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A Beginners Guide to Sourdough

A beginners guide to SOURDOUGH BY: CECE KIRKWOOD. THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS.

Picture this: the beginning of 2020… we all know what happened. And because of it, many of us had more time on our hands than we knew what to do with. Many people took up new hobbies, including an infamous one… sourdough. 

I’m not sure what exactly started the craze – perhaps it was a need for people to watch something else growing and thriving inside, while we all yearned for the outside world. Or maybe it was just for the love of all things bread. 

Why Sourdough?

While sourdough typically requires more time in the kitchen to grow and bake with, there are a whole slew of benefits to using sourdough over yeast for recipes. 

Sourdough bread is far easier to digest. It can act as a “prebiotic” which means that the fiber in the bread helps grow the good bacteria inside your stomach. 

For many people who have slight gluten intolerances, it is also a great alternative to normal breads because there is less gluten in the dough. 

It is full of antioxidants and has a fuller flavor profile than many basic-yeast breads. It also helps add amazing texture to your baked goods by adding a soft airy texture to any recipe it touches. 

Plus – it is all homemade! You feed and grow your sourdough starter right from your own kitchen. You can choose the ingredients your sourdough eats and at the end of it all, you will certainly feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve grown this gorgeous ingredient all on your own. 

So, for the same reason many people love taking care of their plants, I love sourdough (and plants, but I’m not as good at keeping those alive). 

And (in case you didn’t know) sourdough starter can be used for much more than just bread.

But how do I start my own sourdough starter?

I firmly believe you should meet baking wherever you are. 

While making your own sourdough starter isn’t the most difficult thing, for many it can be a barrier to launch into the world of sourdough baking. It was for me! And while there are many articles out there that can teach you how to start your own starter from scratch, I’m going to tell you exactly where mine came from…

… somewhere else! 

I bought a bit of King Arthur’s sourdough starter! This King Arthur option was cool because it is a direct piece of their sourdough starter that has been growing and creating bakes for decades! Plus, that meant I was immediately connected to hundreds of thousands of other bakers out there, all growing and feeding from the same “parent” starter. But another great option is Breadtopia!

How do I know when my starter is ready to bake with? 

The easiest way to keep track of this is a mix of time and well… measuring! 

A starter typically reaches its peak about 6-8 hours after feeding. However, the temperature outside does tend to affect the growth (e.g. warmer weather = faster growth). Your starter will be at full peak when it has over doubled in size. The simplest way to track this is with a rubber band. 

When you feed your starter, place a rubber band on the outside of your container right at the top of where your starter sits. Then in 6-8 hours, you can see clearly once it has doubled in size. 

Finally, you will also know when your starter is ready by the bubble size. A fully fed and grown starter will have larger bubbles and a thicker consistency. Move the jar slowly from side to side and you should see a nice, thick, happy starter bubbling up. If you do, bake away. 

How do I know when it is ready to feed?

Your starter is ready to feed when it looks like a really fizzy soda. The top should be super bubbly, almost appearing carbonated. This is the state she will be in once she’s fully grown and then fallen back to a slightly more dormant phase. This is the time to discard, bake and feed. 

Okay, you have your starter and it’s growing. But, how do you keep it alive?

Many instructions out there sort of leave you hanging once you’ve grown your starter OR the only directions they give you is to feed and bake with your starter every day. 

But I mean… we are all people and we don’t always have time to feed a starter and bake everyday. Sometimes, people and things just need to be left alone. 

It is also a shame to feed your sourdough everyday and then waste a perfectly active starter by discarding it away. We all know waste is no good, but it’s a shame to let that fear of having to feed it everyday stop you from keeping sourdough starter around and baking with it when you can.

You may still end up with a bit of discard wasted here and there, but don’t worry – I’ve got some ideas for you there too!

So I offer you two very practical ways to keep up with your starter. These two “schedules” are also not an either-or.  Feel free to mix and match as your weeks fair out.

#1) Room temp – baking with it a few times a week

If you plan to bake with your starter at least twice a week or more, I recommend a room temp storing. This is the plan I typically follow. 

Let’s say I just baked my vanilla sourdough scones. I’ve removed the sourdough starter I needed from its jar and now it’s time to feed. I know I won’t bake again with it for a few days. 

I will take my starter down to 113g in the jar and feed it with 113g all purpose flour and 113g of water. Mix her up well, place the lid back on and a rubber band around the jar to track its growth. 

In two – three days, I’ll come back to feed her again. The next morning – she is ready to bake with and the cycle continues. 

Wait wait… can I see this in a calendar? 

Sunday
Feed Starter
Monday
Bake with Starter & Feed again
Tuesday
Nothing
Wednesday
Feed Starter
Thursday
Bake with Start & Feed again
Friday
Nothing
Saturday
Nothing

Your starter needs to be strong and active to bake. So it is important to keep track of the bubble size and consistency of your starter. A room temp storage does require a watchful eye, so don’t neglect it! If you know you will be away for a while or busy, jump down to the fridge instructions or find a trusty friend to care for it. 

#2 ) Fridge – Baking every couple of weeks

It is perfectly okay and welcome to be a baker who bakes maybe once a month. Don’t let this stop you from baking with sourdough. You can do a simple fridge storage. This only requires a once-a-week feeding and a few extra days of planning when it comes to your bakes. 

So let’s say you just finished baking the sourdough peanut butter cookies. Once again, take your starter down to 113g in the jar. Then feed it with 113g all purpose flour and 113g of water. Mix her up well, place the lid back on and a rubber band around the jar to track its growth. 

Then, place her in the fridge. One week from that bake-day, remove her from the fridge. Discard her down to 113g in the jar and repeat the feeding. 

That’s it. 

When you are ready to bake again, she will require a bit of time to recover back to full strength. Bring her out of the fridge and complete a normal feeding. But this time, leave her on the counter. In 24 hours, return and repeat the discard and feed her for however much you need to bake (the recipe will tell you). In 6-8 hours, she will be ready and waiting. 

On the off chance she needs more than 24 hours to recover, that is okay too! Sometimes it takes my starter 2 days to be back at full capacity if she has been stored in the fridge for several weeks. 

Once you are done baking with her, give her a quick feeding before returning her back into the fridge. Then REPEAT! 

Reviving your starter

At one point or another your starter may end up looking a little “sad”. You may think it is “dead” or “beyond saving”… but I promise you – as long as there is still a bit of starter in the container and things haven’t turned completely green… you can still revive your sourdough starter. 

Sourdough Discard Ideas

On those off days where you aren’t feeding your starter or maybe you just haven’t been up for a full bake. Don’t worry! There are so many things you can do with your discard so… 

Experiment with new recipes. 

Sourdough is simply flour & water. If you have a recipe that calls for flour and a liquid such as water or milk or vegetable oil, just replace a bit with sourdough. For example, let’s say you have 100g of sourdough discard. Your original recipe calls for 100g of flour and 100g of vegetable oil. Replace 50g of flour and 50g of oil with 100g of sourdough discard. A simple swap and now you have a whole new recipe in front of you! Not every recipe will work out, but it is a great experimental bake! 

I’ll have more recipes with sourdough soon, but until then – give “sourdough discard recipes” a quick google and there will be a world of baking waiting for you. 

Baking By Cece is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

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