The scary sourdough starter…
Our Covid-19 lockdown started a little earlier than most as our son developed a cough (hayfever, as it turned out). We were pretty sure it wasn’t the coronavirus but made the effort to stay in anyway, as per government guidelines and to avoid the possibility of passing anything on if it did turn out to be something nasty. The rest of had no symptoms at all, so feeling quite well, we decided to make as much as we could at home from what we had in the store cupboards. We quickly encountered a problem when it came to making bread. We had plenty of flour and yeast – but hadn’t realised that our stock control had gone awry, leaving us with lacklustre, out of date yeast. I’ve since found https://www.thekitchn.com/active-dry-instant-yeast-best-tips-for-working-with-yeast-180312 which gives helpful ways to test the yeast first, so may have another go with it but, as we’ve been talking about trying to make sourdough for a really long time, it was the final it of encouragement we needed to bite the bullet and try to make a sourdough starter. We had been offered starters from friends just a couple of weeks before but as we were self-isolating, that wasn’t an option.
There is a lot – and I mean a huge amount – of information available on how to make a sourdough starter, which is great. There is far less information about what to do if it doesn’t look right, which is why I heartily recommend https://www.theclevercarrot.com/2019/03/beginner-sourdough-starter-recipe/. Thank you, Emilie, for your clear instructions and for stopping me from giving up and throwing the whole lot out – I only needed to throw away the ‘hooch’, a smelly brown liquid that can sometimes form when your starter is hungry. Yes, it’s all a bit ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and you could be forgiven for thinking that, at any moment, your starter will start singing ‘Feed me, Seymour’ and it is a little bit like having another child in the house (but quieter). Once you get into the rhythm of sourdough though and gain the confidence to lob it into the fridge anytime you need to slow things down, you can create some really good bread. And other things, apparently, but I’m not that advanced yet! I’ll keep you posted… The pic is of my first loaf – I was so happy and proud that I snapped it with my mobile, lit only with daylight!
Oh, and apparently you should name your starter. As it was a bit of an experiment, I made two, one with wholemeal flour and one with white, so we now have James Brown (to encourage it to ‘get on up’) and Howard Starch (big Marvel fans in our house – kind of wishing James didn’t get going first. He could now have been Breadwin Jarvis). This YouTube video on the 15 mistakes most beginner sourdough bakers make is also helpful to save you from some of the pitfalls: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJEHsvW2J6M