I LOVE sourdough!
I love to watch it bubble, and listen to the light “snap, crackle, pop” as the sponge grows and gets ready to make bread.
I love the science of it, and the taste of it.
I love the self reliance associated with being able to grow my own yeast and make breads without going to the store for yeast or baking powder, both of which have short shelf lives.
One of the things that is foremost in my mind since we started down this journey of self reliance is this:
What if there were no stores?
When I am living on my homestead over an hour from any store, and with probably not enough cash to buy some of the things I may want or need, what then?
So I am constantly on the lookout for ways to make due, or to make things without needed storebought items.
Bread was probably my first experiment. Just about everyone starts with a garden. But as I mentioned earlier, I started with making biscuits several years ago. I branched out to making bread, but all the recipes called for store bought yeast. One day I thought to myself, “What if I can’t buy yeast anymore, then what?”
That’s when I discovered sourdough. And I haven’t looked back!
The trick to sourdough is having a strong viable starter. The sourdough starter is a living thing that needs to be fed, and paid attention. I call it my starter baby. It prefers to be used everyday, but as long as you feed it, it can be kept in the refrigerator for a short while.
Of course it is always better to get a starter from a friend whenever possible, or you can buy starter cultures through the internet. I was originally introduced to sourdough in one of my mother’s old cook books. I now call what I learned there the “down and dirty, instant starter method”. Take 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, and 1 packet instant dry yeast from the store and let sit overnight. Voila… Starter! The longer you can keep it alive and the more you use it, the more sour the flavor will become.
If you do not have instant yeast or let’s say you let your starter “die”, are your bread making days over???
Yeast is actually “a microscopic fungus consisting of single oval cells that reproduce by budding, and are capable of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.”
These cells float around in the air and exist on surfaces, fruit, and even in flour itself. If you leave a flour and water mixture out on the counter in a warm place, it will collect the floating and falling particles of yeast, or use their existing yeasts. These collected yeasts will begin to eat the flour and reproduce producing gasses in the form of CO2, and lactic acid. It is the gasses that cause the bread to rise and the lactic acid that imparts the classic “sour” flavor to sourdough.
Here are a couple of detailed instructions on how to make your starter by catching wild yeast. Pick one that resonates with you.
How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter… – King Arthur Flour
How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter – Cooking Lessons from the Kitchn
7 Easy Steps to Making an Incredible Sourdough Starter From Scratch – The Perfect Loaf