Out of Yeast? Make a Sourdough Starter

I discovered last year that I really love making bread. My mother is probably ashamed that it took me 32 years to figure it out—my childhood memories are full of the smell of the fresh bread she baked for seven demanding children. There is absolutely nothing more delicious than a slice of warm bread with butter and honey (fight me, Hostess).

In my mind, though, bread baking was a mystical art that required years of apprenticeship, a kitchen full of invisible floating yeast, and forearms of steel for all that kneading. So I bought bread and wished I’d spent more of my teenage years having my mom teach me how to bake.

Last year, I finally called my mom for some tips and dove in. I made some delicious bread with only a few failed attempts and felt like Laura Ingalls was proud of me.

Of course, then COVID-19 happened and everyone cleared the shelves of baker’s yeast. So Gordon made a sourdough starter and we were back in business.

Simple Sourdough Starter

You will find all sorts of recipes for sourdough starters, ranging from precise measurements on an atomic scale to injunctions to “just follow your heart” when it comes to amounts. Here is what we did, with inspiration from Abigail’s Oven and America’s Test Kitchen:

Mix equal amounts of flour and water and store in a mason jar loosely covered with a towel. We used a paper towel so we could screw the ring back on and hold everything in place. We mixed 32 grams each of flour and water to start; you can also just measure by volume.

For the next seven days, we continued to add 32 grams each of flour and water every day, stirring to combine.

Beginning on day eight, we started removing some of the starter before the feeding and using it to make bread, onion rings, and more.

Now, after two weeks, the starter is thriving and providing us with delicious, fluffy bread (actually, we made our first sourdough loaf on day five and it worked great).

At this point, you can put the starter in the fridge and then let it return to room temperature for several hours when you want to use it or for a weekly feeding.

Any sourdough recipe recommendations for us?

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