Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Part 2

My sourdough starter has begun to properly separate into lighter colored dough vs the alcohol smelling liquid. Took long enough. Must be the cold weather that delayed the process.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Part 1

A few months ago, I ordered a package of sourdough bread mix on Amazon. When I received a few teaspoons of powdered sourdough starter instead, I contacted the vendor. He said "Amazon must have put up the wrong title. Not my fault. Not taking it back from you, either, since it's a food product." Amazon was kind enough to refund my money, though, and I tossed the starter in the back of my pantry. I thought "Well, I'll give it to someone else down the road. No sense in wasting food."

This month, I was cleaning out the pantry. I came across the powdered sourdough starter. I decided to give it a try and see if I could make sourdough bread from it. I wasn't sure how long you could keep that stuff around before it goes bad, so why not ?

The home printed instructions from the vendor were vague and not very helpful. He said the starter was enough for two starts. Each start was supposed to be one teaspoon of powder plus one teaspoon of water. Which was to be followed by feeding one tablespoons of flour and one tablespoons of water 2x daily. Just one problem: there were nine teaspoons of starter in the packet. Could nine starters be made from this ? Was two a typo ? I just thought "Oh forget it, I'll dump all nine teaspoons of starter + nine teaspoons of water in this plastic tub, then feed it the recommended amount daily."

Things became more confusing once I started checking my cookbooks and googling "how to take care of my sourdough starter." Among the advice I'm wading through:
- "You can use white flour" vs "It must be whole wheat or rye flour"
- "Add one cup of water + one cup of flour 2x a day" vs "Add two cups of water + two cups of flour 2x a day"
- "Throw out your starter if it bubbles and rises but fails to separate into brown goo and light goo" vs "As long as your starter bubbles and rises daily, don't worry about separation"
- "You only need flour and water to get started" vs "You need flour, yeast, sugar" vs "Use flour, baking soda, sugar, water"
- "If your starter isn't growing fast enough, add yeast in" vs "Don't add yeast, you'll ruin the starter" vs "You can fix it with raisin sugar / pineapple / other natural method"
- "You can use starter after three days of fermenting" vs "Never use starter before it's two weeks old. You'll get blech results."

This is what I've gotten done so far:
- Week 1, Day 1-4: Starter, flour and water in plastic tub + 2x daily feedings of one tablespoon of flour and one tablespoon of water
- Week 1, Day 5: I read online "Don't put starter in plastic or metal. The flavor will leech into the starter. Always use glass to store starter. And only bake it in a glass baking dish." Oops. Switched over to glass for storage.
- Week 1 Day 6: I read online "Switch to a different, clean glass containers every four days. You don't want a cruddy, gross mixture." Check, will keep doing that.
- Week 2, Day 1: Maybe I should switch to feeding one cup of flour and one cup of water daily. Everyone is doing such a large amount, so it must be correct, right ?
- Week 2, Day 2: Huh, my cookbook says to use yeast. Let's add yeast. Oh great, this website says that a bad idea. I HOPE YOU DON'T DIE ON ME, STARTER!

I'm basically winging it as I go along at this point. More about my sourdough starter later.
*ETA: I have been using self rising flour.