Sourdough 101: Part 1 of 2

Alright, today I’m going to be sharing something with you that I’m still learning about myself. I started learning about sourdough starters and sourdough bread last week. I was sharing my experiments with you all on Facebook and had a lot of requests to post recipes and instructions. Can I just say – I’M TOTALLY NEW AT THIS, and hesitant to even share because it’s kind of like the blind leading the blind here… but I’ll just tell you what I learned. That is actually how we started our blog in the first place, so it feels familiar to be totally clueless over here!

Today I’m going to share some research, and basic information on sourdough and sourdough starters. Then next week I’ll share the recipe for the bread I made.

What is Sourdough?

So, before learning about sourdough this last weekend, to me sourdough was a yummy bread I got at restaurants, dipped in oil and vinegar. Whenever I would eat said yummy bread, I would think to myself, if only this could be whole wheat- maybe then I wouldn’t feel so guilty. Well technically defined, sourdough is:

So, basically… I guess you can say…sourdough is a way of making bread (or pizza dough, pancakes, pretzels) leaven, or “rise”. Sounds kind of nasty when you say words like fermenting, but it’s the truth. And you’ve probably all eaten it.

What is a Sourdough Starter?

You may have gotten one of those Amish Friendship Bread Starters and made a sweet bread at some point in your life. I had, but I didn’t get what it really was. I’m not even entirely sure if it’s the same thing as what I did this weekend, but that is the only sourdough starter experience I had ever had.

The sourdough starter I used was a mixture of whole wheat flour and water, put through a process of mixing, and waiting to get it bubbly. I used the sourdough starter as part of my recipe in my bread. The starter is what made it leaven or rise.


How do I make a Sourdough Starter?

The sourdough starter I used was made by a friend of a friend of a friend, who actually turned out to be one of my friends too. Anyways, she made it following a process similar to the one found at this link. When I was talking about sourdough starters on facebook, one of our readers shared this link and it sounded like the process my friend used. Since I’m new at this, I decided my first experiment ought to be with a tried and tested starter. I think I’ll venture into trying to make my own one day because I think it’s a good skill to have, but for now I’m happy with mine.

After you have your starter made, you use most of it in a recipe, then you “feed” what is left with more flour and water, and then it grows and you can use it again. You keep repeating that process over and over again.

I would recommend you find a friend who may already have one going and ask if you can “have” some of their starter. They probably will know what you are talking about, and it turns out, it’s not that weird to share starters.

Where do I buy a Sourdough Starter?

So it seems as though you can buy starters. Like I’ve said a few times, I’M NEW AT THIS, so I don’t really know… but with a little internet research it looks like you can buy some at King Arthur Flour. It appears as though there are some really good reviews on this product, so it might be worth trying.

What are the Benefits of using Sourdough Starters?

So from an Emergency Preparedness standpoint, knowing how to make a sourdough starter is a great skill. Learning how, and being able to make bread from only wheat, water, salt and starter is a REALLY good thing. You never know what ingredients may run out, go bad, or not be around. I’m really excited to be learning more about this and look forward to messing around making my own starter one day.

Not only is it a good skill to have, turns out this kind of bread has some health benefits. Some more internet research led me to this article by Shannon at Simplebites.net that was very interesting. The part I liked the most from this article was this:

Like all other fermentation processes, the bacteria present in the sourdough starter eat the starch and sugars present in the grain. This results in a lowering of the starch or carbohydrate content of the bread, which is helpful for keeping blood sugar levels regulated. It also increases some of the vitamin and mineral content of the grain.

For a mom of three trying to lose baby weight, I don’t mind hearing words like “lowering carbohydrate content”.

Another article I found interesting is called “Sourdough for Health” and can be found here.

Come back next week for Part 2

Next week, I’ll share the recipe I used, with step-by-step instructions on how I made this bread! If you’re interested in trying this out, perhaps in the meantime you can work at getting your own starter either going, borrowed, or bought. In the words of my dear husband: “It seems like these food storage experiments you go about doing are scary and confusing when you start, but after you do them once they actually aren’t that hard”. Updated: Here is the link to the BREAD recipe!