i first learned about sourdough in intermediate baking with chef wetter. sourdough is so interesting! it is also a challenge because the yeast is alive and has its own personality. instant yeast is great for making a lot of great breads, but there’s always something special about sourdough.
to start a sourdough starter, people just leave out some flour and water and let the natural yeast in the air start colonizing in there. the flavor of your sourdough will be different depending on the wild yeast in the air in your area. i haven’t started my own starter; i think it is pretty challenging from what i hear. my sourdough starter is from the one chef wetter started about six years ago. to keep the starter going, it has to be fed regularly or else the yeast will run out of food, get too acidic, and die. for example, i feed mine once a week, leave it out for a little while, and then keep it in the fridge for the rest of the time. if you don’t feed it regularly, it might need to be revived. for long term storage, the starter can be put in the freezer and later revived.
for the past few months, i’ve been making sourdough every week. i named my sourdough “Fred.” it’s good to name your sourdough because he’s basically like your pet. well except you can put him in the fridge and freezer… anyway, it’s been a great learning experience figuring out the right schedule for Fred, and figuring out what conditions bring out his awesomeness the best. usually i feed him once a week, which means i take part of him, add flour and water, and knead him and beat him up a bit (helps develop gluten and incorporate oxygen). i am not an abusive parent to my sourdough! it’s what he needs. anyway, then i take another part of him as the starter for my weekly bread. the rest i toss. you have to toss part of your sourdough every time or else he’ll just keep getting bigger and bigger.
this week i had a breakthrough! actually first Fred kind of became dormant, and i was worried about him. for Fred to be ready to make bread, he has to be able to double in size after feeding in 6-8 hours. he hardly was rising in 8 hours, so i had to go back to the revival schedule and feed him once a day until he was ready. he was really kicking after that! doubling in a good 6 hours. i think one mistake i was making was i would feed him and put him straight into the fridge, which means the yeast didn’t have the chance to multiply enough for the next week. i think he needs to stay out for about an hour after feeding, and probably needs to come out of the fridge for a couple hours before his next feeding.
so anyway, this week the bread was really beautiful. great crust, nice soft fluffy interior, and great flavor. GOOD JOB, FRED!!!