The sourdough starter giveaway continues! Last month, I reopened my 2020 Sourdough Giveaway. I’m extending it another month, since many people will still be in stay-at-home mode at least that long. I’ll send you free sourdough starter through May 31. Read on to get Twice as Tasty sourdough starter, as well as answers to some of your sourdough questions.
If you’ve always wanted to bake bread and never had the time, here’s your chance. I’ll send you free sourdough starter through May 31. Request free starter here. I do ask for a payment of $5 to cover packaging and shipping costs. If the cost of shipping is a hardship for you at this time and would prevent you from requesting starter, just indicate this on the request form; I’m still happy to hook you up with free starter.
My original sourdough starter was a gift, and it’s been going strong since May 2014. It’s a 100% hydration, wheat-based starter (I feed it with primarily all-purpose flour and occasionally a little rye or whole wheat). I use it to make all of the sourdough recipes on the blog.
In 2017, I began dehydrating my starter so that I could ship it anywhere in the world. This annual giveaway usually happens in January, but I reopened it last month to spread the sourdough love to new COVID bakers. It’s been a huge success: I’ve sent out dozens of packets of starter in the last few weeks, and people have been sharing some incredible creations. I’m featuring some of these projects in this post, including the mouthwatering opening shot from photographer, and now sourdough baker, Brenda Ahearn. These new bakers have been full of great questions that may be helpful to you, so I’m also sharing some of the most common ones—and my answers.
I have problems eating commercial bread. Do you think I should try your starter, or do I need a gluten-free one?
Research has shown that many people who have problems digesting commercial bread can eat homemade sourdough, particularly long-ferment doughs like those created with my recipes.
The Goal: Start baking your own sourdough.
Solutions: If you are gluten sensitive or have digestive issues or diabetes, you might find you can eat long-ferment sourdough made with my starter. Here’s some more information:
- Why Is It That I Can Digest Sourdough Bread and Not Commercial Bread?
- Could Sourdough Help with Blood Sugar Response?
- Benefits of Long Sourdough Fermentation
And if you want to really geek out, The Sourdough School has a sourdough research database with hundreds of studies.
If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or another autoimmune disease, you may need a gluten-free starter. I’ve done a bit of work with one; it handles quite differently and baking with it requires different ingredients and techniques, so I’m not yet comfortable sharing the starter or teaching its use. But don’t let that stop you from exploring. Cultures for Health sells a gluten-free starter, and there’s a gluten-free sourdough Facebook group that can help with making a starter from scratch and baking with it.
Please remember that I’m not a doctor or dietitian, so if you have dietary or health concerns related to sourdough, I recommend discussing them with those experts before jumping in.
I’m short on flour. Can I feed my starter less and bake smaller batches?
Yes and yes! I keep a large amount of starter so that I can bake without having to build it up each time, but many people keep a small mother culture, say 50–100 grams, that they feed before they bake. You just have to plan further ahead so that you make enough starter to bake—and to store.
The Goals: Don’t run out of starter and maximize your flour.
Solutions: I feed my starter right after I use it so that I don’t forget to do this. But if you’re keeping a small mother culture, you might want to feed it first so that you always remember to set aside enough starter. When you take your mother culture from the fridge, feed it once with equal parts starter, flour, and water by weight. Let it bubble, and then set aside 50 grams before you start feeding it up for the amount you need in your recipe. Stash your mother jar back in the fridge, labeled with the amount in it.
You can also bake in smaller batches. Cut any of my recipes in halves or thirds. Sourdough also freezes well, so you can always bake and then stash the extras in the freezer. They won’t be freshly baked, but they’ll be there if you truly run out of flour. And don’t forget, if you don’t have the flour I call for in a recipe, you might be able to substitute a different type.
I do not have a pizza stone or large-enough metal bowl. What can I use?
I’m a low-tech sourdough baker. And I wrote my recipes recommending the “equipment” that’s already standard in my kitchen. That’s why I bake on a pizza stone under a large stainless steel bowl. But if these aren’t already in your cupboards, there are plenty of other options.
The Goal: Radiate heat and introduce steam. Putting cold dough on a hot stone gives immediate oven spring and cooks the base consistently. Adding steam during baking enables rise in the oven. It also helps develop a crisp crust for your loaves.
Solutions: For the base, bake on any flat, ovenproof surface: cookie sheet, roasting pan, griddle pan, etc. The larger the flat surface, the better. Just make sure there are no plastic parts that will melt.
For the top, cover your creations with any ovenproof container. I use a stainless steel mixing bowl over round loaves and a 9- by 13-inch baking pan over buns and bagels. You could try a stockpot for loaves and a roasting pan for rolls. Even a large, loose piece of foil will help. Or skip the top: my old electric oven cycles unevenly, but yours may stay steady enough that the dough, which is already quite hydrated, steams on its own. Some people have had success with an uncovered loaf and a cast-iron skillet of boiling water on the rack below.
One top and bottom solution is a Dutch oven, which is popular with many sourdough bakers. The loaf bottom tends to get dark, but Maurizio over at The Perfect Loaf has some good tips.
Twice as Tasty
Keep the questions and photos coming! Feel free to ask questions by commenting on this post or in the Twice As Tasty Community on Facebook. You can share your photos on Facebook too (gorgeous and ugly, particularly if you’re asking for help) or on Instagram (tagged @twiceastastyblog and #twiceastasty). Every photo or comment that shows you’ve made a Twice as Tasty recipe will give you an entry in this year’s challenge if you are a Twice as Tasty newsletter subscriber. Learn more here.
Need sourdough starter? Round 2 of the Annual Sourdough Giveaway has been extended through May 31, 2020. Get your free sourdough starter here. Or simply join the Twice as Tasty Challenge by becoming a newsletter subscriber; click here to subscribe.