Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough (Part I)

My husband and I eat a lot of bread – toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, maybe even some type of biscuits or rolls to accompany whatever is on our dinner menu – but lets face it, the plain white bread that you buy in the grocery store has little to no nutrition to offer nor does it have any flavor, at best, as my husband would say, “it will make a turd”. I began buying some more expensive whole grain breads to at least increase my fiber intake, but even these breads are loaded with ingredients (oils and preservatives) that are unnecessary and potentially unhealthy.

I have been aware that sourdough is a healthier option for a while now and if we shop at a place that sells sourdough bread we usually pick up a loaf, but most of our local grocery stores do not sell sourdough breads as it is not a convenient food. Now it’s time to make our bread.

What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a fermented culture that uses friendly yeast and bacteria. It is used as a leavening agent and replaces yeast in bread recipes. This article from Natural News tell us why sourdough is a healthier choice than yeast breads. The main points are:

  • Sourdough breaks down gluten allowing some people who may be sensitive to gluten to be able to enjoy it.
  • Sourdough makes starches more digestible.
  • Sourdough lowers insulin resistance while increasing glucose tolerance.
  • Sourdough allows for better mineral absorption.
  • Additionally sourdough does not require a lot of ingredients – this basic white bread has only three ingredients – flour, water and salt. It keeps well so it does not require preservatives.

Fermented Foods Are Not Fast  Foods

If you have been following my recent posts about fermenting foods you probably realize that these foods take a long time (days or even weeks) before they are ready. It takes much planning, time and patience to make fermented foods and sour dough bread is no exception.

Obtaining A Sourdough Starter

The first step in making sour dough bread is to obtain a sour dough starter. To do this I had a few options. I could purchase a starter – I would have had to order one online because this is not something that can be found in our local stores. I could make my own and there are many online tutorials for making sour dough starter, or perhaps I could find someone who makes sour dough bread and obtain some from them. Hmm.

It was in early January when I was visiting a friend who makes and sells sourdough breads, I began asking her about her starter. After telling me that she doesn’t sell her sourdough starter she gave me details on how to make my own. It sounded easy enough and I decided I would try it, but before the end of our visit she placed a couple cups of her started in a dish and gave it too me. I was thrilled!!!

My next stop was at Hobby Lobby so I picked up this container to keep my sourdough starter in. I chose this container for a few reasons – 1. I wanted glass so I could see though it. 2. It was large enough for me to build up a good amount of starter. 3. The opening is large enough that I can scoop out of it. 4. Although the lid had a plastic ring for a tight seal I was able to remove the ring so the lid sits on the jar but does not seal thightly.

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When I got home I gave the jar a good rinse in very hot water before putting my starter in it.

Maintaining The Starter

Having a sour dough starter on hand takes commitment. Sourdough is a living being and  it needs to be fed daily. It’s not quite as bad as having kids or pets because you don’t have to clean up after it (usually).

Usually???   Let me tell you a story my friend shared. She keeps her starter in a plastic container with a snap on lid. The starter was growing in the container and she apparently was not paying attention to it. She showed me how the starter had exploded and blew the lid off the container. The sour dough splattered everywhere – walls, ceiling, counters, floors and everything in between. The plastic lid landed in a trash can about 8 feet away. Thus I learned an important lesson. Do not keep sourdough starter in a sealed container!! A loosely fitting lid is appropriate.

Once I put my starter in it’s new home I fed my it per my friend’s instruction – 1/2 cup of flour and a little less than 1/2 cup of purified water. I stirred it up and covered it. A while later I could see it bubbling. I then started reading about sourdough on this website. The website has lots of information on fermenting foods. I learned that perhaps I should be feeding it twice a day, and that the best way to measure the amounts of water and flour to feed it is to weigh equal amounts of each.

Since the starter does not speak up when it is hungry and I am afraid I might forget to feed it, it has been given prime real estate on my kitchen island. Thus far I have maintained my starter by feeding it 2 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water – one or two times per day.

Naming My Starter

This may seem a bit odd but it seems to be common for people to name their sour dough starters and I do think it is easier to refer to it by name than “my sour dough starter” all the time so my friends, meet Trixie.

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She Does Tricks

To be honest getting and maintaining the starter has been the easy part.  Since baking good sour dough bread has been more of a challenge I have decided to share those trials and errors in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Have you ever eaten sour dough bread? Do you make your own?

 

36 thoughts on “Learning To Ferment Foods – Sourdough (Part I)

    1. Sorry to disappoint but I thought starting with a tried and true starter was the way to go. My friend’s instructions for making a starter were just to mix 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of non chlorinated water and let it sit for a few days until it begins bubbling. Then begin feeding it every day. I have read that it is best to do it first thing in the morning (perhaps there is more yeast around in the morning). Also some people say to walk around while stirring the flour to collect wild yeast then mix it with water.

      My other option for a name was Bubbles. LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. In the late 70’s I made all the bread we ate for our family of five. When we moved to England, I took my starter in a baby bottle. Our son was 8 months old at the time, so the bottle was a handy container that was not sealed. I must have quit baking bread, because I didn’t bring the starter back with me two years later. I’d like to do it again, so maybe I’ll ask around to see if anyone here uses a starter.

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    1. That must have been a lot of bread to feed a family of 5 Anne. I am finding it challenging to consistently bake a good loaf so maybe when I post about baking you can share some of your expertise. 🙂 I hope you can find a starter.

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  2. That was interesting Ruth. Years ago I had a boss and he would often travel to San Francisco. Every time he went, he would bring back genuine sourdough bread that he’d buy at Fisherman’s Wharf. He’d bring a loaf back for me and some of the people who worked in our area of the office. You are talented making so many different things Ruth. I was buying the Dave’s Killer Bread as a special treat and Meijer quit carrying it – some people have recommended the Ezekiel Bread which I see that Meijer does carry or I’ll have to go to Kroger which carries Dave’s bread – but they are so expensive. I only bought it when on sale.

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    1. I have never had San Francisco sour dough but it has a reputation for being the best. They say the starter has been maintained for over a century. I see that it is sold online but I also see instructions for making it so I wonder if some of the starters are authentic. We have never tried Dave’s Killer Bread – probably because it’s expensive. LOL.

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      1. Yes, my former boss went down to the waterfront where there was a bakery that sold it and then right next door you bought Dungeness Crab in a cup to have with it. He always brought back baguettes of it for our “group”. Dave’s Killer Bread was expensive but it was just me eating it so I did indulge and I only bought it on sale and with coupons. I shop at Meijer and they send out coupons once a month with deals on all the things you regularly buy – peanuts, Dave’s Bread, some dairy products always show up with good deals, otherwise I wouldn’t buy it either. Now I have to get it at Kroger and they are expensive, more expensive than Meijer.

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    1. Years ago I was given a friendship bread starter and recipe. At that time I was working full time and raising kids so keeping the starter going seemed like a lot of work. I made a couple of loaves with it but didn’t have the time to keep it going.
      From what I am reading now the main difference in the starter is that the friendship bread starter is made with commercial yeast along with milk and sugar, whereas the starter I have is made with wild yeast (from the flour itself).
      Also the sweet breads do not require the long proofing time that the sour dough does. I have made banana bread with Trixie that did not require the proofing time and it turned out really good.

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