My Sourdough Journey

Seymour Bubbles, my Sourdough Starter. He took 12 full days to cultivate.

After 10 days of trying to cultivate my very first Sourdough Starter (living yeast blob that can be used over and over to make bread), I have finally managed to create a live one! Here is Seymour Bubbles.

Like many who have taken on some new “hobbies” (or life skills) during this pandemic, I decided to take a new one on as well, Bread Baking! While I’ve been an avid home cook since I was 14 years old, I have never once tried bread making. After months of really testing my cooking skills and adding new ones, I finally ended up branching out into bread baking. Here is the chronicles of my first foray into making a Sourdough Starter. Hopefully, it can help those who are interested take the leap or help those who are considering it weigh their options.

All you need to get started is flour + water, a clear container. That’s it. You can choose the type of flour like Whole Wheat, Rye, or All Purpose. I went with this King Arthur Baking recipe which used Rye:

King Arthur Sourdough Starter Recipe

1 cup (113g) whole rye (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (113g) cool water

Feedings: Take 113g of starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, mix well. Discard any remaining starter.

Feed 5-7 Days

My Results

Day 1 Starter

Begin by creating your starter.

Take 1 cup rye + 1/2 cup water, mix well, let stand overnight (24hrs).

Within several hours I saw activity (bubbles and a spongy look) and it started to smell wondrous halfway through.

Day 2 Starter

Give it it’s very first feeding!

Take 113g of the starter. Feed with 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand overnight (24hrs).

The aromas were still great and activity seemed similar to the first day.

Day 3 Starter

Begin feedings twice per day (every 12hrs).

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Still great activity. It doubled. Looked yeasty and glutinous.

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Stirred down. Consistency is like a thick pancake batter. Didn’t smell like much but had bubbles and activity.

Day 4 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Starting to see less activity although still some bubbles.

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Stirred down. Consistency like thick pancake batter or thick milkshake.

Day 5 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Activity continued to decline. Almost no bubbles. Started to smell like raw dough or paint drying…

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Even less activity. I feared it was dying or dead!

Day 6 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Nice smooth luxurious batter. But no activity.

Day 7 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

I was worried it was dying from the last few days. So I boiled a pot of water. And placed it near my starter.

This may have helped give it some life!

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

After the PM feeding. it was definitely coming back to life! Bubbles, doubling, a nice smell.

Day 8 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Even better results! Lots of activity, nice aroma, a bit thick but at least alive!

Day 9 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

So much activity. It more than doubled, consistency is looking great, and lots of bubbles!

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

It looks amazing! Weirdly jiggly. It started to smell a bit alcoholy. And was starting to foam more than bubble. But it still looks alive!

Day 10 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

It started to gum up but was still active and bubbly. And had a foamy feeling to it.

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

Foamy and watery. Perhaps because I added slightly more water this time.

Day 11 Starter

AM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

It took a turn for the worse. Foamed up, smelled like alchohol, and was drippy!

PM Feeding
113g starter + 113g AP flour + 113g water, let stand 12hrs.

After the PM Feeding it looked great!!

This is what I expect a good starter to begin looking like.

From reading seeing these bubbles, those grooves, the doubling… All these are good signs of a starter coming to maturity!

Day 12 Starter

AM Feeding
Lots of activity. Lots of bubbles, bubbles popping.

A nice consistency like a thick pancake batter or a watery pizza dough.

Aroma smelled nice!

PM Feeding
My final starter was viscous. Glutinous. Thick. Gummy and sticky.

But still looked great! Adjusting the consistency is possible by feeding carefully and adding some more hydration with each feeding!

When is my Starter Ready?
Check out these links for more info! https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2016/05/17/ripe-sourdough-starter

Tips
A warm cozy spot really helped my starter along. After a few lifeless days of inactivity, I tried adding some ambient warmth near my starter and I believe it worked! I boiled a pot of water, covered it, and simply placed it near my starter. The warmth from it heated up the stone counter and nearby objects including my starter!

Placed in a cozy corner right next to the stove!

Should I make my own Starter? Pros & Cons
Make your own bread when times are tough and ingredients scarce!
For awhile yeast and flour were hard to find. Having a sourdough starter means you don’t have to rely on yeast to make bread! Just flour.

This pandemic is the best time to do it!
Self-quarantining and being home all day also meant it was the perfect time to take a crack at growing something that needed tending.

Fascinating Weird Science!
The idea of creating this live culture that could live past generations and be used over and over to make bread was fascinating to me. So I had to try it.

Artisan Homemade Bread is a treasure! So treat yourself!

There are some drawbacks to consider…
It’s hard, it takes skill and experience, and it’s a commitment. Maintaining a starter is a lifelong thing. Bread baking is truly an art and a science. Baking a loaf of bread is quite involved and includes many steps and factors, so getting the perfect loaf of bread (and consistently!) is a long road. But like anything (constructively) hard, it’s usually worth the investment in effort. Especially if you’re a bread lover.

You’ll eventually need special tools like a mixer and bread scale. I didn’t have either, so was limited to recipes where I could hand mix and measure.

Also, it requires a lot of flour. And the process of creating the starter produces flour waste. 10 days, my cultivation produced 15 cups of discard. While this can be used to make some things, you’ll be baking every day to use it up. And if you’re not an avid or experienced baker, that’s alot of work that may result in some unideal results.

Also, when ingredients are scarce, it can make all the difference if yeast isn’t required. That coupled with a care kit from my friend and a care kit from King Arthur Baking spurred me to make a true effort in learning the art of making homemade bread.

Resources and References
King Arthur Baking was my go-to support during this entire journey. Below is everything you need to start your journey, they actively answer questions on their social media, and even provide a Baker’s Hotline for all your emergency questions.

Here is King Arthur’s Sourdough Guide. It has everything you need to know about Sourdough and creating your first one yourself. Easy yet comprehensive, great for first-timers!
https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/guides/sourdough/create

Here is the Sourdough Starter Recipe I used. I followed this to a T.
https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/sourdough-starter-recipe

Baker’s Hotline
https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/bakers-hotline

Full Recipe (Adapted from King Arthur Baking)

http://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/sourdough-starter-recipe
Feeding: 3/4 Cup AP Flour (unbleached) + 1/2 Cup Water

Day 1
3/4 Cup Rye or Whole Wheat Flour + 1/2 Cup Water
Mix well until all flour is incorporated. Let stand 24hrs,l covered in a clear container in warm area. 70f +.

Day 2
Discard all but 1/2 Cup of the starter. Feed. Let stand 24hrs. Stir down starter before measuring.

Day 3 – 7
Feed as normal. But increase feedings to every 12hrs. Or twice per day.
Once starter has consistently doubled between feedings and also consistently bubbles copiously, it is ready. This may take more than 7 days. 

Mine took about 9-11 days. Tucking it away in a corner with a warm pot of boiled water near it helped spur activity. The pot stayed warm for hours, the stone countertop stayed warm for longer!

Consistency: Sticky or gummy to thick milkshake or pancake batter. Ranges from runny milkshake to gummy or gluteny. Ideal consistency, milkshake.

Smell: Nutty, sour, yeasty. First few days fresh and fruity. Ranges from raw dough toato to pizza dough aroma. Sour pizza dough aroma is ideal.

Note: I was feeding it too much flour! Original recipe calls for scant 1 cup AP flour. 3/4 cups of AP flour is more accurate. It made each feeding very gummy and my final starter sticky and glutinous.

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