A sourdough starter is really not that complicated – it is just a mix of one part water and one part good flour that you leave on the counter and stir every day until it catches wild yeasts and bacteria from the air. But that’s theory. Because what we’re dealing with is a living organism it is, if anything, a relationship in the full sense of this word.
The relationship I’ve been having with my starter could be the grounds for a dramatic baker romance story, and it’s a work in progress. I’m still trying to know her and follow her appetites and moods, but we’re getting better at this.
Just like any relationship the one you develop with your starter will only get as complicated as you want it to, and will become more fulfilling as you start putting more thought and intention into it. For beginner bakers this means you don’t need to start following rules and charts and whatnot from day one. Go on a couple of dates, see how you interact – in other words, just keep that starter alive and keep baking. Things will go from there.
This is a picture of how we restore the love after a particularly cold stretch. I was out of flour for a while so I had to keep the jar in the fridge for over a week, something I only do in rare cases, and scoop out one teaspoon at a time when I needed it. Now my local miller is back after holidays, so we can get things rolling.
A little can go a long way, and about 25g is what I go with. There’s no need to be too precise with measurements.
In go 40g of water and 40g of flour. I only feed my starter organic rye flour and I found it works best for a number of reasons. It gives the little yeasts and bacteria plenty of good food and helps keep things steady. I also found it more versatile as it allows me to make dark rye bread, wholemeal and even all-white pastries like croissants, if I wean it properly. I like hearty rye and whole grain breads and I believe a white-ish starter wouldn’t work as great for me.
There she is – fed, content and ready for the night.
And look at her in about 12 hours! Breathing steady and ready for work!
I feed my starter like this every evening and so far we’ve been happy with each other. This relationship has yielded well over a hundred of fluffy and hearty loaves, with a few less-than-perfect ones in between to remind me that nothings is to be taken for granted. I’m still paying attention, trying to humor my starter without spoiling her too much, and I have faith that she will keep making me happy with her magic superpowers.
There’s nothing love can’t do!