though, honestly, when thinly sliced makes a good sort of cracker for cheese.  I digress.

STARTER:  A STARTER is a natural form of yeast that sourdough bakers use to MAKE sourdough bread.  In the past, because a STARTER is something you keep alive and growing it allowed people to always have yeast on hand for bread before we had the handy little yeast packets.  Now, the reason you make sourdough with a STARTER instead of a yeast packet is because a STARTER being alive and growing is what gives the bread that sourdough taste.  If you smell an active STARTER it smells sour… yum.

Most basic books I found told me to create my STARTER using a packet of yeast.  This was easy.  My STARTER was mixing flour, water and yeast together and letting it sit out for a days.  This allowed the yeast to get active and gobble up all the yummy flour and water.  THIS IS A MISTAKE!!

As I’ve learned later, one of the things that gives Sourdough that TRULY unique sour taste is by creating the yeast BY JUST having flour and water.  This is a MUCH longer process (one I’m going through right now).  Apparently that’s why “REAL” sourdough bakers insist you never use yeast to start your STARTER.  Not because you are being a lazy bastard, but because it will detract from the real sourdough taste.  And that’s what we are after.

So that’s what a STARTER is.   Lesson over.

Starter 1 - made from flour, water and yeast packet

Starter 1 - made from flour, water and yeast packet

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1 Comment »

  1. I perfectly agree about just using just sourdough when I bake…my “pet” is over 1 year old and I’ m proud of it…you’re right: to get a real sourdough starter may take u up to 10 days, but there is no comparison! Happy baking. Paolo from Quito, Ecuador

    Comment by paolo — July 23, 2009 @ 8:19 pm


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