Goode Things To Know ~By Doreen frost
**These are a mixture of my own personal tips and do’s and don’ts, from the pro’s. I have included everything that has worked for me through my experience in finally creating a successful starter (I’ve tried several times, over the years, and failed), as well as excellent tips from the Pro’s that helped me succeed. My top advice, other than those I have numbered below; Treat your starter like a living thing, because it is. Pay attention to your starter. Know its rises and falls. Pay attention to how it behaves and reacts to different room temperatures, flours, water temperature, etc. And finally; Read all you can, about Sourdough Bread Baking. I read books & blogs constantly and have also taken two online sourdough baking classes. There is a ton of great advice out there, you can find my favorites listed on my blog.
#1. A digital scale is a must! They are imperative for a successful starter AND for your bread recipes. Baking is a science and accurate measurements are the key to success. Cup measurements are just not accurate enough.
#2. Temperature is one of the most important elements. A newly created starter likes 70*. This is a great tip I learned, and used, when I created my starter. Use your oven (turned off of course)! Place your starter on a cookie sheet alongside your oven thermometer (another must have for any baker) and place the tray inside the oven. Turn the oven light on for ONE hour then shut the light off and leave your starter in the dark oven with the door closed. *I placed a sticky note over the oven dial that said.. “Beatrix is in the oven, do not turn on” so I would not forget and turn the oven on with her in there! You can also place it in the microwave with the door ajar and the light on.
#3. I wash my jar, and rubber spatula, with very hot water and baking soda only. Detergent residue can affect your starter.
#4. I feed my established starter at approximately the same time each day. I feed Beatrix between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. This helps to ensure I know her schedule of rising and falling and when she is at her peak. Peak time is when you will use your starter in your recipes.
#5. Many bakers just mix/feed in the jar and keep the same jar going, without washing for a week or so. I do NOT do this. From the beginning, I have feed my starter in a separate glass bowl (a small Pyrex bowl), cleaned my jar and then placed my freshly fed starter back into the jar. Feeding inside the jar is messy (and gross in my humble opinion) and, without a sparkling clean jar, you can not accurately see what your starter is doing inside its jar.
#6. Use whole wheat flour to initially make your starter. You will use all-purpose flour, after that, to feed and maintain your starter, and bread flour for most of the recipes.
#7. I always use room temperature water, that has sat for 24hrs, to feed my starter. Each time I feed my starter I refill my small glass measure with water, to use for the next feeding. If you have chlorinated water or any other water issues, this will allow them to dissipate before putting them into your starter.
#8. Use regular, unbleached all-purpose flour for best results. Many Bakers suggest you skip organic as the enzymes are different which can hinder the rising process the first time around. I use King Arthur Flour exclusively. During our first shut down, it was hard to come by, so I had to use something else for a couple of weeks. I found Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods flours to be a great substitute. I now have King Arthur in bulk so this does not happen to me again. I found it quite unsettling to have to hunt for flour, something I have always taken for granted.
#9. **Hooch /colored liquid ** During the creation process, and even after your starter has been established, a dark liquid might appear on the starter. This liquid is called “hooch” and is an indication that your starter needs to be fed. It also has a very stinky smell, like rubbing alcohol. This is normal. Any time you see this liquid, it is best to pour it off, along with any discolored starter present. However, when you are just starting your starter (i.e.…Day 2) just leave the hooch alone; you can discard it on day three, when you start your feedings.
#10. Often starters are bubbly and active after 7 days however, many are not. Depending on the temperature, time of year, flour, etc., your starter may take 12-14 days before they are truly active & ready to bake with. I did not bake with Beatrix Potter until day 12.
Once you’ve got your starter bubbly and active you’ll need to maintain it.
To keep your starter healthy and active, once it is established, you will need to feed it on a regular basis. Below are the two methods you will need to choose from. You will feed your starter it in the same manner, regardless of which of these methods you choose.
If you think you will only bake once a week or,
perhaps, less ~ You can place your starter in the
refrigerator and feed it weekly. You’ll
take it out, feed it and either use it in a recipe (once it has risen and is
active), or you can simply pop it back in the refrigerator.
2.) If you are going to bake at least once a week or more ~ You can keep your starter at room temperature, on your kitchen counter, and feed it daily, which is what I do with Beatrix.
~Maintaining your starter ~
I have never put my starter in the refrigerator. I just cannot seem to do it. After all of these years of trying to create a sourdough starter, now that I finally have one, I guess I am afraid of tucking it away and losing my momentum. Anyway, I feed her once a day in the following manner. If you choose to place yours in the refrigerator (no judgment:~), you will feed your starter, in this same manner, just once a week.
These are the ratio’s I use, there are many variations out there, this is just what works for me and how I maintain enough starter to bake my weekly loaves with. Of note…Feeding your starter takes just 5 minutes!!
#1. I place my small Pyrex glass bowl (I have placed a lovely pottery mixing bowl on my Christmas list) onto my scale at hit tare.
#2 I give my starter a stir and pour (it will run slowly, be full of bubbles and be quite elastic) 50 grams into the glass bowl.
#3 I hit tare again and add 50 grams of room temperature water.
#4 I stir the mixture slightly, to loosen up the starter.
#5 I then hit tare again, and then add 50 grams of all-purpose flour.
#6 I stir the mixture until all the flour is moistened, then I let the mixture sit while I rinse and clean my jar, using the method I mentioned earlier.
#7 After the jar is clean, I run cool-ish water into the jar, wipe it dry, with a paper towel, or a cotton (lint-free) cloth, and let it sit while I give my starter another really good mix and stir until it is smooth and elastic.
#8 I then place Beatrix (my
starter) back into her jar, set the lid on, and place her in a shady spot, on a
little trivet, on my kitchen counter. She is quite happy there. Ps.
You never want to seal your jar or close your lid tightly as your
starter needs air and breathing room.