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Sourdough Made Easy: Getting the most out of your sourdough starter culture

Posted by Edna B. Wilson on

Many people associate sourdough bread only with the famous San Francisco sourdough bread, but there are many other types of this baked treat available. Sourdough can also be made with alternative flours, including whole wheat, brown rice, spelt, and rye. All you need is a sourdough starter culture 1 and passion for great bread.

Sourdough miche & boule breads

Sourdough starter

You can make your own starter 2 with a packet of yeast, water, and the flour of your choice, or purchase a dry sourdough starter culture. A dry starter will be dehydrated and include sourdough yeast. Traditional starters have a better flavor then manufactured yeasts and often come from what’s referred to as a “mother” because it creates other sourdough babies – just like an apple cider vinegar “mother” helps make more apple cider vinegar in the future. The original mother may be hundreds of years old and be passed from one bakery to another. How’s that for a baking tradition?

Sourdough starter culture

Regardless of what you choose to use, once you make your starter it will need to be covered with a paper towel or napkin and left in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Once it starts to bubble and expand it will get fluffy and smell slightly sour. Add more water and flour, cover it again, and let it expand again.

A sourdough starter culture, bubbling away.

After it becomes spongy and sticky the starter culture can be kept in the refrigerator indefinitely, as long as its fed flour consistently and kept cool and in a sterile environment. Your initial starter may take up to 5 days to be ready to use in a recipe, but once you have a good sourdough starter culture, use part of it to make something and save the rest in a glass container in the refrigerator.

The Bread

Making sourdough bread is the easy part. After you mix the starter culture with flour, water, sugar and any other ingredients, the dough will need to rise an hour or more 3 before you put it in a couple greased bread pans and let them brown in the oven.

There’s something about making your own bread that is deeply satisfying. For some people it’s the process, others love kneading the bread, and for other people it’s the taste. And then there’s the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven that tantalizes most of us even before we bite into the first warm slice, slathered with melted butter. And making your own bread is one more way to be more connected with your food 4

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