Sourdough Starter

By: admin | Date: 23.01.2005 | Categories: Breads & Rolls

I’ve wanted to make sourdough bread for quite a while, so today I finally got out my cookbooks to figure it all out.

The main deal with sourdough is the starter. This is a fermented yeast type thing that you add into a dough mixture to give it that certain San Fran taste. Only one of my cookbooks has any mention of sourdough bread, and that’s Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking. Problem is, somebody seriously goofed in the editing (sorry Chuck), and the recipe says to “combine the flour and water” for the starter, but the ingredients list shows only whole milk. So is it the milk, or the missing water? I went online ( and did a quick search for other starter recipes. Not a one that I found uses milk, but they did all use yeast, which the Williams-Sonoma recipe did not. They indicated that their yeast was “airborne”. Hmmm… Okay, but since this was my first try, I decide to go a little more traditional and used a basic online version. They were all pretty much the same anyway, with the only real variation being the addition of sugar and/or salt, and the time that the starter is left to ferment (which was between 24 hours and five days – whew!).

For this test, I skipped the sugar and salt, since most of the recipes left it out as well, and whipped up a batch. Below is a short record of the results. I’ll update the post as I go:

1/23/05 (evening) – Starter is er… started. (Yeast, flour and water.)

1/23/05 (late evening) – Yowza! The starter has approximately doubled in size. I guess the yeast is working.

1/24/05 (evening) – Okay, we’re down to something more realistic again. I was afraid for a while there that I would wake up and find that my starter had eaten my kitchen. I gave it a stir. It looks fine and smells like…?? Bread dough? I guess that as long as it doesn’t smell like rotting chicken or something I should be fine. I’ll have the wife check the color later as this boy is color-blind. I’ve pretty much abandoned the various recipes that I’ve found and am winging it as I go. There’s just way too much variation among the lot. I actually found a version that recommends letting the starter go more than 10 days before it even hits the fridge. that seemed a little extreme to me, but hey, maybe they like that bread to be really sour.