A STARter is Born

When I was a kid, one of my favorite sandwiches was the crispy chicken on sourdough from Cracker Barrel. I always thought it was the mayo that gave the sandwich it’s tangy taste. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned it was the bread  itself.

I love sourdough and after getting Angie to try it at the Fall Festival, she fell in love with it too. But sourdough at the produce stand (or Farmer’s Market) is a bit too pricey for our new budget (at $6 for a small loaf) so we decided we’d try to make our own.

A couple of Youtube how-to videos later, we mixed 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1/2 cup of filtered room temperature water in a quart jar and sat it on the counter with the lid slightly loosened. The next day – not much was going on inside the jar. No bubbles, no liquid, no growth of any kind. We thought maybe we were failing from the start but as it turns out, not much happens to sourdough babies in their first 24 hours of life.

Just like a real baby, sourdough starters have to be fed regularly. For the first few days, we had to feed it every 12 hours. In the mornings, Angie would discard half of the starter (into our compost) and feed it 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of water. I had the evening shift, which was the exact same process.

By the third day, we started to see life. There were bubbles in our starter and it was growing! Then one day, this happened:

We thought this was a disaster too, but again, it’s all part of the process. Sometimes good starters go wild and try to escape.

It was around this time that our starter got a name too. Angie had hurriedly written on the chalkboard the night before – don’t forget to feed sour doug. And so, the bubbly goo that was starting to smell distinctly sourdough-ish became known Doug from that point on.

It took 8 full days for Doug to reach perfection, at which point, we fed him and put him in the fridge. My aunt had just arrived from North Carolina and we had no time to try making anything sourdough related until late last week. When we took Doug out, he still smelled great and was ready to be fed again. This time though, we saved the discarded starter and used it to make a Rustic Sourdough Bread (actually 2 of them).

We used our cast iron Dutch oven for one of the breads and a regular loaf pan for the other. Both turned out phenomenal!

Doug is back in the fridge now and he’s on a once-a-week feeding schedule. If all goes well, Doug will be with us for a long, long time, since each time we use him, he grows back. (By the way, The Zero Waste Chef has had her starter, Eleanor, for 5 years now).

If you’re interested in making your own sourdough starter, I encourage you to check out King Arthur’s Flour for their starter instructions and this video from Andrea at VW Family Farm, which shows how to make the same bread we made.