How to make sourdough starter at home

waffle

Buttermilk waffles go perfectly with fried chicken. I've been perfecting my waffle recipe for years, but in order to make them like I do you'll need a sourdough starter.

I love working with sourdough. It involves just enough science and just enough voodoo to make it one of my favorite things to cook with. Sourdough is a yeasted bread made with a hearty, slower rising wild yeast matched with naturally occurring lactobacilli. It is the lactobacilli that give sourdough its distinct flavor and smell. With a good starter you'll not only be able to make my fantastic waffles, but you can bake some fantastic bread, pretzels, pancakes... the list goes on.

Starter is not the big deal people make it out to be. If you have some flour and water in your home, you can get some sourdough starter going right now.

INGREDIENTS:

Measure 2 cups of flour into your bowl. Whole wheat reportedly works best for starting out if you don't plan to add yeast, but All Purpose flour will work. Mix together with the 2 cups of lukewarm water. I've often read lukewarm described as water you can't feel the temperature of on your wrist. When the mixture is battery and smooth, cover it and leave it someplace warm for 24 hours. Hopefully your starter will be bubbling and look something like this...


IMG_0739

If it does, awesome! You are well on your way. If it doesn't the words of Charlie Papazian in his awesome guides to home brewing also ring true here: "Relax. Don't Worry. Have a home-brew." Regardless of how bubbly or not your starter is, just feed it.

What you'll need to feed your starter:

Stir up the starter, combining all the fluids that may have separated--they're acid and alcohol thrown off by the fermentation process of your yeast! You want it adding to the sour flavor of the starter. Now, simply remove 1 cup of starter from the mixed bowl, and add in the flour and water. Mix it up well, cover and let it sit for another 12 to 24 hours. Check it again. If it is bubbling, keep feeding it for a few days to ensure it is strong and consistent. If it isn't bubbling after a week, throw it out and start over. This time, add the optional bread yeast above.

If you want to be sure to get a really tart sourdough variant, the likes of which we Bay Area folk are so proud of, I'd suggest ordering some from the internet. You are looking for the specific lactobacilli, Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. I've tried two different sourdough starters trying to get it right. For a very tangy, easy to manage and work with starter I recommend the Gold Rush. For a very traditional tasting loaf of bread, not sour at all, I like the King Arthur a lot. There are many fantastic sellers of yeast out there, I have also heard wonderful things about Breadtopia.

Once your starter is active and healthy, you can start to cook with it. There are a ton of great recipes easily available on the net, and shortly I'll share both my buttermilk waffles, for eating with fried chicken, and some simple bread recipes I like to use.

When you're ready to stop feeding sourdough daily, you can put the yeast to sleep in the fridge. Simply put it in a ceramic, or glass jar, with a loose fitting lid. I've been using this one for years. Even slowed down in the cold, yeast is going to give off some gas. You don't want a cold pressurized jar of CO2 warming up. I speak from experience!

Sometimes I'll let the starter go for months. You should probably feed it every week or so, in the fridge, but I've been able to rescue starter after 12 months of dormancy. If it doesn't revive, just make more!

Oh, you are also going to need a waffle iron.