June 25, 2022

Sourdough Basics - Sourdough 101

Sourdough Basics - Sourdough 101

Think you can't bake artisan sourdough bread at home?   You absolutely can, and I'm here to show you how! Sourdough is just a fancy term that means naturally leavening bread without the use of commercial yeast.   To get started is really quite simple with few things needed.  The most important part of your sourdough journey is having a reliable starter that has strength and activity to rise bread.  This is where we come in.  Enter Summit Sourdough and our amazing 125 year old heirloom starter.

A lot of people have this preconceived notion that sourdough is just that, sour!  I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be, although many people have come to love that hint of sour.  Sourdough can be sour, but it can also lack sour -- this is all customizable based on a number of factors including:

  • what you feed your starter
  • how long before feeds 
  • the type of flour you use
  • the maturity of the starter
  • how long the dough bulk ferments (and or) cold retards in the fridge

The Typical Sourdough Cycle

Sourdough starters will always run through a very distinct cycle.   This doesn't change between starters, although you will find timing does.   On established starters like Summit Sourdough, you can expect to see the active and rising stage last up to 12 hours.   It's truly an amazing culture!  Your starter will always go through the following cycle:
Inactive - Feed it - Active and rising - Inactive and falling
This cycle will repeat indefinitely as long as you feed your starter every day. This will ensure that your starter will be able to produce for years to come.  Now, there's more to it than this, so keep on reading to find out exactly how  to feed your starter with us and some other helpful tips!

Characteristics of Active Sourdough Starter

Once you have fed the starter, it may take a number of hours to reach the active sourdough stater state.   Your starter will appear quite thick. Active sourdough starter will have large bubbles and honey-combing throughout the starter, these will start to appear a few hours after feeding.  As your starter feeds, it will release gas in the form of bubbles.  They will develop more and more as time goes on during the active state.   The starter will appear a minimum 2x in size from when it was fed and it will be light, airy and even fluffy looking.  You'll find with Summit Sourdough that it is often spilling over the top of the jar and can remain in the active state for hours and hours allowing you more flexibility with your baking times.  

Characteristics of Inactive Sourdough Starter
Inactive sourdough starter (also sometimes referred to as discard) appears runny with  no rise.  There will be no or few bubbles on the starters surface and around the edge of the jar.  Any bubbles that have appeared will be extremely small and usually clustered very close together.   It is not uncommon for inactive starter to appear separated.   

 How to Feed Your Sourdough Starter

Once you've completed our easy rehydration process you'll be ready to bake up a storm.   Feeding your sourdough starter is easy, I promise you.  All you need is 5 minutes per day.  You will find that everyone does this a little bit differently, our go-to method is to feed a 1:1:1 ratio of starter : flour : water by weight in grams.   We never feed an established sourdough starter by volume in cups, ever.  Your starter will not receive the right amount of food and it will essentially starve... and rot.

I suggest for the everyday baker like yourself to keep around 100g of sourdough starter. Then, you will feed it 100g of water and 100g of flour.  In a few hours it will be a fully functional active starter ready to make what ever is on the docket for the day!  This process will continue over and over, making your starter last a lifetime.

How to use a Sourdough Starter

After your starter has become bubbly and active, you'll remove from your jar the amount you need.  Typically this is an amount in weight measured in grams.  You'll mix it into your recipe and go on from there.  The remaining amount of starter in your jar can be fed again to start to process over again.

Storage Options for your Sourdough Starter

If your an avid baker using your starter multiple times per week, you'll want to keep it on your counter.  I keep mine near my oven so it can get the residual warmth from the oven when it's on, but it's not so hot that it kills the culture.  I do not recommend keeping the starter in your oven with the light on, I have seen many starters become dead due to this.  It's just too hot!

For those who bake less regularly a few time per month, I have included very simple instructions on how to keep your starter safe in the fridge.  You will feed it and then store it in the fridge.   Your starter will slow down in the cool temperatures making the food last up to a few weeks.

Posted in basics beginner informational