Grow Your Own Sourdough Starter, Get Prepared to Bake Delicious Fall Treats

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I love Fall, y’all. It’s a season of pumpkin-flavored everything (candy corn, too, but I’m just going to pretend that’s not actually a thing), long scarves, crisp air, boots with tights, and power-lipsticks (my favorite is MAC’s Lady Danger, which is a particularly bitchy shade of orange). The day of the Equinox, my roommates and I set about cooking up a storm, including hen stew with figs, and a particularly incredible rosemary-cardamom apple pie with homemade sourdough crust and homemade vanilla whipped cream. I took tons of pictures for all of you, knowing you’d share in the joy of autumn apples, but then it struck me that we haven’t yet talked about how to make your own sourdough starter! So, baby steps.

Most folks traditionally have starters passed down to them, like kombucha starters. Boudin, the famous San Francisco sourdough company, has used the same sourdough starter since the dawn of time, which accounts for the delicious, buttery sour taste of their bread products. However, if you don’t have homo-steading pals like me around (but seriously, if you like in Oakland, I will totally give you some sourdough starter. And kombucha. And probably some homemade butter. Maybe some cheese. Just come over, ok???), then you can make your own with a few ingredients and a little patience.

You will need:

  • Flour (you can use rye, whole wheat, or all-purpose depending on your tastes)
  • Water
  • Glass jar or bowl
  • Kitchen towel
  • Non-metal spoon or stirring implement
  • Temperate place for storing, such as the top of the fridge

Directions:

Combine 1 cup flour with ½ cup water in the glass bowl or jar of your choice. Make sure the mixture is as smooth and well mixed as possible. Cover the top lightly with the kitchen towel and set on top of your fridge where it won’t be disturbed. Allow to ferment for 24 hours. Repeat this process for five days, adding flour and water every day, until the dough smells and tastes sour.

After Day Five:

Continue to add flour and water to the starter, but decrease the frequency to three times a week. Make sure to use your sourdough regularly (pancake and crumpet recipes coming soon!), always leaving at least one cup of starter to continue the batch. (Starter can also be stored in the fridge and fed once a week if you need to use it a little less frequently or are going out of town.)

Note: Your starter should never ever grow mold! If it is dry and covered in fur, throw it out and start again. If it is too watery (and the water has a grayish sheen), just pour out the water, add a tablespoon of flour, and stir together.

Voila! You’re ready for fall!

Related:

July Westhale is a Pushcart-nominated poet, activist, and journalist. She has been awarded residencies from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Sewanee, Napa Valley, Tin House and Bread Loaf. She is the 2014 Poetry Fellow at Tomales Bay, and was recently a finalist for the Creative Writing Fulbright.

July has written 12 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. Sourdough pie crust?! My flaky crust is pretty good, but I can’t wait to try sourdough, and was just wondering how my starter could be used in pie crust. Cardamom and rosemary sound like such a great combination with all the jars of apples I’ve processed. My sourdough waffles/pancakes have garnered me marriage proposals:
    1 1/2 c starter
    1/4 c powdered buttermilk
    1 egg
    1/2 stick of butter, melted
    pinch of salt
    spoonful of sugar
    1 tsp baking soda
    Mix well after adding dry milk, after adding egg, after adding butter, and after adding remaining ingredients.

  2. I LOVE SOURDOUGH. Also, tomorrow I am moving into my OWN place with my OWN DAMN KITCHEN, therefore I can make all kinds of weird fermenty things without fear of someone throwing it out or otherwise ruining everything. Which means I see sourdough in my future.

    So every day you repeat the same process? Every day you add 1 C. flour and 1/2 C. water? And when is it ready to be used? This is all super new to me!

    I can’t wait!

  3. so you are telling me i can do this? really really?! i want to make my own bread so much, i hate buying bread in the store with so many additives and sourdough is one of my favorites. also my gf recently acquired a kitchenaid mixer and i am dying to use it. i had the same question as Tarzan: do you add a 1c flour and 1/2c water each day for five days or do you mean just keep the 2:1 ratio consistent but use a smaller amount?

    also kombucha! another thing i desperately want to learn how to make but i am intimidated. i am that sucker that spends 3 dollars on a jar from whole foods knowing full well i could make it at home for a fraction of that. especially ginger kombucha. all day every day ginger kombucha.

    also also i am seriously loving all of your posts

    • I too buy those delicious kombucha drinks from Whole Foods sometimes Safeway. They are so addicting! Check out Wellness Mama Blog, she has a pretty in depth article about making kombucha. Oh, rejuvelac is another interesting fermented beverage.

  4. It’s so, so worth it! I haven’t used storebought yeast since I got mine going half a year ago. It’s hard to really mess it up, too, since a couple people asked – I originally made mine in three days or so by feeding it about every eight hours, and the exact flour:water proportion isn’t that important as long as it’s not bone dry or swimming. I keep it in the fridge and feed it wholemeal rye flour every few days, generally just after using it.

    It’s mainly been going into bread and pizza, so that apple pie sounds interesting to me too.

  5. In honor of Apu,”Thank you very much!” I’ve been trying to find this particular recipe for ages. I’ve been getting into fermentation and sprouting lately. I forsee pizza and pretzel in the near future.

  6. I have squealed with homo-glee at every post you’ve made. I have been telling people it was my dream to make cheese for about a year now and recently bread…thank you for helping me realize my dreams!

    p.s. can we be homosteading friends!?

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