It’s January, which means Sourdough Month here on Twice as Tasty—and the 5th Annual Sourdough Giveaway! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been sending my sourdough starter out into the world for so many years. I’ve been committed to sharing my starter every January since I started the blog, with additional packets distributed during the extended giveaway last year and occasional random requests throughout each year. Twice as Tasty starter has now traveled to Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Slovenia, and throughout the United States.
This year, I’m excited to share sourdough starter across the world but also closer to home. I’m offering my starter and will be sharing sourdough recipes all month through my Twice as Tasty column for the Flathead Beacon, as well as here on the blog. Request your starter by January 31 to get in on the sourdough adventures.
Learn more about my sourdough starter in my column. I’ll happily send you sourdough starter through January 31, 2022. Join the 5th Annual Sourdough Giveaway here. Once you start baking, don’t forget to share your creations.
To Bake or Not to Bake
If you’re scared to start working with sourdough after hearing “bake corona” misadventures, you’re not alone. In 2020, many people took on the project of creating a starter from scratch without realizing it would take several weeks, and several bags of flour, to develop active wild yeast. Many who succeeded found themselves tending the equivalent of an energetic puppy who seemed to need constant exercise to keep from exploding all over the house.
My approach to sourdough involves none of these things. If you start with an active starter, like the one I’m sharing, you can be eating delicious sourdough in days. I also treat sourdough starter more like a houseplant than a puppy: I care for it on my schedule, and it’s resilient enough that I can neglect it for weeks (or longer), feed it, and see it bounce back to life.
Once you fit sourdough baking to your lifestyle, it opens many doors. So many baked goods can be made with sourdough, from bread to snacks to treats. Each year, I can count the number of times I bake with dry yeast or buy commercially baked loaves on one hand. Friends with health issues who have been forced to limit their wheat consumption have been thrilled to discover that they can return baked goods to their diet by eating homemade, long-fermented sourdough, anecdotes that are supported by research.
Caring for Starter
The way I care for sourdough starter is simple: Pull out some starter, replace it with flour and water, and then let it work its magic. If the starter is newly rehydrated or you haven’t used it for a while, repeat the process until it readily ferments, bubbles, and grows.
I bake with a 100% hydration starter, which means I feed it equal parts flour and water by weight. I highly recommend a digital kitchen scale, which makes it easy to maintain a consistent starter hydration. Plus, if you dislike cleanup, measuring everything by weight into a mixing bowl and the starter jar means fewer utensils to wash when you’re done.
I also keep a large volume of starter on hand—several hundred grams. By keeping a good base of starter in my jar, removing what I need to bake, and then feeding it with the equivalent amount of flour and water, my starter has plenty to chew on while it sits in my fridge for days or weeks between bakes.
Follow these steps every time you take starter from the jar, and then stash the jar in your fridge until the next use. If it sits untouched for more than a month, repeat steps 2–4 once or twice to bring it back to full strength; use this weaker excess for something that doesn’t need a lot of rising power, like pancakes or waffles, before you attempt a bread loaf:
- Bring your jar of refrigerated starter to room temperature.
- Stir the starter down with a fork or table knife. Pour out the amount needed for the recipe.
- Feed the remaining starter with equal parts all-purpose flour (or your chosen starter flour) and unchlorinated water to match the weight you removed. For example, if you removed 200 grams of starter (like for Low-Gluten Sourdough Naan), feed the jar with 100 grams each of flour and water.
- Loosely cover the jar with a paper coffee filter or paper towel. Let the starter sit at least 2 hours at room temperature. If you’ll be using the starter straightaway, let it expand to close to double.
- When you’re ready to store the starter, screw on a canning ring over the paper cover and jar and return the jar to the fridge.
Twice as Tasty
Here are some of the tricks I use to help keep my starter happy and healthy:
- Treated water can sometimes cause problems when working with sourdough, particularly if chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride have been added. If you’re struggling with your starter or baked goods and can smell or taste the chlorine in your municipal water, try using distilled water instead.
- Feeding with all-purpose flour, which has 8%–11% gluten, keeps a starter most active. But occasionally subbing in some wheat or rye flour, both of which are lower in gluten, improves the flavor. I usually swap out the flour after I’ve used the starter about a dozen times, adding half wheat or rye and half all-purpose flour for these feedings.
- Again, I consider a kitchen scale key to baking with sourdough. Flour varies widely when measured by volume, and the starter itself can fill different cup sizes depending on temperature and how well you’ve stirred it down.
You also might find my answers to some questions from new sourdough bakers helpful: They’re in this blog post. If you have more questions or feedback, just leave it in a comment below.
Need starter? The 5th Annual Sourdough Giveaway runs through January 31, 2022. Get your free sourdough starter here.