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victoriamc's picture

I dont know how I should classify this bread, either as a sourdough, a yeast bread or an artisan bread.  I dont feel like i can call it a sourdough bread or an artisan bread, because these 2 classifications come with a certain preconception these bread are more complicated to make than yeast breads.  However, this loaf IS a sourdough artisan bread, but it is also, super easy to make!

Using an overnight sourdough from whole rye flour and SD starter, a Biga from whole wheat flour water and scant yeast, and an overnight soaker of wholewheat flour, water and salt.  Much of the work (fermentation and flavour development) is done while you, the baker, sleep!!  for details hop over to



breadmd's picture

I've found this recipe useful because it gives a nice product and is a tasty alternative to margarine. If you like homemade bread, you might like homemade spreadable butter to go on top of it. All the best...Mark

1 C room temperature salted butter, 2 C canola oil, 1/4 tsp salt (or a bit more or less to taste). Beat well, chill in fridge.



alfanso's picture

To anyone even casually glancing at the most bookmarked pages on TFL, Jason’s Quick “Coccodrillo” (sp.) Ciabatta Bread is akin to the great thoroughbred Secretariat running against all puny comers.  I’d been avoiding trying it out, for who knows why, but just this week adrianjm added to the list of those posting their version of the bread.  So, I guess it was gravity that brought me to try it out too.  And I did.  Twice in one day.

The first time was a trial run to get my feet wet with this dough.  And it certainly is quick, living up to its posted name.  So quick in fact, that I probably over proofed because the dough is so active.  A few other things too, on my trial run, revealed in the photos.

Because I thought that I could do better on a second try, I made some mods to the formula as laid out way way back in 2007 by LilDice, the O.P.  And I liked the results a second time through a lot more.

I left the dough at 95% hydration, but substituted out 15g of water with 15g of olive oil, and also added ~3.5g of diastatic malt powder because I wasn’t happy with the pale shade of the first run, regardless of how long I left it in the oven to darken – it just never happened.
I find that, for my tastes, this bread doesn’t carry that heartier, sweeter and more developed flavor that a long fermenting or pre-fermented bread does, as this is a direct method bread, start to finish in a morning’s time.  Nor does it have a robust enough crust for my personal liking.  But it is tender and a bit sweet, will make excellent toast, bruschetta or croutons when it has aged for another day or so, and is a good addition to my growing folder of breads.

A few other changes as well, all part of the methodology, added at the tail end of this post.

With one hand in the dough and one on the camera, this is the best I could do for a photo of a good window pane.

Comparing the first, trial bake to the second modified bake.  The earlier bake is pale and was more difficult to shape.  From the crumb shot it is plain as day that it also had minimal loft.

Updated 6 Oct.

A new bake, but due to what I perceived to be a lack of depth of flavor in the bake above, I subbed out 150g of bread flour for 150g of semolina/durum flour.  Otherwise just about everything was the same.  Except that I decided to support the sides of the dough in a couche during the proofing, as I mentioned in the formula notes.  One other thing was that the mixing took another few minutes longer, and I'll posit that this was from the introduction of the semolina flour.

As you can see, not only did I get a fantastic oven spring, which I did expect, but the top didn't just brown, it burned.  It was as if there was too much of a good thing.  And I'll take a SWAG at what it was.  The too much, I'm going to guess, was that the diastatic malt powder was still in there.  Perhaps the addition of the semolina requires the subtraction of the powder.  So until I know better, as in running another bake without the powder, I'll take a leap of faith and say that is what it was.

The crumb still seems tender and pretty open, but I really didn't like how the open crumb mostly seemed to congregate at the top of the loaf.  Now, how to balance out the best of the two bakes to build a better crocodile trap.  We shall see...

Supporting the couche lined parchment: 

 Not quite charcoal briquet territory

The crumb is not nearly as dark as the cameras filter makes it to be.

 When I mentioned that this bake had fantastic oven spring I'm not just Whistling Dixie.  Here is a side by side with the remnants of the last bake, albeit a bit deflated by time.  And that prior bake had great oven spring as the lead picture shows.




By Jason Molina

  • 500g bread flour*
  • 460g refrigerated cold water
  • 15g olive oil
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 15g salt
  • 5g diastatic malt powder

 Total time: ~4 ½ - 5 hours


  1. In mixer with paddle: Mix all dry ingredients first to distribute.  Add liquids and mix until combined, the consistency of a thin batter.  Rest for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Mix on high speed with dough hook until dough separates cleanly from the bowl and slaps sides of bowl.  Scrape down bowl and hook a few times during the mix.  In my Kitchen Aid 4 qt. it took ~13 minutes total mixing time on speed #8, 2-5 more minutes on speed #6.  Look for a strong window pane.  If not well developed or breaks easily, mix dough more.
  3. Place into a well oiled square or rectangular container and let it triple in volume, <2 - 2.5 hours.  Beware, that once this dough starts moving, it rises rapidly.
  4. Gently apply a 4 fold and flip dough inside container at 40 and 80 minutes.
  5. Empty onto a floured surface.  Fold dough in half, squaring the shape if a rectangular container was used.
  6. Divide into 2 or 3 pieces. Use dough scraper to form the loaf shape.  Keep shape short.  Dust with flour.
  7. **Transfer loaves to a parchment covered oven peel.  At this point, the dough can be gently stretched out to a longer length.
  8. Cover and proof for ~45 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven at 500dF.  Sylvia’s Steaming Towels 15 minutes pre-bake.
  10. Load into oven from peel.  Bake at 500dF with additional steam, about 25-30 minutes total.  Release steam and rotate 180 degrees after ~12 minutes.


  • *Can substitute 150g semolina for 150g bread flour
  • **Next time I may sit the parchment paper inside of a couche to support the sides of the dough so that it doesn't spread out as wide during the proofing. 
  • This is a 95% hydration dough, almost like batter until it comes together.
  • Use cold water because of mixing friction.
  • Keep an eye and hand on the mixer so that it doesn’t walk off the counter.
  • Loading the dough onto the oven peel for proofing avoids unnecessary handling.


Pmccool's picture

Weekends, the times that I do most of my baking, have been rather full of late.  There have been seminars to attend, a class to teach, a grandson's out-of-state (for us, not him) cross country meet to attend and all of the other "normal" stuff that makes up life.  Still, I've found ways to weave in some baking with the other things going on.  Posting here on TFL has taken a bit of a back seat to the other activities, though.

The class three weeks ago was titled Harvest Breads.  In assembling the day's curriculum, I wanted something that would speak to the bounty of the season.  After some thinking and experimenting, the breads presented that day included a multigrain pain au levain and a golden wheat bread.  These choices also gave the opportunity for the students to work with a sourdough bread and a yeasted bread.  Each student also received some starter to take home with them.  Because these recipes were developed specifically for the class at the Culinary Center, I won't post them in full but will provide a general outline for those of you who want to put your own twist on the concept.

The multigrain pain au levain is primarily bread flour with small percentages of whole wheat and whole rye flours, very much like a pain de compagne.  The bread also includes a hot soaker.  For ease of preparation, and to make things as accessible as possible for the students, I used Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain hot cereal mix for the soaker.  One could obviously make their own custom blend of grains or seeds to fit their particular tastes.  The bread was baked as batards, simply because I find the shape more conducive to fitting in toasters or sandwiches.  If you like boules, there's no reason not to shape the loaves that way.  Baked at 460F for 30 minutes, with initial steam, the bread looks like this:

The flavor has lots of grainy notes and some of hazelnuts and caramel.  The crumb is quite moist but still firm, flecked with bits of the grains from the soaker.  I barely got to taste the bread in class and the loaf that I made at home (above) went to a friend (which netted a dozen cookies from her shop) so I have no crumb photo.

The golden part of the Golden Wheat bread is due to the inclusion of half a can of solid-pack pumpkin.  The bread itself is approximately 75% whole wheat, with the remainder being bread flour.  The bread also includes toasted pepitas for some additional crunch. There are beaucoup sweet pumpkin breads but I wanted to steer this in a savory direction.  Remembering that sage makes a good counterpoint to squash, I played around with various combinations until I hit on using rosemary and thyme as supporting players for the sage note.  The bread was baked in a pan as a sandwich loaf:

No crumb shot of this loaf, either.  The crumb was very even and rather close, instead of open.  It makes a great base for a turkey sandwich and my wife already has a request in for some of this for use in her Thanksgiving dressing, since the seasoning is tilted in that direction.  The pumpkin provides a subtle background flavor that balances the herbal notes, rather than announcing its presence with a megaphone.

I managed a mid-week bake of some bagels, using the New York Water Bagel recipe from ITJB, for a fundraiser at work.  Oddly enough, people preferred the fluffier doughnut-shaped rolls purchased from a local bagel shop, so I wound up bringing about half of them home, much to my wife's delight:

Since I hadn't gotten any of the multigrain pain au levain from the previous weekend for my own use, that was the choice for the next weekend's bake.  The only thing I did differently was to extend the baking time to 35 minutes, since the crust wasn't quite as dark as it could have been.  Here's how it looked with that extra 5 minutes bake time:

Oh, yeah, there was also the small matter of not turning the temperature down from the 500F preheat to the 460F bake temperature.  It looked a lot darker to the eye than it does in this photograph.  My wife's first comment was "That looks burnt."  I demurred, saying that it was merely boldly baked.  She wasn't entirely convinced.  After having eaten some, the next iteration might accidentally-on-purpose get that baked that way again.  The flavor from the darker crust was much richer than the "blonder" sibling of the week before.  And the crumb was still moist and cool, despite the longer, hotter bake.  This time there is a crumb shot:

There was a pleasingly random distribution of larger and smaller bubbles; none so big that my clothes were at risk of becoming a condiment landing zone.

A friend recently opened a coffee shop.  While she is presently serving muffins and scones, she'd like to be able have some lunch offerings, too.  The young fellow who is baking for her on site is dong a very good job with those products but does not have any experience with yeasted breads.  They have limited work space and a small convection oven, so there are some challenges to deal with.  Consequently, as we were batting ideas around for things like paninis and other sandwiches, I volunteered to work up some breads for their consideration this weekend.  

One idea was for focaccia.  It will require some additional tweaking to make it sandwich-ready but the current version could accompany a soup:

Another idea was for ciabattini.  Dee and her crew will play around with filling ideas and we can work out a preferred size/shape, depending on what they think will work best.  These are from a Ciril Hitz formula, scaled at 90g per roll:

A memory from our days in Birmingham, Alabama surfaced while working through possible breads for the shop.  The Club (yes, that's its name; emphasis on THE) in Birmingham is famous for its orange luncheon rolls.  No one, to my knowledge, serves anything like them in the KC area.  If Tee has something on her menu that is unique, that will give her a competitive advantage.  So, while making up the focaccia and the ciabattini yesterday, I also prepped a batch of orange rolls through the shaping stage, then retarded them overnight in the refrigerator so that they could be baked off fresh this morning.  Even though just slightly overbaked (there isn't supposed to be any browning) they were an immediate hit with the volunteer tasters at the shop today.  The orange glaze, no doubt, was a factor:

Now I need to get the recipes sent off to Tee and her crew so that they can do some experimenting of their own.


isand66's picture

I just milled some fresh Durum flour and decided to sift it this time instead of using it whole.  Sifting made it closer to the KAF flour I used to use all the time for Durum breads.

To make this one interesting I added some fresh ricotta and mashed potatoes.  The end result was a nice open soft crumb but for some reason this one ended up very sour.  It does make great toast and grilled bread for sure.



Durum Ricotta Potato Bread (%)

Durum Ricotta Potato Bread (weights)

Download the BreadStorm File Here.


Levain Directions

Mix all the Levain ingredients together for about 1 minute and cover with plastic wrap.  Let it sit at room temperature for around 7-8 hours or until the starter has doubled.

Either use in the main dough immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

 Main Dough Procedure

Mix the flours and water together in your mixer or by hand until it just starts to come together, maybe about 1 minute.  Let it rest in your work bowl covered for 20-30 minutes.  Next add the salt, starter (cut into about 7-8 pieces), cheese, olive oil and potatoes and mix on low for 6 minutes.  Remove the dough from your bowl and place it in a lightly oiled bowl or work surface and do several stretch and folds.  Let it rest covered for 10-15 minutes and then do another stretch and fold.  Let it rest another 10-15 minutes and do one additional stretch and fold.  After a total of 2 hours place your covered bowl in the refrigerator and let it rest for 12 to 24 hours.  (If you have a proofer you can set it to 80 degrees and follow above steps but you should be finished in 1 hour to 1.5 hours).

When you are ready to bake remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it set out at room temperature still covered for 1.5 to 2 hours.  Remove the dough and shape as desired.   Place your dough into your proofing basket(s) and cover with a moist tea towel or plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray.  The dough will take 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your room temperature.  Let the dough dictate when it is read to bake not the clock.

Around 45 minutes before ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 550 degrees F. and prepare it for steam.  I have a heavy-duty baking pan on the bottom rack of my oven with 1 baking stone on above the pan and one on the top shelf.  I pour 1 cup of boiling water in the pan right after I place the dough in the oven.

Right before you are ready to put them in the oven, score as desired and then add 1 cup of boiling water to your steam pan or follow your own steam procedure.

After 1 minute lower the temperature to 500 degrees and after another 3 minutes lower it to 450 degrees.  Bake for 25-35 minutes until the crust is nice and brown and the internal temperature of the bread is 210 degrees.

Take the bread out of the oven when done and let it cool on a bakers rack before for at least 2 hours before eating.






Anne-Marie B's picture
Anne-Marie B

A fine loaf.

I based it on a recipe that I found online that was based on a recipe from Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington 'Exceptional Breads'. It took a while for the orange juice starter to get going so it sat on the counter for most of the week. But it got there. Makes the best toast.






Skibum's picture

From top left, the obligatory weekly pulla braid, country blonde, apple, walnut, cream cheese bread and Italian semolina, sesame loaves!

I used a single batch of pulla dough to make both the braid, 60%  dough volume and apple, cream cheese bread, 40%dough volume. My goal with the fruit, cream cheese bread was to pack as much goodness into each bite as possible. Mission accomplished!!!

Happy baking!  Ski

rgconner's picture

I have been building my starter for about 6 weeks now, and I am finally getting the results I want.

Not that the previous breads were bad, they just lacked the sort of oven spring I was getting from Commercial yeast.

Standard Forkish Lean dough.

1st feed: 12 hrs with KAF whole wheat. 100% hydration, 50g 

2nd feed: 12 hrs with Unbleached Shepard's Pride white 100% hydration. 100g

Poolish with 100g starter + 450g flour, 100% hydration, 12hrs

Final dough: additional 500g flour, 244g water, 22g salt

Stretch and fold 5 times, approx 30min apart. 

5hr bench rest until it tripled

Form and basket, allow to retard proof in fridge overnight, about 18hrs before I could bake them. They are not the same size, one is 750g, the other is whatever was left over, just shy of 1KG I would think.

30 min covered, 20 uncovered (bolder bake), 450F

dabrownman's picture

Lucy was thinking ancient this weeks and was studying the oldest thing she could think of at the time – The Sun.  The Poor thing is middle age at 5 billion years old and has an appetite like nothing else around here.  It gobbles up 400-600 million tons of hydrogen a second to overheat our world but it will be doing the overheating thing much better in the future.


It seems that over the next billion years or so the sun will get larger and burn hotter as it moves on to doing what all stars its size do.  The temperature on the Earth will be at least 100 degrees hotter then too – too bad for us poor humans long before then the Earth’s oceans boil away.


But that is nothing, the Sun will keep getting bigger and hotter for another 4 billion years after that until the Earth is engulfed inside the expanding Sun and turned into a burnt cinder.   I asked Lucy why she was so into the Sun and she said that she wanted to bone up on man made global warming and one thing led to another.


One other thing it led to was the fact that Mars is also going through a period of global warming right now that is much worse than the Earth’s.  Then it made sense to Lucy why we want to send people to live on Mars.


Obviously, humans must be a moderating factor when it comes to the extremes of global warming.   The poor Martians need humans living there to help them moderate their totally out of control global warming thing they have going on there right now.  Sadly, we can’t get there for a coupe pf decades and by then all of the Martians might be dead - anther species we could have saved .....


After 6 hours of retard.

Truthfully, I am more concerned about what is going to happen to us poor humans over the next billion years as the Sun tries to fry us.  Is there nothing we can do?  How do we get the 7 billion people living here now (and who knows how many billions more by then) off the Earth to another home by then when we can’t even get a couple of people to Mars in time to save the Martians from reallybad global warming?


After 18 hours of retard.

Thankfully, Lucy says she has the answer to that question already figured out.  It is comforting to know that and we can sleep well knowing we will be safe and sound and be able to easily defeat the Sun itself it comes knocking on our door like the grim reaper ......sooner than we think.


Off to this week’s Ancient meets New World bake including the 3 farros (not the pharaohs) from the Ancient World with potatoes and wheat from the New World…. even though wheat was introduced to the New World from the Old World but at least the wheat didn’t come from the Ancient World which would have ruined the whole post if you ask me.


The whole grains make up 50% of the flour in this mix, they were all sprouted and consisted of einkorn, emmer and spelt.   Boiled potato wasn’t enough so Lucy added potato flakes and used the water to boil the potatoes as the dough liquid.  In keeping with her penchant to put rye flour in every bread, she snuck some whole rye into the first of 3 levain builds.


She then retarded the finished levain for 12 hours when it doubled after the 3rd feeding.  There were 2 starters used of 6 g each.  Both were rye sour with the only difference being one had been stored in the fridge for 22 weeks and the other had been stored for only 6 weeks – another ancient and new twist according to Lucy.  The levain ended up being 15% pre-fermented flour.


After a 1 hour warm up of the levain and autolyse of the dough flour, now mashed potato, potato flakes and potato water with the pink Himalayan sea salt sprinkled on top, the levain was mixed in for the first of 6 sets of slap and folds- a new Lucy record for slap and folds and a move away from stretch and folds at the end to get the add ins well incorporated.


If you smoke some chicken thighs and country style ribs. you can make a tray of green chili, tomatillo, grilled onion and pepper, clour (or Florn) smoked meat enchiladas..

After 3 sets of 30 slap and folds on 30 minute intervals we did 3 sets of 4 slap and folds on 30 minute intervals when the seeds were added in.  The seeds included sunflower as well as chia and chopped flax seeds which were also soaked in 60 g of water so the chia seeds wouldn’t suck all the water out of the dough.  Instead of bulk retarding for 21 hours we decided to do a shaped retard of 18 hours.


Without a bulk retard on the counter we shaped the dough into a squat oval and placed it into a rice floured basket, bagged it in a trash can liner and in the fridge it went.  We checked it at 6 hours, thinking the bulk of proof would be over, the dough cold and it looked fine.


The net morning it was clear that the dough had continued to proof in the cold nearly as much as it had proof in the first 6 hours.  So much for the old idea that the proofing takes place early in the retard cycle before the dough gets too cold!  It looked a bit over proofed at the 18 hour mark, not horribly but definitely over proofed.

We immediately fired up Big Old Betsy to 500F with the Combo Cooker inside.  We un-molded the cold dough onto parchment on a peel.   It slashed easily and we slid it into the combo cooker and baked it at 450 F for 20 minutes covered.


When the lid came off we saw that the spring and bloom was less than usual die to the over proofing – but it did blister well with the dough being so cold.  We turned the oven down to 425 F and turned the fan on to dry the crust and brown it up.  5 minutes later we took the now set bread out of the cooker and put it on the stone to finish.


After 18 minutes of dry heat total, the bread thumped done and it had browned beautifully.  We turned off the oven and left the bread to crisp further on the stone with the oven door ajar for 5 more minutes.  We expect the crumb to be more open than usual because it always is when the dough goes through a shaped long retard and it over proofs a bit - and it seems to over proof every time this way too!


Lucy reminds us to not forget the salad to go with with that enchilada and the end of monsoon  Arizona sunset..

We will have to wait and see exactly what happened when we slice the bread for lunch in a few hours.  The crumb came out very soft moist and open for a bread of this type.  Most of all it is delicious.  The sprouted grains and seeds really came through and it made a fine summer sausage sandwich for lunch with the usual fixings.  We like this bread a lot,.



SD Levain Build

Build 1

Build 2

 Build 3



22 Week Retarded Rye Sour






Whole Rye






25 % Extract. Sprouted Ancient Grain






75 % Extract. Sprouted Ancient Grain
























Levain Totals






Sprouted Ancient and Whole Rye Grains












Levain Hydration












Dough Flour






LaFama AP






75 % Extract. Sprouted Ancient Grain






Total Dough Flour


















Potato Water












Dough Hydration






Total Flour w/ Starter






Potato Water & Water












Add Ins






Boiled Potato












Potato Flakes






15 g ea Cracked Flax & Chia






Sunflower seeds






Total Add Ins












Hydration with Starter






Total Weight






% Whole & Sprouted Grain












Sprouted Ancient Grain flour is equal amounts of: of einkorn, emmer and spelt







Water in Add ins not included in hydration calculations.





breadmd's picture

(Adapted from Blog titled, Sourdough Bread, Simpler by the author)


A Simple Recipe for Wild Yeast Starter:




Put 1/2 cup white flour and 1/3 cup water in a glass jar (at least quart sized) and mix it. Some bakers recommend a Dutch whisk, but I prefer a butter knife to mix the starter because it’s so easy to clean (scrape) off with another butter knife. Easy to clean up and almost no wasted starter. Win-win!




Repeat, adding the same amount and mixing again in 12 hours, then in another 12 hours, and do this for about a week, maybe two. Be patient. As the days pass, adjust the amounts of water and flour if necessary so that the combination is about the consistency of thick pancake batter. Over that period of time you‘ll notice the starter begins to bubble and smell yeasty.  After a couple of weeks, you can feed the starter once a day instead of twice. Keep the starter covered with the lid slightly cracked open between feedings.


That’s it! Simple. You have made your own, home grown, wild yeast starter. Congratulations! You’re now ready to make some delicious, truly homemade, sourdough bread and other sourdough goodness.


Keep reading for more detailed explanations below (the primer).


For those interested in talking about or learning about natural, wild-yeast starter (like me), I’ll post this separately from the above mentioned blog, which goes into the actual bread making (and add in here some starter-specific details). My hope is that the following explanations will lead to more success in making natural starter. I’ve tried to keep the process of making your own starter simple, and also to keep the maintenance of the starter simple as well. There’s nothing like unnecessary complexity to discourage a baker.


That said, I don’t consider myself the ultimate authority on starter (or on anything else)! So, please chip in, give your two cents, refute what I’m saying, correct me, and I’ll learn, too. All I have to offer is what I’ve read, tried, experimented with, failed on, and succeeded at.


Sourdough is said to be the holy grail of bread baking--harder to make then normal baker’s bread (or bread that uses yeast and sugar). It’s really not that hard, though, if you follow the method I’ve developed (see blog titled Sourdough Bread, Simpler).


You can do it (to include making your own starter). And…it’s so fun to successfully create something literally historic, rustic looking, full of that tangy flavor, chewy texture, and amazing aroma. You’ll only get that result by using what sourdough bread makers have used for eons—a good strong wild yeast starter. There’s simply no satisfactory substitute.


Learn this simple process, and you’ll impress friends and relish your very own sourdough. But, you’ll also feel a bit like you’re doing something that hearkens way, way back—a mystical, tangy, almost magical connection to those early bread makers.


From what I understand, sourdough was invented thousands of years ago (probably by accident) when flour and water were mixed and sat in the heat, fermenting. Yeast and bacteria began to grow, and the mixture consequently bubbled slowly (this batter-like stuff is what bakers today call “starter” when making sourdough bread).


Where do the microorganisms in the brew come from? I’m not sure this has ever been proven, but it must be from the air, water, or flour. I’m guessing the yeast comes mostly from the flour and air (naturally, which is why it’s often called wild yeast starter).


When starter is exposed to the cold (like overnight in ancient homes without much heat), yeast grows more slowly at those low temperatures. However, the bacteria grow via fermentation when it’s cold, which produces as byproducts both sugar and lactic acid. The lactic acid is what makes the sourdough sour.


When the next day dawns and warmth returns, the sugar is metabolized (eaten) by the warming (and therefore more active) yeast, which creates carbon dioxide as another byproduct (a gas). This causes leavening (rising of the dough, hence the little air spaces in bread). So, as you can guess, when some of the starter is mixed with additional water, flour, and salt, the resulting dough has the potential to rise because of the sugar and yeast which are present naturally, without being added separately by the baker. Back in the day, keeping a starter that had this culture of bacteria and yeast was essential to bake leavened bread.


You can buy starter online if you want. I think you’ll enjoy making your own, though. It’s easy and more satisfying.


The glass jar should have a very wide mouth and a way to cover it, but leave a small crack for air. I use an Anchor brand ½ gallon jar like this:

You can buy one at Wal-Mart or Amazon for about $10.


Here are a few more thoughts and important explanations:


When you have a good strong starter, you can keep it in the fridge and feed it less often (more on that below).


When you read about making sourdough bread, crackers, biscuits, and so forth, the recipe will often call for “fed starter.” This simply means the starter has recently (within an a few hours) had its daily dose of water and flour (hence, it’s been fed, or in other words, it’s had its food, and can stay alive--bubbling away). The starter is not fed (called “unfed” starter in recipes) if it’s been sitting for maybe 12 or more hours without the addition of new flour and water.


Let’s address the question, “Which flour and water to use when making starter?” Answer: Use white flour only. I don’t think it matters much if it’s all purpose or bread flour. Don’t use self-rising flour. You can use whole-grain wheat, or oat or other grain flours, but the odor of the starter will begin to be less than pleasant, euphemistically speaking. Some call the odor produced by whole grain starter, “skunky.”


Avoid water that has chlorine or metal. Some city water will be chlorinated, and the chlorine can reportedly interfere with the growth of the bacteria and yeast. I do know several people use city tap water, however, and have plenty of success with their starter, so don’t be overly afraid of tap water. Just a point of info if your starter isn’t bubbling and healthy and you don’t know why.


The caution about metal in the water is mostly aimed at those who use well water, like me. Metals can also inhibit the growth of bacteria and yeast. Some bakers will recommend filtered water or distilled water. Although we have lots of iron in our well water here in Colorado, we have some kind of a system set up in the basement that supposedly takes the iron out, but I know it’s not perfect. Even still, I’ve never had any problem with my water inhibiting the growth of the starter. I do get my water from the dispenser on the refrigerator because that water goes through one additional carbon filter.


Because it’s convenient, if you can use your own tap water, you are much more likely to find success making sourdough, especially over time. This is simply because few will want the inconvenience of buying gallons of distilled water to keep their starter going. Of course, for others, getting water that works is a small price to pay to be able to make this wonderful goodness.


Here is one way I depart with some bakers. I’ve never seen this advocated, but I keep my starter in the fridge, not on the counter. The reasons are several.


First, it works--at least it’s worked for me. I can see some advocating the idea that starter needs to be at room temperature to keep the yeast going. In my experience, the fridge works just fine. The dough rises well, and the starter keeps on bubbling along. Second, no fruit flies. One summer I had a fruit fly problem, and the little guys seemed to like the starter. Third, the starter is always ready, always sour. Most sourdough recipes have you keep the starter on the counter, make dough from it, and then refrigerate the dough to make it sour. No need for this step if you keep the starter in the fridge. Fourth, it’s easier to maintain. With the slower rate of growth cold temperatures require, there is less tendency toward undesirable mold growth on the starter. In fact, since I’ve been keeping the starter in the fridge, I haven’t seen any mold growth at all, unlike when the starter was kept at room temp.


If you don’t keep the starter in the fridge, you can keep it on the counter. You should feed it every day or two, same ½ cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water, mixed in well to the consistency of pancake batter.


A word of warning: making sourdough bread is a small commitment…and addictive. To the commitment point, refrigerated starter needs to be fed a ½ cup of flour and a 1/3 cup of water about once a week. It’s easy--it only takes a few minutes--and you can even take a break (more on that below). Still, it’s like having fish to feed or some other little mundane task that adds to your weekly duties.


But, don’t worry, when you go on vacation, you can put your starter in the refrigerator and when you get home it will be fine. You can do this for weeks at a time if you decide you’re tired of making sourdough for a while. I know of someone who put his starter in the fridge for the entire winter and it was still usable in the spring.


I have found that starter is very forgiving. The fridge helps discourage growth of mold. And, if some mold grows on the top, scrape it off, discard, and use what’s below. I’ve done this and have had no ill effects.


All the best in baking, and best of luck!





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