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                          The Secrets of Sourdough Starter

Bread making is as old as civilization itself, having been around since the first wheat fields
were cultivated.   Back then breads were circular, flat, and tough to eat.   Mankind had to
sit at the table pulling and twisting pieces off the hard round disks then sop the breads in
liquids before they even considered trying to chew it.  Finally, a magical ingredient was
discovered and added to the flour and water mix, when left to warm in the sun a wondrous
metamorphosis took place.  The flat bread rose taking on a lighter, easier to eat texture.

The yummy aroma fills your home and tickles your taste bud.  Just the mention of warm
homemade bread, sliced while  still warm, make our mouths water with desire.

I want to be clear before we start that this method relies on capturing and fostering wild
yeast and bacteria from the air, but it’s not dangerous and the biggest risk you run is
wasting a little flour on a batch that tastes too weird. Because the wild yeast and bacteria in
the air varies from area to area or even from home to home, your sourdough is going to
taste a little different than those you might find in San Francisco and those will taste different
than what you might get in a Minneapolis food delivery from a local baker. It’s these
differences that make this bread so fascinating.

This is not really a recipe as much as it is a method. The first step is very simple. Clean
everything. If you have a dishwasher, run a long metal spoon, mason jar and lid through the
cycle without any soap. The heat will essentially sterilize these items and make them a better
environment for your starter.

Add equal parts water and unbleached flour into your mason jar and mix with the spoon to
form a slurry. I suggest starting at around a cup of each. If it is too hard to stir, just add
some more water. This is not an exact science. If you want to discourage mold and bacteria
that you don’t want in your starter, you can add the juice of one lemon to increase the
acidity. The acidity that the bacteria produce is a natural defense against competition and itâ
€™s what we are hunting for here.

Now it’s a waiting game. Leave the mason jar uncovered for at least 12 hours and stir
from time to time. Once this time has passed, place the clean lid on the jar loosely and leave
it alone for 24 hours. You should come back to a few bubbles and perhaps a smell that
reminds you of hard cider. If so, awesome! If not, wait another day and check back. Once
it’s bubbling, add equal parts fresh flour and clean water once a day until it reaches a
volume of about 2/3 of the mason jar. Discard half of the starter and keep feeding it.
Repeat this process three times and transfer it to a gallon sized container. If you started in a
large container then there is no need, but you need a surprising amount of starter to make
one loaf of bread if you want a real sour punch. At this point your starter is ready to use.
Always only use half of the starter so you don’t have to start all over.

You can also get a head start by ordering a starter culture straight from the source. This is
what most bakeries do to ensure a more standardized flavor and a good culture lineage. Of
course, there are plenty of places selling real San Francisco starters, but I have found some
amazing flavors in other starters and more of them are being offered every day. Try out all
of them if you can. You never know what hidden gems you might find. I fell in love with the
bread I got in a Minneapolis food delivery that I later found out was from a place known as
Rustica. Most bakers and people who are passionate about sourdough are always happy to
chat, offer tips and some will even give you a part of their starter if you ask nicely. Who
knows, maybe one day your new culture will be so prized that you can start you own
bakery and people will clamor for your sourdough. I have been cultivating my own starter
for a few years now and I never have to
order another Minneapolis food delivery if I want fresh sourdough. I just have to plan ahead
and make my own!
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