I am growing a colony. A little army of baby yeasts and bacteria. I am very excited. They may not take over the world, but I am in awe of these little organisms growing on my kitchen counter. The beginning of my current fascination with sourdough.
There’s a pizza place here in town whose crust is ridiculously good. It’s sourdough and perfect in consistency. But the pizza itself is something we save for special occasions, because one 16-inch pizza doesn’t quite feed two hungry growing boys, a pizza-loving husband, and a Julie who also apparently grows another stomach to make room for pizza consumption. And at $24, this plus another pizza isn’t exactly in the weekly budget. My ultimate goal with the above mentioned colony is to create a sourdough pizza at home that is equally as fulfilling.
I researched homemade sourdough starters for days. I’ll tell you right now – there are many, many variations and methods. Some folks use milk, water, acidic fruit juice, strictly filtered bottled water. Some use whole wheat flour, high protein flour, all-purpose flour. Some rely on commercial yeast, some rely solely on wild yeast. It’s overwhelming. I almost decided to forego my own starter entirely. Then I remembered my favorite Julia Child quote and certainly what has kept my interest in cooking: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” I decided to simply dive in. Try to attempt a starter. The worst things that could happen: the starter would grow mold and have to be thrown out then started over, or the whole thing wouldn’t work at all.
I started four days ago with a large glass container, milk, unbleached organic flour, and a scant amount of conventional yeast. This starter is also called the mother dough. With patience and care it can last for years and years… so long as you’re consistently replenishing what you use. The following is what I’ve done so far. Tomorrow I’ll attempt to use some of the mother dough to make either a loaf of sourdough bread or pizza dough. I haven’t decided which just yet. I’ll post a part two of this starter recipe along with the recipe I decide to try first.
Sourdough Starter (Mother Dough)
1 cup milk (I used organic whole milk)
1 cup unbleached flour
½ tsp. conventional yeast
In a large non-metallic jar or bowl (I am using an 80-oz glass jar), use a non-metallic spoon to stir together all the ingredients until well combined. Cover loosely with cheese cloth or simply a material that isn’t airtight.
Let stand for 2-3 days, stirring with a clean, non-metallic spoon every day. When the mixture appears bubbly and has a sweet-sour smell, you’ll know that your yeasts and bacteria are working. If a liquidly yellow-ish substance begins settling on top, simply stir the mixture. This liquid is referred to as hooch, simply the liquid byproduct of the metabolism going on with your bacteria and yeast. Nothing to fear!
On day 3, mix together 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water (about 85ºF). Pour this into the mother dough then stir vigorously with a clean, non-metal spoon. Lightly cover and let sit for 24 hours. On day 4, repeat this process.
I’ll follow up this post tomorrow with where to go from here.