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Monday, May 13, 2013

[Sourdough Starter] Lovely Beneficial Bacteria to make great sourdough biscuits and bread

Among the hundreds kinds of bread in the world, sourdough bread should be ranked very high of them all. It's very true that sourdough bread has such a delicious tangy taste which is almost irresistible. However, I had not ever dreamed to make a sourdough bread since I knew so well that it needs a loooong fermentation.   I'd love to bake my own long-fermented bread, too. But, the reality is that I have this very limited amount of time for baking and cooking, just like so many women who are full-time working mom with two kids and a husband.

 So I had not even dared to think of culturing my own sourdough starter, at least until I read this "Crazy for Gold" book for a bedtime story about a month ago. 

In the book, the two adventurous kids, Emily and Matt, went to the time of Gold rush, i.e. late 19th century, and meet a girl named Isabel, whose mom makes the most delicious sourdough biscuits. 

To make sourdough biscuits whenever she wants, she brought the sourdough starter all the way from California to Klondike, Yukon Territory, Canada. Isabel's mom bakes fresh sourdough biscuits and feeds the starving Emily and Matt. And guess what? My kids asked me to bake sourdough biscuits. My kids believe that their mommy can bake anything they want. As a responsible(?) mother, I cannot let them down, can I? So, I searched a good sourdough biscuit recipe. But hélas, I found immediately that I need sourdough starter to make sourdough biscuits! I needed to talk to kids. When I told them that they would need to wait at least a week to taste sourdough biscuits because of the sourdough starter, I expected them to forget the idea of having sourdough biscuits. (They are not so patient, you know.) But, quite unexpectedly, my two monsters assured me that they would patiently wait until sourdough starter gets ready. That's how I ended up culturing my own sourdough starter. 

With wholewheat flour and water, it seems that I cultured great amount of lactic acid bacteria after 72 hours after I had started. But, in the process of stabilizing this very first sourdough starter, I must have anticipated too much, by mixing white flour to whole wheat flour too early stage. And I screwed it up. In conclusion, my kids couldn't taste their mom's sourdough biscuits at the end of that week. 

As soon as I realized that I failed the wholewheat sourdough starter, I turned my head towards an easier sourdough starter recipe using a small amount dry yeast, which seemed like a type of cheating. 

But, it was definitely easier and almost foolproof. Hooray~ I yielded a few cups of sourdough starter that had a pleasant sour smell and looked quite bubbly. Stabilized starters can go for years and even for generations. I read the recipes of the people who said they got their starters from their grandmothers or mothers. 

Okay, so I got this grand dream of breeding this starter for many years and give out to my kids and and their kids if they want. :) The first thing to remember is that starter is a living thing. So it needs to be fed and cared for regularly, just like any other pets. So by deciding to making and maintaining my own sourdough starter, I became an owner of a pet named Lactobacillus or sourdough starter. But, as far as you remember a few important rules, it is not so difficult to maintain, or it seems not so difficult, so far. I'll explain about this couple of rules to remember with the recipe.

Anyway, my kids had sourdough biscuits two weeks after they placed the request.

Here goes the recipe:
(adapted from WhatscookingAmerica)

2 cups all-purpose flour
7g or 1/4 ounce dry yeast
2 cups warm water


 1. In large non-metallic bowl, mix together dry yeast, 2 cups warm water, and 2 cups all purpose flour and cover loosely. 

2. Let it sit out (at room temperature) for 2-3 days, stirring it once a day. The starter is ready when it develops a pleasant sour smell and looks bubbly.
I left it on the counter for the first week. To stabilize the starter, I throw 1 cup starter and feed it with a cup flour and a cup warm water every day for the next 3-4 days. If you don't discard a cup starter when you feed, you will end up with so much starter. After the first seven days, I started to use the starter, instead of throwing.

Here are a few rules always to remember.
Rule 1. When you use starter to bake, always replace with equal amounts of a flour and water mixture. So, if you remove 1 cup starter, replace with 1 cup water and 1 cup flour.  Mix well and leave out on the counter until bubbly again, then refrigerate. 

Rule 2. Sourdough starter at room temperature must be fed at least once a day. If don't, it will lose vitality and eventually become useless and die. So if you are not baking sourdough bread or biscuit daily, keeping the sourdough starter at room temperature is not an option for you.

Rule 3. This is from my experience. Because I don't use my starter everyday, I store it in a glass jar, then in the refrigerator. Even if you store it in the fridge, you need to feed it every 7-10 days. I feed it once a week. So, not to waste my precious sourdough starter, I bake something with sourdough once a week.
I then remove the starter from the refrigerator the day before I use, let it sit 3-4 hours before I feed. Then, I feed it with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water and stir and then let it sit overnight on the counter so that it becomes active again. It is now ready to use. 

Rule 4. Use only wood or plastic mixing spoons. Measure starter in liquid-type measuring cups. 
Use glass, plastic, or stoneware bowls or crocks. . Use a large enough container that can hold 3 times of amount of ingredients as the starter doubles as it ferments.

If you keep these few rules, you will always be ready to use any sourdough recipe!
If you want to make your own sourdough bread and biscuits, it's a good time to make your own sourdough starter, if you have anybody you can pass down to you.

I'll post sourdough biscuit recipe soon. 

Sourdough Starter


  1. Hello Colleen~ I already know that you are 까라면 까는 mom, aren't you? :) I really admire you because you are working great mom! How was your mother's day? Did your lovely kids prepare your breakfast this year, too? I hope you had a geat day.
    Oh, I've been planning a trip to Ottawa for Tulip festival.(I read your tulip poting.:D) But now days the weather is chilling....:( Are the tulips okay? Ottawa is pretty far from Toronto so I worry about that.
    Anyway it's the beginning of the week. Have a nice day. :)

    1. Hi YH,
      we had a really nice brunch on Mother's day. I'll write about it tomorrow. (my kids didn't make me a bed-in-breakfast this time though, which was fine :))
      Tulips are doing fine. I find tulips like a little cooler temperature. Have a nice trip to Ottawa.

  2. Wow, Remi and Pablo are already aware that it's worth being patience to get what they really want:D!!!
    The bread looks so soft, ñammmm! Was the biscuit also soft? Will be looking forward to the upcoming post of biscuit:)
    Muchos saludos.

    1. Hi Carolina,
      I was quite surprised by their patience and their will to eat sourdough biscuits.
      It was worth waiting. They were soooo good, especially with ample amount of butter :) I'll post the recipe soon!
      Have a nice evening!