So this is it. My first blog post ever, and what do I give you? A very ugly picture of some bubbly witch’s brew you had hoped you’d never have to see on a food blog that’s supposed to be about tantalizing treats. My apologies, let me explain. Not too many moons ago, I had an idea. I wanted to make something grow, put life where there had previously been none. I heard that if you combine just simple flour and water and wait, that you can transform these two ingredients into a new microorganism. A microorganism that has been beloved to people from the Ancient Egyptians to the Gold rush miners. Yes, you’d never believe it but this bubbly goop has been seen as something valuable and worth saving and caring for by many others besides just me. It has fed and nourished our great great great grandparents, and their loved ones before them. It might be humble in appearance, but this goop has power. It puts bread in our mouth, and energy in our bodies. It is my sourdough starter, and as ugly as it is, I stand by it.
I thought it would be fitting to begin my blogging journey with a post about sourdough because, in my opinion, both endeavours require a leap of faith. I didn’t know that the flour and water I mixed together would turn into a working sourdough starter. I could have been left with a jar of mould, but instead I was rewarded with wild yeast, a gift that would keep giving and contribute to countless loaves and many mouths fed. If you have ever thought about making your own starter, I strongly encourage you to just give it a try. I simply sterilized a small glass with boiling water, and then stirred 2 tbsp. of rye flour into 2 tbsp. of filtered water. I covered this lightly with a tea towel and positioned my experiment between some houseplants for some company. I had heard that wild yeast can be easier to cultivate in rural areas, but that was the closest I was going to get since I was in the middle of the city and it was the dead of winter. Then I did what seems to be the hardest part about sourdough. I waited. And waited. And waited.
Once a day I “fed” this mixture with the same amount of flour and water and it took about a week before it seemed truly bubbling and alive. Once your starter is the size you wish to maintain, feel free to discard some before feeding it or you’ll have sourdough starter taking over your kitchen. If you aren’t going to feed your starter every day, it is best to keep it in the fridge. It does well in a non-reactive container that will allow some circulation, so I usually keep about a cup of starter in a mason jar with a coffee filter cover.
I can confidently say that attempting sourdough has been absolutely worth it for me. Of course it’s delicious, but it’s also healthy, economical, and I can fit it around my schedule with hardly any effort. It is liberating to be able to make my daily bread, and I enjoy the challenge of always attempting to make each loaf better than the last. In my posts you will find many sourdough recipes to come, and I hope that I might inspire some of you to see for yourself how fun and easy it can be.
Rye and whole wheat flour are said to be ideal for capturing wild yeast as opposed to other types of flour.
An acidic environment, such as using pineapple juice in place of water, can also increase your chances of success.
Some people have achieved good results adding raisins or cabbage leaves to their flour/water mixture at the beginning because these have naturally occurring wild yeast on them.
There is no “right” way to approach sourdough. Based on my reading, it seems that everyone has their own method that works for them, and that’s great. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find yours, and remember your own intuition and common sense is often your best guide.