I had a really hard time when I first attempted to make a sourdough starter. First of all, I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like. “Pleasantly sour”? That’s so entirely subjective! And tasting it?! All yeasty and sour and uncooked and blegh – ugh, no.
That right there is why my first attempt failed – I couldn’t bring myself to follow through.
This time I was determined to make it work. Who cares if the phrase “pleasantly sour” is subjective – that’s fine! It’s not going to taste the same everywhere. Part of the magic of making starters is that you’re incorporating elements of the environment into the dough. This starter uses yeast to get the process going in a more understandable fashion, but normally starters are made to grab the yeast naturally present in the environment. What I had to understand with the making of a starter is that you’re creating and nurturing a non-sentient living substance. You have to be patient, and you have to be willing to get involved and taste the progress as it’s evolving.
My starter has been going for just about a month, and each week I have been taking it out and refreshing it, and tasting it to ensure that it’s not getting too funky. At this point the sour of it is quite noticeable, and to my taste buds has not become unpleasant. I do wonder whether I will recognize an unpleasant sourness, but I have faith in myself that I will be able to address that issue should it arise.
As my starter develops, I’ll periodically revisit this page to add notes and give any tips and hints that I can to help understand the process.
2 cups potato water, lukewarm
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
2 tsp dry yeast
Stir all ingredients together. Set aside in bowl covered with cheesecloth. Stir once every 24 hours; taste each day, and continue process until it has a pleasantly sour taste – 4-7 days. Once it reaches that point, place into a jar large enough for it and place in fridge, again covered with cheesecloth.
Once a week, remove half of the starter (this can be used in baked goods or simply discarded) and mix in 1 cup water & 1 cup flour until smooth. Let sit covered on counter overnight. You should see bubbly activity during this time. Place back in fridge in a clean jar in the morning.
**Remember to taste the starter each week – preferably before you add the flour and water.
As time progresses, you’ll notice a clear or dark liquid at the top of the jar when you go to refresh it. This is nothing to fear: it’s the alcohol by-product of the starter existing as it should – just mix it right back into the starter before refreshing.