Keeping a Sourdough Starter Alive October 21, 2021 on JB's Blog Tags: baking, sourdough

Contents

A little about my starter

The Lost Boys: A few years ago I tried to create a couple of starters from flour, water and air. These were known as Peter Pain1 Mk1 and Mk2. The fact I tried more than once says it all - making a sourdough starter from scratch isn’t easy. Both sadly never made anything more than a boule or two, all of which resembled discuses2. So I resorted to plan B.

Peter Pain Mk3: Around October 2019 I purchased a small envelope of dried sourdough starter from John Kirkwood3 via his website profoodhomemade.com. I’ve fed it almost every week and have used it to bake some great bread (if I do say so myself) and a wide array of other things. It is still going strong and I highly recommend getting a well established starter if you want to take up baking sourdough.

Looking after a Sourdough Starter

I recently changed how I look after my starter and now use a technique called the scrapings method which I learnt from Bake with Jack4. I have included both methods below as they both have a use.

Before getting to the methods, there are a few things that are useful to know when looking after a starter:

What is a Feed?

A feed simply means giving the starter new flour and water so it can continue to grow. The ratios may vary depending on your answers above, but for me (1:1 ratio) I feed as follows:

  1. Mix 1 part starter with 2 parts filtered water (doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed)
  2. Add 2 parts flour and mix until no dry flour is visible
  3. Scrape down the sides of your container to stop starter drying onto the sides
  4. Loosely cover and put in a safe place

This same formula is used for making a levain, which is then used to make bread.

(#1) The Scrapings Method

This method is less wasteful since you don’t really discard any starter. It also means you don’t have to find a load of recipes to use up your discard and is very easy to pull off.

  1. A day or so before you wish to bake with the starter, feed the starter so that it is active. The first time you do this you will have to discard, but subsequently you should have the perfect amount for a feed in the jar.
  2. On bake day, use the active starter straight from the jar to make your bread.
  3. After using the starter for baking, simply scrape down the sides of the jar and put it in the fridge ready for next week.
  4. When next week comes around you can start at step one again.

Example:

(#2) The Discard Method

This method is great if you want to make lots of things with the discard (more on that later). It is also useful if you bake less frequently than once a week. I still use this method when I don’t bake in a given week and I need to recharge my starter, or if I don’t use the full amount of starter I made.

  1. Weigh the jar with the starter in and deduct the jar weight. This is how much starter you have. From this calculate how much to discard.
    • Example: Total weight = 500g and jar weight = 250g, then starter weight = 250g, so discard = 200g to have 50g for feed.
    • Example 2: Total weight = 410g and jar weight = 250g, then starter weight = 160g, so discard = 110g to have 50g for feed.
  2. “Discard” the amount you calculated.
    • For me this means putting it into a bowl and into the fridge so I can use it for something else. You could bag and bin it though if you aren’t going to use it.
    • You can also use this “discard” to make a levain for baking or if the discard is active, even use that directly to bake.
  3. Perform a feed and put the starter back in the fridge.

Example (No Bake):

Example (Bake):

Both methods have a place and I used both when it’s needed. I try to waste as little as possible by using the scrapings method predominantly, but something I don’t bake and need to feed to keep everything alive and that is where the discard method comes in handy.

Some on my favourite Sourdough recipes

(Active) Sourdough Loaf

  1. Mix 250g active starter with 700g room temperature filtered water until a few small chunks of starter remain.
  2. Add 1kg of white bread flour and mix to combine, making sure no dry flour remains.
  3. Cover and leave for 45 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle over 20g of fine sea salt and 50g of room temperature water, dimple this into the dough with your fingers, then mix to incorporate.
  5. Perform 3 stretch and folds over the next 2 hours then allow to bulk ferment until doubled in size.
  6. Tip the dough out, split and shape into a shape of your choosing
  7. Cover and keep in fridge overnight.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes in a 200c oven.

(Active) Sourdough Pizza

Recipe by: Joshua Weissman

  1. Mix 700g all purpose flour, 14g fine sea salt, 98g active starter and 490g water.
  2. Perform 3 stretch and folds and 30 minute intervals to build structure.
  3. Refrigerate dough overnight
  4. Shape dough balls (Recipe makes 4)
  5. Proof dough balls for 5 hours
  6. Refrigerate until ready, up to 1-2 days

(Active) Sourdough Focaccia

Recipe: Alexandra Cooks

(Discard) Sourdough Crepe

  1. Combine 1 egg, 150g sourdough starter and a splash of milk in a bowl and whisk to form a thin batter.
  2. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a large frying pan or crepe pan.
  3. Add melted butter to batter and stir to combine.
  4. Add a thin layer of batter to the pan and cook until edges start to pull away from the pan, then flip and cook on the other side for 30 seconds to a minute.
  5. Keep crepes warm in the oven and serve with your favourite toppings.

(Discard) Sourdough Spring Onion Savoury Pancake

  1. Heat a little oil in a small to medium non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Pour the discard directly into the pan.
  3. Add sliced spring onions and a generous sprinkle of sesame seeds to the top and cover for 3 minutes.
  4. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until onions are dark brown and caramelised.
  5. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce or a mixture of soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil

  1. pain: French for bread and pronounced pan ↩︎

  2. discus: A disk, typically wooden, plastic or rubber with a metal rim, that is thrown for distance in athletic competitions. ↩︎

  3. Retired professional chef turned YouTuber ↩︎

  4. Baking YouTube Channel ↩︎

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