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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 is these differences that make this bread so
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 it's what we are hunting for
Now it is 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 is 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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