Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Adventures in Sourdough Starters and Baking

For as long as I can remember I have loved to bake. Hours were spent covered in whole wheat flour while I baked away in my grandmother's kitchen. As long as she could try to make it healthy she would indulge me. Let's just say while it was fun to make the treats rarely tasted as good as they looked. Despite my love of food even at a young age I was always in awe and fear of baking bread. Something about yeast being, what I erroneously thought, a temperamental organism I always assumed it was something beyond my grasp. Best left to professionals and only the best of grandma's. My grandmother was a brilliant woman but had no interest in cooking and at a very plain diet so bread was not something we would do together. 

A few weeks back I opened the email notification from one of my favorite blogs and it had a recipe to grow your own sourdough starter. Being in the food industry I knew about starters but again, I had assumed there was some great mystique to them. Artisan bakers love to spin tales about sneaking their starter back from a trip to Italy or some other place that made them sound so special and exotic. Never did I dream how easy making one at home could be. For over a week I peeked at the recipe daily telling myself it worked for her but it couldn't possible work for me. Now when I look back I realize how silly all this was because I am telling you this could not be easier. You may be thinking you don't have time for this. It took me less than a total of 5 minutes per day for the whole 6 days. If you can stir, you can make this starter. 

From Peas and Thank You Sourdough Starter

I will save you typing all of this out again. She explains it very well. If you are like me and get WAY over excited about these things you will probably stare at it on and off all day waiting for the magic to happen. It takes time. I was almost 4 days in before I really noticed any difference. The best anecdote for the whole process was on the last day when you are supposed to transfer the starter to a large container and feed it I REALLY underestimated how much bigger of a container. I fed it and took a nap. When I woke up I went to the kitchen and it had literally blown the top off of my screw top container and was all over my counter. I almost cried. All those days of work. Luckily about half the container was still in there so I fed it again and it did spring back to life. IT'S ALIVE!!! I could her Gene Wilder's voice in Young Frankenstein over and over in my head. Yes, I am very dramatic about my food. 

Here is my starter after I made english muffins this morning and then fed it. You can make out some of the bubbling. This is what it should look like. Excuse my lake of photography skills. I am working on that at the moment!

Monday I made my first loaves of bread and I was nervous. Really nervous. For the sake of continuity I also used Mama Pea's recipe she posted a few days later. Now that I am confident in my mad skills I am going to venture out and adapt my own recipes but here is the one I used for my first try.  Peas and Thank You Ultimate Sourdough Bread Recipe

They came out a bit more dense than I expected but delicious none the less. I used local maple syrup and non-fat milk as I am not a vegan. Most of her recipes are but she gives options if you are not. The next day the bread was good toasted with some Kerry Gold grass fed butter slathered on top. Mmmm butter.  

Here they are. I am so proud! What do you think? Let me know if you try the starter as well! Tune in tomorrow for the results of my attempt at sourdough english muffins! 


  1. Don't you love a good kitchen explosion? But the end result looks pretty delicious! :)

  2. Oh, YUM! I don't bake bread often enough to justify starting and keeping a sourdough starter going, as much as I love bread. I have done the starter in Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day, and it was wonderful stuff until I missed making bread a few too many days. Yay for you in tackling this, the results look amazing!

    1. Thank you! One of the things that attracted me to the sourdough starter is that it is supposed to be rather hardy and can be left unattended for up to a month and be fine! If I had to bake every few days I would be in trouble too. Hope you like my blog!