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Re: Sourdough starter for Dianne, Christa and Anne

I'm posting this as a discussion for the ladies who got a starter today. It's ok in the plastic Baggie for a couple of days in the fridge but soon it would be good to put it into the jar you plan to keep it in and feed it with 1/4 cup of plain flour and a little less than 1/4 cup of water (best if previously boiled and cooled).  After it becomes bubbly and frothy in a few hours you can divide it in half (each half should be close to 50g) then feed each half the same again.  Put one half back in the fridge until the next time you want to make bread and leave the other on the bench.  When the starter you have left out gets bubbly and active again you are ready to make dough - or delay it by feeding again.

To make a basic loaf of sourdough with this starter I use a recipe based on 'everyday sourdough.' Recipe of Emilie  Raffa from the blog 'The Clever Carrot' and the brilliant book 'Artisan Sourdough Made Simple'.  Emilie is was given her original starter by the same lady who gave me mine -Celia of 'Fig Jam and Lime Cordial' blog.  The reason this is significant is that this particular starter performs perfectly for all the recipes in the book.

So the basic recipe from memory is:-

50 g of starter 

350g water

500g bread flour

9g of salt (about 1 1/4 teaspoon)

You just combine the lot ( I mix the salt with water first, then starter then flour). Many recipes say to add the salt after the other ingredients have been mixed together and left for 20minutes or so but I have never found it made a bit enough difference in the texture of the bread to bother. I mix it together roughly, then leave it for half an hour. Then I pull up one side of the dough and fold it on top, turn the dough a quarter turn, pull and fold. I do this for about ten folds and soon the dough becomes more smooth and elastic. The turning shapes it into a nice ball which I flip over so the seam is down. I put a little bit of oil on the ball so it doesn't dry out, cover with a damp tea towel and leave on the counter overnight (or 10 hours during day) or fridge during summer.

In the morning, I work the now puffy ball out of the bowl without deflating the dough too much and transfer onto a piece of parchment paper, usually sprinkled with polenta. I lift that paper and dough back into the bowl and cover again to rise. I find in about 45minutes it is ready to slash with a sharp knife or razor blade. I lift it into a Dutch oven (with lid) or put into a pie pan with a steel bowl upside down over it  and put into a hot 250c oven. If I use a soaked Romatopf clay baker it goes into a cold oven.  If possible another pan in the bottom of the oven with some water in it will give some steam which can help with 'oven spring'.

After 30minutes covered, I take off the lid and leave for another 20 minutes to brown. I usually turn down the oven to 200 at this point. When done take it out and wait until cool to slice.  

Once you have made this recipe a couple of times you can play with other flours etc, add fruit and nuts etc.  Better yet, buy Emilie's terrific book and make her recipes.

Hope this helps you get started with sourdough. 

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Anyone had a chance to bake yet?

I took my starter out of the fridge and feed it this afternoon but when I put the feed in I noticed my starter is very thick, the consistency of the best cream you can buy that if you turn it upside down nothing will fall out. Is this OK? There are a few bubbles on the top after about 2 hours being left out of the fridge. I might bring him (Jo) into the office where it is warmer as the kitchen is quite cold, what do you think?

I think it's probably fine. Often if you haven't fed for a while you'll notice a slightly grey liquid on the top which you can just drain away  (it's called hooch and indicates that it's eaten up all the goodies in the mixture and needs another feed). Feed it again in the morning and you'll be ready to make the dough up when it gets bubbly. You could possibly bake in the evening then.

I find that the starter gets better after being fed and left on the bench each day for a few days. Hence why Emily recommends taking it out of the fridge on Thursday if you want to bake on the weekend. I thoroughly recommend the olive bread recipe from her book. The olives act are inner steam producer and the results is fabulous. I made one without the parmesan this morning and it taste just as good. 

I also recommend the extra stretches and folds before the long rise. The rise will be all the better for it. 

Thanks for this Cathie.  I have just got my sour dough starter out that you gave me and I'm determined to try it.  

Question 1:  I've fed as per what you have said -> do I leave the lid on or off or off covered with towel?

Question 2:  You only knead once??

I'm being very brave and starting my first loaf

Lid can be on or off Susan, as long as it has room to grow. I divide the starter that I take out of the fridge - I only store about 100g so that means 50g for each container. I feed the one to go back in the fridge and I use a measuring jug for the one I feed and leave on the bench to get bubbly. I usually cover with a bit of plastic wrap to keep out little bugs.  

Kneading/stretch and fold  - up to you. In this post I described the easiest way I prepare a sourdough loaf when I am busy.  I find it makes an excellent tender crumb that my family enjoys very much. If I have more time and am so inclined, I may come back to the kitchen a couple more times at half hour intervals after that initial stretch and fold and do the same again.  It will improve the stretch of the strands of gluten.  However, to be perfectly honest with you I am often pulling the dough together at the end of the evening, letting it pre-ferment overnight to be baked in the morning, and I don't always bother. It is another step and makes only just a little difference in my experience. But I never do hardcore kneading like I used to with bread made from bought yeast. 

One thing more, if you have had this starter in the fridge for a while and haven't been feeding it frequently it may need building up for a couple of days - ie leave out and feed a few times until is is really bubbly and active before using. If you aren't baking much I would recommend still taking it out, dividing, feeding and putting back in the fridge every week or so. Oh and since you had to do that - why not bake? Or make sourdough pancakes? I will post the recipe I use today for anyone interested.

Thanks Cathie, (Richard) is looking really good now, as it is getting a bit late now to start I will feed him again before I go to bed. I will be out tomorrow so won't be able to bake until tomorrow night. It's OK I am used to late nights, you have to be if you make Cheese. I will take a Pic of my loaf when finished.

Dianne, I find this starter is so resilient I can 'park' it at any stage and come back to it later. So if I have it bubbly on the counter, and suddenly can't continue, I can put it in the fridge and just take the 50g from it to make dough when I get back. Or if I make the dough and run out of time to bake in the morning, I can leave dough in the fridge til evening. It only continues to pre-ferment longer and may taste a little more sour.  

Haven't had a chance to bake yet, my book arrived in the mail.  Unfortunately I picked up a bug and spent a day in bed.  I have managed to grow 3 jars of starter as I don't want to loose it.  Hopefully Monday will be baking day.

Hope you are feeling better Christa.  Don't stress about losing your starter too much, we can always share again! Did you know you can spread some of it out on a baking sheet and dehydrate it, break into flakes and freeze it for a guarantee against future losses? And you can mail it to friends that way! That's how it came to me in the first place.

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