Sourdough Starter #2 (Quick)
A quick search of the internet will provide many different recipes for sourdough starter. Some add vinegar or lemon juice, some add beer, and some use different kinds of flour, all searching for that distinctive flavour that is present in a good sourdough bread. In my other post on sourdough starter (Sourdough Starter #1), I give a bit more explanation on how sourdough works, some history of sourdough, and its many uses. Assuming you have already done your research and have decided that you want to give sourdough bread baking a try, you will now be faced with obtaining or making a sourdough starter.
Commercial flour typically contains a number of random yeast spores and bacteria, and so mixing flour with water and leaving it in a warm place to allow the yeasts and bacteria to grow is the typical way sourdough starter is created. However, it takes at least two weeks to get a basic sourdough starter ready to use, and can take months to develop a good sour flavour that we associate with, and seek, when making sourdough bread. You can go to Amazon to purchase freeze-dried sourdough starter, which you still have to activate using the same process that you would use to make your own sourdough. Being taken from an established starter, it may contain the desired yeast strains that produce a better flavoured starter in a shorter amount of time than if you started from just flour and water. Or, if you are lucky, one of your friends will be a sourdough baker, and will be more than happy to give you some of their already established starter.
However, if you don’t want to buy it, and don’t want to wait for your own to develop a good flavour, you can try this quick-start recipe. Unlike the basic sourdough starter, this recipe produces a starter that is ready to use in 5 days. It starts with a package of commercial yeast, and relies on the addition of flour, water, sugar and apple cider vinegar to activate it and give it a sour flavour quickly. It is an artificial way to get that sourdough flavour, but it will produce an acceptable product within 5 days, after which you will switch to just flour and water feedings. The natural yeasts and bacteria will continue to develop as you continue to feed it and use it, and soon you will have a typical starter to use as any other. I know that this method works, as this is the recipe I used several years ago when I first started making sourdough. Because a sourdough starter is alive, we named it “Herman”, and it made delicious bread for a long time. Unfortunately, we went away for a long vacation and Herman didn’t get fed, so he died. But I now have another healthy starter bubbling away in my fridge, and he is called Herman too.
Here’s how to create your own “Herman”:
A good sourdough starter is a must for delicious sourdough breads. Although this starter can be used with satisfactory results after 6 days, it takes about 1 1/2 months for the starter to reach full flavour, so be patient. It is worth it.
- 1 pkg yeast (2 tsp)
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and wait 5 or 10 minutes for yeast to soften and bubble. Add to large glass jar or bowl along with remaining ingredients and stir well with wooden spoon. You don’t have to worry about getting all the lumps out, they will smooth out as the yeast works. Cover loosely with cheesecloth or tea towel or coffee filter and let sit on counter, or in warm place such as on top of the fridge to ferment. Every night for 3 nights, before you go to bed, add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water and stir. It will take on a powerful boozy smell.
- After 3 days, stir again until creamy and “feed” with 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp cider vinegar. Let sit in a warm place for another 3 days, adding 1/4 cup each flour and water at bedtime. If clear liquid rises to the top of mixture, simply stir it back in. After 6 days, it will be ready for the first use. Measure out what you need for your recipe. Every time you use some of the starter, replenish it as in feeding instructions below.
- After 6 days, if you only plan to bake once a week, you can store Herman in the fridge, taking him out to feed him at least once a week.
- At least once a week, or after using some, you must feed Herman. If you haven’t used any, you can dump some out to make room if you have to.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- Stir, loosely cover, and let stand in warm place overnight. He should bubble up. Give him a stir in the morning, and either use him or put him back in the fridge.
- Herman should be mature at this point, and you can cut his feedings to just flour and water. Remember to feed him at least once a week if you keep him in the fridge, or if you are baking more often, you can leave him out on your counter, feed him daily:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup water
- Stir, loosely cover, and let stand in warm place overnight. He should bubble up. Give him a stir in the morning, and either use him, or put him back in the fridge.
- When you first take Herman out of the fridge, he will probably have a dark looking liquid on top. Don’t worry, this is normal. Just stir it all in, and use or feed as usual.
- If Herman gets a little sluggish and doesn’t bubble up the way he should when you feed him, you can add 1 tsp yeast along with a regular feeding. Let him sit out for a couple of days before putting him back in the fridge. When he smells like bad home-made hootch, he is healthy again.
- Since this is alive, and needs regular feeding and care, we thought he needed a name. Ours is called Herman. If you don't feed the yeast, it will die, and you will have to start over again. So don't forget to feed Herman!