Sourdough Bread Starter

I’d like to introduce you all to Mable.  She is my sourdough bread starter that I have had growing since June 2009.  I can’t tell you how many loaves of bread, cinnamon rolls and English muffins she has helped me make.  As you can see in the video, she is bubbling away just waiting to go into my bread.

You don’t have to live in San Francisco to make your own starter either.  Believe it or not, you can grow your starter anywhere, and your starter will make your bread taste different in say Michigan, than a starter grown in Florida, or Texas.  This is because you are cultivating wild yeast that are native to your area.  And if you move to a new area of the country and take your starter with you (and why wouldn’t you), you’ll find that after a few months your bread will start tasting a little different.  This is because the wild yeasts in your new area of the country can cultivate into your starter and change its taste.

It took me about a month to get my starter going.  I actually thought about buying a starter and using it, but decided making my own was best.  Guess what, I was right.  Mable is now like part of the family.  I started her by simply adding equal amounts of spring water and unbleached flour.  I put them together mixed real good and placed it in my open kitchen window.  The next day, nothing.  So I took out half of it and discarded and put in equal amounts of spring water and flour again, and put it back in the window again.  The next morning I thought I saw a bubble or two…she’s alive.  Well I again took out half and discarded it and added the equal parts of water and flour.  I put it in the window around 6pm.  Well the next morning I went to work without checking on her.  Guess what, when I got home from work Mable had all but exploded in the jar overflowing all the way down the jar, window sill and my counter.

So, now I have my starter growing and all I have to do is keep her alive.  Well its been almost 2 years and she’s still bubbling as you can see in the video.  For the first few months, I fed her twice a day and kept her on my counter.  I was very good about making bread every weekend, and it always tasted better each week.  The longer it grows the better the sourdough taste.  Remember to keep your starter in glass or plastic, I like to use a wide mouth mason jar.  Also, do not use a metal container or metal utensils to stir it.  The metal can react with the starter and kill it.    You can also keep it in the refrigerator and only take it out once a week to feed and sit out over night, feed again and place back in the refrigerator.  If you find that it has some liquid on top of it, don’t worry, its just HOOCH.  It may smell like beer, because it is a lot like beer.  But don’t drink it, you won’t be happy.  If you want you can stir it right back into your starter or pour it off.  I have found that using bottled water is better than tap water because of the chemicals in tap water seem to make my starter die off some and take for ever to grow.  I have a couple gallon jugs of water I got at the store and I just use it.

If you’re planning on baking bread on Saturday, you need to double or triple your starter by adding water and flour to make a “sponge”  use this in your bread recipe and of course don’t forget to save some of your sponge and add equal amounts of water and flour to keep the starter going.  I actually pour my whole sponge into a recipe once and panicked as I realized what I had done.  Luckily I was able to spoon our about 4 tablespoonfuls and gradually grew her back to full again by feeding her without discarding any for about 2 days.  I’ll never make that mistake again.

Here’s a link to one of my sourdough bread recipes, I’ll be adding more in the next few weeks for bread, rolls and English muffins.  I hope you all enjoy.


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