Breaddark Stark, Sourdough Starter
I started baking breads early this year (2019 for you time travelers), and like most obsessive food projects I embark on, I went quickly from buying prepared ingredients (yeast, in this case) to wanting to make it myself. There are hundreds of resources on sourdough starters, and I probably read through a good dozen before I felt that I understood the overall theory and was ready to get started on my own sourdough journey.
So what is a sourdough starter? Very simply, it's equal weighted measures of flour and water that are left to sit and feed on the natural yeasts and lactic acid bacteria in the air. It needs fed more flour and water as it goes from flour paste to funky yeast buddy, and when properly fed, it can replace commercial yeast in breads, pizza dough, donuts, and other doughy snacks. As a natural yeast, it works a bit slower than commercial dry yeast, but we're getting ahead of ourselves here.
Breaddard Stark was born on March 9, 2019, in a jar with a loose lid (I removed the seal ring) weighing 218 grams, before the disastrous final season of a certain fantasy show.
The jar lid MUST be loose or you'll be cleaning up exploded glass.
100 grams of AP flour met 100 grams of tap water and became a smooth dough-like paste. 12 hours later, I discarded 100 g of the mixture, and once again added a 100g/100g paste of flour and water, and covered it loosely.
Most methods will say every 8 hours, but I found that every 12 was just fine. If your kitchen is warm (summer months), it may need more attention, and if your kitchen is cool (the rest of the year), it may need a bit less.
I repeated this process every day for 10 days, and by day 10, it was a gas-filled bubbly mixture that smelled faintly of a brewery. The starter had taken, and so I was ready to get to baking! I'll get into that here.
As I said above, I broke the rules a bit in nurturing my starter, but the great thing about a sourdough starter is that it is highly resilient. I do not feed Breaddard daily. I have a husband and a Gram and two cats and a deep love for cooking that keep me pretty busy. So, once Breaddard was viable and had been used for baking, I gave him a discard and feed and stuck him in the fridge.
Cold cannot kill a starter if you come back to it. Heat can, but usually the only time it gets to a dangerous temperature is when it's already in bread dough.
To get Breaddard back on his feet and ready to raise the crumb on some bread, I take him out of the fridge the evening before I want to make dough, pour off some but not all of the collected liquid (known as hootch, I leave a bit to keep that strong sour taste), and give him a feed. The next morning, I discard 100g of the mixture, feed it again, and when he's at least doubled in his bubbly size, usually by the afternoon, he's ready to get going on some dough. After I take what I need, he goes right back in the fridge til next week.
10 days is the absolute maximum fridge time I'd recommend between feedings, but I've seen people resuscitate starters that have gone as long as a month.
Starters can live on indefinitely. One of the oldest is 122 years old! They react to the air they inhabit, to the yeast on the bakers hands, and to the contents of the water and flour they ingest. So, sure, you can buy an authentic San Francisco starter to try and get that California flavor, but in a few months it'll have taken on its' environment and become YOUR baby. So, why not make it from scratch?
Pictures top to bottom: Breaddard's first picture, Breaddard at 10 days old, Breaddard's first bake with my favorite method.