Sourdough, Part 1: Starter

Little Jar o' Starter

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  I am.  But only because my role is to (1) show up, and (2) eat.  My in-laws always cook a great meal, my husband is in charge of the green bean casserole (gourmet, not gross!) that we are bringing, and he also plays the role of “entertainer” while I kick back and put my feet up.

Yes, I know how lucky I am.

Since I’ve been working nonstop for the last 10 days to roll out all of the Chocolate Advent Calendars for my business, I’m really looking forward to a few hours off.  I’m not saying a day off, because I know the honest truth is I’ll be doing some kind of work on Thursday.  Guaranteed.

So here is what I’m really looking forward to, other than a nice relaxing holiday meal on Thursday–I’m really looking forward to Saturday morning.  Why, you ask?  Because Saturday morning in the fall and winter means Sourdough Waffles (or pancakes, if you like).

Sourdough?  Pancakes?  Yes, really.  My family has been making them from as far back as I can remember.  They ruined me for all other pancakes, and waffles too–they are not heavy, or cakey, they don’t sit in your stomach all day, oh no.  They are light, and flavorful, and not too sweet, and perfect for any topping you like.  Which in my family, is absolutely, unequivocably, without fail, peanut butter.

The one drawback to these yummies is that you do have to plan ahead.  One night ahead.  So mark your calendars!  On Friday evening, make sure you do the following:  (and then I will be back with Part 2, which you will do on Saturday morning).

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough has a long and colorful history, which I am linking to rather than trying to paraphrase.  If you’ve only had sourdough bread, you really have to try the pancake and waffle version–while similar, they are still a whole different animal.  They don’t necessarily have the sour tang of the bread, particularly if you are using a “new” starter, which you are here.  You can keep your starter for weeks and months and years (instructions coming in Part 2), or you can start fresh each time–it all depends on your level of investment in starter maintenance.  I’ve killed many starters over the years, so I have resorted to fresh each time, although I’m going back to the living starter this time, we’ll see how long it lasts!

2 cups flour

2 cups warm (not hot!) water

1 packet (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

Warm a mixing bowl by filling it with hot water, waiting a minute, and then dumping it out.  Add the flour, warm water, and yeast to the bowl.  Mix gently, just until most of the lumps have disappeared.  Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a nice warm spot; leave to rest overnight, or at least 6 hours.

After your mixture has been allowed to rest at least 6 hours, it should be bubbly and fragrant.  This is called a “sponge”.  You’ll use it for the base of any sourdough item you make.

If you want to maintain a living starter (which is what a true sourdough is made from), mix together your sponge, and then remove 1/4 cup.  This becomes your starter–you’ll store it in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator, and the next time you make a sponge, you’ll use the starter instead of a packet of yeast.

The point of a living starter is to develop a deeper sourdough flavor, which only happens over time.  The key to maintaining your starter it using it!  Make sure to use it at least once a month.  Or, even if you don’t follow through an make anything with the sponge, you can “feed” your starter by mixing it up with flour and water (you can use less, say 1/2 cup of each) and letting it sit overnight, just like with a sponge, and then removing 1/4 to save as starter again.

And of course, you can also make a fresh sponge each time, if you don’t care to maintain a starter.

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2 thoughts on “Sourdough, Part 1: Starter

  1. Oh my gosh I need to try these pancakes! I mean, first the starter, of course.

    I hope you have a great Thanksgiving! The best kind of Thanksgiving is one where you don’t have to do all of the cookin’. 😮

  2. Pingback: Sourdough, Part 2: Pancakes/Waffles! « Chocolate & Toast

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