What is a Sourdough Starter? (And why you should want One!)
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A sourdough starter is a living culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that can be used to leaven (raise) bread and other baked goods. It's a mixture of unique starter culture, flour, and water that, when combined and left to ferment, develops into a robust colony of microorganisms. These microorganisms interact to create the characteristic flavours, textures, and rise of sourdough bread.
You keep your sourdough starter in a covered jar in your kitchen, and usually give it a name and talk to it once in a while. It is like a very useful pet! A sourdough starter in it's jar will usually looks something like this:
Ok, but why would I want a Sourdough Starter Exactly? Be specific Please!
Sure! Here are a few reasons, starting with the best one!
1. Sourdough Bread tastes Really Good!
Sourdough bread is characterized by its complex and tantalizing flavour profile. The natural fermentation process in a sourdough starter creates a blend of tanginess, nuttiness, and a hint of sweetness. Commercial bread simply wont compare to the amazing flavour that you will get with your very own sourdough loaves. Even if your baking efforts don't look perfect at first, they will almost always be delicious!
2. Sourdough Bread is Healthy!
I just checked, and I am still not a doctor, however many of my customers choose sourdough baking for the pretty exciting potential health benefits, especially compared to conventional bread. The fermentation process in sourdough starters acts to break down gluten and phytic acid found in wheat, making it more digestible for many. Sourdough bread also typically has a lower glycemic index, which may help regulate blood sugar levels. The beneficial bacteria present in sourdough can also contribute to improved gut health.
Sourdough bread is a fantastic source of resistant starch (look it up!) which can help your micro-biome flourish. Finally, you make sourdough bread yourself with three simple ingredients, flour, salt and water.
3. Sourdough Starters make more than just Loaves of Bread!
While my customers love making sourdough bread, a sourdough starter opens up a world of other delicious treats! Please take a look at my Instagram or Facebook to see my customer's bagels, pancakes, waffles, pizza crusts, cinnamon rolls, desserts, amazing english muffins, and much much more. When I think I have seen it all my fun and creative customers will always surprise me with something new!
4. More money for Gold Mining Supplies and Dogsled Teams!
The 1890s Klondike Gold Miners did not pay $$$ for bread, and you don't have to either! Like them you can bake endless loaves for a small investment in basic supplies, not to mention all the other delicious options mentioned above, most of which have flour, water and salt as their only ingredient! I can say from experience that friends and family are usually VERY excited to receive a present of a fresh sourdough loaf, and the furthest thing from their mind will be the pennies it cost you to make!
5. Baking bread is Fun.
Ok it might be a bit scary your first time for the perfectionists in the crowd... But just dive in! Even the mistakes will be delicious. My 150 year old San Francisco Sourdough Starter is laid back and you should be too. Sourdough recipes are usually (but not always) slower and more methodical that baking with commercial yeast, but this relaxed pace is also what Kensington Sourdough enjoys the most! Get a mixing bowl out, unplug, and get your hands in some dough! Humans have been baking bread like this for thousands of years, and I promise you can too!
OK! I'm In! How is this all going to Work??
Excited to begin your sourdough journey? Rest assured, the process is simpler than it might seem. Here's a basic roadmap to get you started:
1. Activate Your Starter! Your order will come with detailed instructions for activating and maintaining your starter. Soon I will have a video as well for the visual learners -- Sorry I have been procrastinating!
2. Feed Your Starter: Conveniently your starter's favourite food is flour and water! You will regularly add more flour and water to your starter to keep it active and bubbling.
3. Bake Amazing Bread: Once your starter is lively and active, you can use it as the leavening agent in your sourdough bread recipes. There are so many great sourdough recipes readily available online, and I will link in the instructions to some of my favourites for first time bakers. Just wait until you pull a freshly baked, homemade sourdough loaf from your oven!
4. Experiment and Enjoy: Try making some bagels, english muffins, pizza dough, focaccia, or experiment with making loaves with those fancy flours you see at the farmer's market and you always wondered who used.
5. Keep it going for another 150 years! Ok I am not 100% certain I will be around that long, but I do know that you can keep your starter alive for decades as long as you feed and maintain it! How many products can you buy once, and use again and again for decades? Your great-grandparents would approve, and they had fantastic taste in great-grandchildren, so perhaps listen to them?
Want to try for yourself? Come take a look at kensingtonsourdough.ca!