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Smelling Sourdough in the Morning


Last week Monday Mark and I ate delicious sourdough English muffins for breakfast. Mmmmmm. I started a sourdough starter last Sunday afternoon. I had wanted to for a while, but I’d been afraid that I’d mix up the flour and water and nothing would happen. But, happily, after a day or two of mixing and adding flour and water, I began to see bubbles, and now within twelve hours the little yeasty creepy-crawlies have had time to gorge themselves on the simple sugars found in the wheat and the starter has nearly doubled in size.

I’m really very excited. ‘Victorious’ is a good word to describe how I feel about the fermentation I’ve created.

From what I’ve read, a sourdough starter should be allowed to mature for a week before you use it in a recipe. Sunday was my starter’s one week birthday, so I decided to celebrate by trying this sourdough English muffin recipe.

The funny thing about using a sourdough starter that I’m not really used to is that when you want to make, say, English muffins, you have to think about it at least a day ahead of time. You need to allow time to build up your starter, by adding a little more flour and water, because you don’t want to entirely use up your starter in the baked good you make, or you’ll have to grow your starter all over again. And when you have properly built up your starter and then pulled out what you need for your muffins, you mix up your dough and then let it set, usually overnight, to allow the dough to ‘sour’ all the way through. Then, in the morning, you can form your dough into muffins and fry on the griddle.

Sourdough English muffins on the griddle.
Again, sourdough English muffins on the griddle.

Then, this is the tricky part for me, if that baked good will satisfy your family for a few days, what do you do with your starter in the meantime? If you leave it out on your counter, the yeast will continue to multiply and you’ll need to keep feeding it and making it bigger. But you don’t necessarily want a bigger starter unless you’re doing lots of baking. So, the obvious way to slow the yeasties down is to put the starter in the fridge. But I just don’t trust my starter yet. Probably an unfounded worry, but I’m afraid that if I stick my starter in the fridge it will just die. And then I will be sad, wistfully thinking about all of the delicious sourdough baked goods I could have made if I had just kept my starter alive on the counter.

Thankfully, I don’t have to address this irrational fear yet because I am planning to do some extensive baking in the next week. So instead of putting my starter away in the fridge, I’m letting it grow on the counter. See? It already needs two containers:

Starter has just been stirred.
See the bubbles! Starter is happily feeding!
See the bubbles CLOSER.

Sourdough bread, here we come!

Update: Since beginning this post, we have made sourdough bread. And I have worked up the courage to put my starter in the fridge. What I've noticed is that leaving my starter in the fridge for a week without feeding it makes it give whatever baked good I put it into a more sour flavor. (There's a scientific reason behind this, but I don't want to go into it now.) If I fed my starter and then used it immediately upon seeing bubbles throughout, the baked good would rise but it wouldn't taste much like sourdough, just like regular ol' bread. The bread pictured below had a delightfully sourdough flavor.

Happy happy loaf of sourdough bread.


Mark being artsy with the camera and making you all crave sourdough.

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