Making a Sourdough Starter Part II: The 1st Feeding & Discard
If you are just tuning in, you will probably want to begin by reading Part I of this series. If not, you will miss some crucial steps. I have been working on making a sourdough starter from scratch since yesterday. Read on for the step-by-step instructions.
When I woke up this morning, I simply could not wait to check on my sourdough starter! I have been working on building patience, but as my mom says, I shouldn’t pray for it since we know what happened to Job (in the Bible of Christianity). I don’t have any sheep, oxen, camels, servants, or children, but I’d like to keep my sourdough starter!
When I opened the pantry, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my sourdough starter had nearly doubled in size compared to when I first concocted it yesterday.
I had read on King Arthur Flour to not expect much activity within the first 24 hours. I am not sure what to make of my sourdough starter being so active early on, but I am hoping it’s not a bad thing. I think it may simply mean that I kept the sourdough starter at an ideal temperature and there is plenty of wild yeast in my kitchen. This is most likely the case, as I bake with yeast about 2-3 times a week. I have found over time that my yeast breads require less yeast than many recipes call for, because of the abundance of yeast in my kitchen. I almost always get a good rise fairly quickly. If you do not bake with yeast often, your kitchen may not have a lot of wild yeast present. If your starter did not grow quite as much as mine in the first 24 hours, do not be discouraged. Patience is key when growing your own sourdough starter.
Tip: If you notice any mold growing in your container anywhere, you must discard your sourdough starter, thoroughly sanitize your container, and start anew. To prevent this from happening in the future, make sure you scrape as much starter as possible off the sides of the container before storing it. Little bits of starter dried to the inside of the container are a feasting ground for mold. As the starter develops, the acidity of the starter will prevent mold formation, but in the beginning, the higher pH may allow for some mold growth. Apparently, growing a sourdough starter is an application of chemistry!
Day #2 Recipe Steps
- Step 1: Stir down the sourdough starter.
When I removed the plastic wrap from the container, I could detect a faint fruity odor. That’s good! Yeast smells a little fruity and slightly sweet. As a nurse, I can attest to this (yeast growing on body parts also smells lightly fruity and slightly sweet…oh, my imagination is getting me into trouble…yeasty body parts and bread dough do not mix).
Notice how the starter sinks when I poke it with the spoon. The trapped gases are being released.
- Step 2: Measure out half of the starter. There should be about 4 oz. remaining.
- Step 3: Discard the rest of the starter.
*Note: I absolutely detest the idea of throwing away food, and if you are a home baker, you may feel the same. But according to my research, it is not safe to use the discard starter at this time. As I mentioned before, as the starter grows, it will become more acidic. The acidity will kill most microorganisms, leaving you with yeast and lactobacillus bacteria. (The lactobacillus bacteria’s waste product is lactic acid, which is what gives sourdough bread its tang!) However, in a baby starter like mine at this point, there probably is not enough acid to kill off other microorganisms, so there could be all kinds of things growing in my starter. I do not want to eat those! So with much grief, I will discard half of my starter.
- Step 4: Feed the starter that is now back in your sourdough starter storage container.
There are a lot of different recommendations about what to feed your baby starter. King Arthur Flour says to switch to unbleached all-purpose flour (APF), but other sources say to ease the transition by feeding a combination of APF and whole-wheat flour (WWF). I decided to feed mine 1 oz. of WWF and 3 oz. of APF today (about 1 cup total) and switch to all APF tomorrow. The starter also needs more non-chlorinated water, so add 4 oz. of that as well (1/2 cup). I used lukewarm water so as not to startle the yeast. It should feel a little cool if you stick your finger in it (the water, not the starter…do not stick your finger in the starter…well, you can if you really want to…I don’t think it will eat you).
Tip: You do not need to wash out your storage container every time you feed. Some sources suggest putting the starter in a clean container from time to time, but it is not necessary at this point.
- Step 5: Stir in your feeding, making sure there are no dry bits of flour in your storage container.
After thoroughly stirring in the first feeding, this is what the starter looks like.
- Step 6: Scrape down the sides of the container. I used a rubber spatula to do this. Remember, leaving little bits of sourdough starter up on the sides of the container may encourage mold growth. Mold = bad!
- Step 7: Loosely cover the container and return the starter to its warm spot. I am using the same plastic wrap from yesterday.
- Step 8: Wait 24 hours.
I plan on checking on mine again before bed since it seems to be growing rapidly. I once made a no-knead dough and put it in a large dough bucket in the refrigerator. When I opened the refrigerator to check on the dough the next day, the dough had exploded out of the container, busted the lid of the bucket and knocked a shelf loose in the refrigerator! There was dough everywhere stuck to everything, the refrigerator shelf was broken, there were pieces of dough bucket in the dough, and I had to throw everything out. I wish there had been a camera inside of my fridge so I could have recorded my expression. Absolute horror!
Recipe Quick-Read Version
For those of you who do not want to sift through my ramblings, this is the down and dirty of Day #2:
- Stir down starter.
- Discard half of starter.
- Add in 1 cup of AFP/WWF ( ¼ c. WWF, ¾ c. APF) and ½ cup of non-chlorinated water and stir, leaving no dry flour.
- Scrape down sides of container.
- Cover loosely and return to warm storage spot for 24 hours.
I will see you again tomorrow with an update on Baby Starter and to discuss the feeding process for days 3-6.
While this process sounds time-consuming, it actually took less than 10 minutes and that is taking into account video and photo-shooting. Without pictures and video, it would take about 5 minutes total.
I just checked on my sourdough starter 5 hours after its 1st feeding, and it had more than tripled! I didn't know what to do as it was nearing the top of the 4-cup measuring cup I was using to store it. I contacted the wonderful folks at King Arthur Flour's chatline and was told that the starter is "happy" and there is "no need to be concerned." However, I will have to move it to a larger container, which should cause no problems either. Shew, crisis averted!
Part III Recipe
Part III of the series is now posted here with detailed instructions for feeding the sourdough starter on days 3-6, plus some thoughts on food, family, and tradition.
© 2012 Leah Wells-Marshburn