For the past couple of months I have been a bit obsessed with sourdough. After reading this article in Whole Living Magazine, I become fascinated by the prospect of being able to make bread with a starter made only from flour and water. I admit, it made me feel rather pioneer-ish. If I can climb the make-your-own-sourdough-starter hill, then my family will always have bread. Bring on the zombie apocalypse...I have starter!
Armed with the knowledge of a thousand blog posts and recipes, loins girded, I bravely began my first attempt at making a sourdough starter. It was a rather miserable failure and to be honest, I never could quite deduce where I'd gone wrong. However, I am nothing if not determined, and a few weeks later I made attempt number two. It, thankfully, is working beautifully!
A sourdough starter is a remarkably simple concoction of equal amounts of flour and water. While numerous suggestions, recipes and instructions can be found online, this is the method I chose to use. Using a large mason jar, I simply added 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of water and covered the top with cheesecloth. Every 12 hours I would "feed" it by adding about 1/4 cup each of flour/water and stirring it well with a wooden spoon. I did this until the mixture was consistently bubbly and had that "sour" smell that you expect from a starter. I then began the first of many attempts to make a perfect loaf of sourdough bread.
Although I've had just about every version of a flop that can be had--flat, burned, runny--I have persevered and am finally feeling like I am figuring out this whole sourdough thing. Definitely not a bread that can be quickly thrown together, sourdough bread takes some forethought and planning. I've found, though, that once you figure out the process, it is really not difficult at all. I'm still learning what many unfamiliar terms mean, but that hasn't hampered the bread making too terribly much.
I am discovering lots of unexpected bonuses along my sourdough journey, one of which is that sourdough seems to be more easily tolerated by my family's digestive systems. Apparently the bacteria in the fermentation process makes wheat more easily assimilated by the body and reduces the phytic acid content. This in turn makes for less tummy troubles typically caused by wheat. That is a nice thing indeed.