Sourdough Starter Made Easy
Sourdough…the OG of the breadmaking world. According to NPR.org, “Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread and was used at least as early as ancient Egypt.” Until just a couple of centuries ago, sourdough bread was THE way to go. So, why did things change? Let’s find out…
As opposed to the modern breadmaking practice of adding commercial yeast to leaven the loaves, sourdough’s long fermentation is where all the magic happens. Wild yeast already exists on flour, so all you have to do is take the proper steps to activate it.
Unfortunately, the process of activating your starter takes daily attention and time. It can take anywhere from one week, to two weeks, while making the loaf can take up to two days. Not something that today’s InstantPot society seems to enjoy. BUT…the art of sourdough making is the ultimate in back to basics skills and a super fun activity to do as a whole family. Plus…it’s way easier and has more health benefits than you might think!
The benefits of this bread’s lengthy fermentation cycle outweigh the wait times. The fermenting causes the bread to have a more complex, sour flavor. It also makes the bread easier to digest, causes less inflammation, and contains less gluten. Sourdough bread has a very short ingredient list and is especially good for people with food sensitivities or health issues. If you’re interested in diving deeper into sourdough science, the Cultured Guru article “What Makes Sourdough Healthier and Easy to Digest?” is a MUST read!
In addition to a crazy amount of health benefits, the process of making a sourdough will leave you with an abundance of a byproduct called “discard.” This precious waste can be used to make an endless list of recipes. Bagels, pizza dough, noodles, muffins, cakes…you name it, sourdough discard can make it. And…they all taste AMAZING!
At first glance, the process of making your own sourdough starter from scratch seems daunting, but I can honestly tell you, it’s not daunting at all. In fact, my daughter likes to refer to my starter as our newest pet. And frankly, she’s not wrong!
Like any pet, sourdough starter needs to be given fresh food and water daily. While it’s young, it needs to be attended to twice a day, but after a few days, once a day is fine. In addition to food and water, you’ll also need to dispose of it’s waste (sound pet-like enough yet?).
For the sourdough pet’s “food”, I used a special flour called einkorn flour found at my local grocery store. Jovial brand einkorn flour is an ancient grain that hasn’t been hybridized and is sourced directly from Italy. For those of you wondering why that’s important, this article “Is European Wheat More Tolerable than U.S. Wheat?” will help shed some light on this issue.
Choosing einkorn flour is just my personal preference since our family seems to struggle with grains. When I am eating clean paleo, I avoid grains completely, but the einkorn flour doesn’t seem to bother me in small doses. You are welcome to use whatever wheat based flour you have on hand!
Now that you have your flour, you only need three more items to get started…water, a mason jar, and a food scale.
In the morning on day 1, mix together equal weights of flour and water in your mason jar. I chose to start with 100g of each, but you can start with less if you’d prefer. Just make sure they are equal. Then, loosely cover your mason jar and set it off to the side until evening (approx. 8-12 hours later). Step one DONE!
When you return in the evening, simply remove half of your mixture and throw it away. This is your pet’s “waste.” In 3-5 days, you can start saving the discarded waste to use in other recipes. Once the discard has been removed, repeat step one from the morning by adding equal parts flour and water into the remaining starter. This is your pet’s “food and water.” Loosely cover again, then set off to the side until morning. Step two DONE!
That’s it! Simply discard, feed, and water twice a day until your starter becomes active. For me, this took about 5 days. Once you notice your starter increasing in size (up to doubling) and producing lots of bubbles, you can reduce discards and feedings to once daily. In two weeks, your starter should be strong enough to make an authentic sourdough bread loaf. After two weeks, you can store your starter in the fridge and feed weekly.
Congratulations on your new sourdough starter pet! With regular feedings, your doughy pet could live a year or longer!
My entire family has fallen in love with our jar of fermented yeasty goodness. In a matter of one week, we’ve used our pet’s daily discard to make fluffy pancakes, cake like chocolate chip cookies, noodles for soup, and the worlds softest donuts!
Every day, I catch my husband peering into the jar of frothy bubbles to see how it’s doing. My kids are constantly asking if they can feed it. It’s truly been a great conversation starter and skill building activity…and it only takes a few minutes a day! This sourdough starter has been a game changer and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.
Stay tuned for more sourdough dough recipes coming soon! In the meantime, check out these amazing sourdough recipes from The Pantry Momma. You won’t be disappointed!