I’ve always had a fear of yeast breads in general and thought they were really complicated, especially sourdough. Rising times, feeding it, length of time from start to finished product, etc. However, I’ve recently realize how un-complicated bread can be.
Feeding Your Starter: Apart from the beginning, where you must feed so much and discard so much, maintaining a starter is relatively easy. I keep mine on the counter, not the fridge, so I don’t forget about it. I started out feeding “Doughlores” or Delores, 100 grams flour/100 grams water, but reduced it to 50 grams each. This allows it to be healthy, yet not out of control. Find what amounts work for you and your baking schedule. Keeping it in the fridge slows growth, but I would totally forget mine, so no fridge for me. You can also feed it any flour, but it should be started with a wheat or rye. I like to alternate between wheat/rye/spelt.
Discard: Finding ways to use up discard can be challenging. However, I’ve enjoy searching Pinterest for different ideas and have a couple of go-to cookbooks as well. I’ve used Doughlores for the compost bin, pancakes, waffles, and even cookies. Your starter will provide a unique flavor and texture to whatever you make. Cookies will be cake-like and waffles will have a nice tang! And let’s just say, you won’t be buying bread at the store anymore. The homemade kind tastes so much better and is healthier when you are controlling the ingredients.
Replacing Yeast in Recipes: This can be a tricky one. I’ve had many misses and a few successes. My initial sourdough cookbook purchase was for New World Sourdough, by Bryan Ford. It’s geared towards more intermediate bakers, but beginners can still learn. His recipes always begin with a levain, so basically you are taking a portion of starter, feeding it and allowing it to develop before putting the dough together. My initial “scientific” Pinterest findings were that 100 grams of starter equals a packet of yeast. So, I applied this to a bread I make regularly. I basically took 100 grams of starter and added equal amounts of flour and water from the recipe for a levain. When I was ready to put the dough together, I simply reduced the flour/water by what I added to my starter. Please keep in mind that the texture/flavor profile will be different based on your starter and what kind of flour you feed it. Also, don’t be afraid to add more flour or water to help the dough come together. Rising times will need to be doubled or tripled, depending on the temperature of your house and the weather. Eventually, you will be able to tell when your dough is ready with lots of practice and patience!
Baking has always been a comfort to me and even more so during this super-crazy year! I’m so glad I overcame my bread fears and succumbed to making all kinds of sourdough creations.