march madness? starter madness!!!

main starter pictureMy New Year’s Resolution this year is to create a loaf of bread each month. This naturally resurfaced a long-time curiosity of creating a starter. I began my research and found the variations to be great. One recipe claimed their starter to be ready in just 3 days while another recipe said starters need 15 days to mature. Some starters used fruit while others did not. My research provided a decent amount of “how to” (even if it did vary) but much of the information was uber-scientific and didn’t provide pictures or further explanations of how to know if things were going right. I assumed that if I was still left with more questions than answers, other people probably felt similarly. I decided to keep a journal while I tended to my starter. Here is the result:

Starter Journal I’ve wanted to start a starter for a while and finally decided to just do it already. What’s the big deal, right? There are plenty of starter recipes out there on the web but I want to create my own concoction and see what happens. If this seems a bit cocky, you are right. But I’m not boasting that my starter will start. I’ve never done this before. This is science! I’ve read a few cook books and blogs to try to wrap my mind around the process. I thought about following the Bread Baker’s Guild Guidelines since it seems so darn official. In the end, my rebellious nature wins. I’ve decided to just wing it. Is that even possible in baking? We are going to find out.

Collage1Day 1) 7:15pm
Ingredients
1/2 cup organic Braeburn grated apple
1 and 1/2 cup flour
1 and 1/3 cup room temperature bottled water
1/2 tablespoon honey
Mix the ingredients in a stainless steel bowl. Place bowl on top of fridge with a piece of wax paper or parchment paper loosely on top of bowl. I’m keeping the mixture on top of the fridge for several reasons. One, it is out of range from my pup. Inquiring noses know no boundaries! Two, it’s a teeny bit warmer on the fridge. I need the mixture to rest in a temperature of about 71 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. And three, it’s out of the way.

Day 2) Resist all urges to check on my little starter. Starter must sleep and rest!

foamy starterfoamy starter with feederDay 3) Observations: Hmmm…. bubbling and foamy. It’s alive alright. But oh my stars does that smell horrible!? The most awful and irrational thoughts cross my mind. What if I die of botulism? How long can I hold my breath for? Is it supposed to smell this rancid? I’m going to be sick from this stench! Why did Lucy (my dog) leave the kitchen? Does she know this thing is lethal? Should I really be feeding this monster?? Yes, we need to feed the beast. Our daily feeder is a mixture of 1 cup flour and 1 cup room temperature filtered or bottled water. First things first… I need to whisk the “mother starter” so that the watery gross mixture looks somewhat normal. Second, I need to mix the flour and water mixture (the feeder) in a separate bowl. The last step is to add the feeder to the mother starter. The good news? The feeder dilutes the mother starter a little and absorbs some of the rancid smell. Now I let it sit for another day.

mother starter with liquid separationDay 4) I’m still observing a weird separation of liquid layer on top of mixture and it smells fierce. Now I need to reduce the starter by half. Using a food scale, measure your mother starter. Discard half of the mixture. Feed the remaining half of the mother starter with the daily feeder mixture (one cup flour and one cup room temp water). Mix and let it sit for 2-3 hours. Cover with loose wax paper and put in fridge. Note: half of my starter is about 13.8 ounces (not including the bowl).

Day 5) Wine at happy hour turned into cocktails and then into a very later dinner. Suddenly, it’s 11pm and my starter hasn’t been fed. Don’t judge me! Anyway I did the routine… reduce by 1/2 and feed. The starter still needs to sit out for a few hours so I set my alarm to wake up and put it in the fridge. Gosh this thing is needy!

Day 6) Hmmm. I’m still observing the watery layer on top. Is my starter ever going to start? And how will I know if it does? Am I just wasting flour and time? On a positive note, I think the grated apple has finally disintegrated! Yay, for one small victory!

Day 7) Normal feeding.

Day 8) The starter seems to be coming together a bit. Very exciting. I feel like we have turned a corner. The watery layer on top is much reduced. Hooray!

Day 9) Disaster has struck in my kitchen. Part of my starter is frozen. This is terrible and I’m not sure what happened to the fridge. It’s not frozen solid, just part of the top. I’m going to separate it out. Will report back.
Okay. I’m back. I was able to weigh out about 13.6 ounces of non frozen starter so I’m going to use it. It’s been fed and needs to sit out for 2 hours. After all my hard work I hope it can be saved.

Day 10… Day 11… Normal feedings. Drama free, thank goodness.

Day 12) The daily feedings are going well. Perhaps it’s recovered from the day 9 disaster.

Day 13… Day 14… Normal feedings.

final starterDay 15) This is the final daily feeding for the mother starter. I tested the pH levels and on the acidic scale level it’s about a 4 or 4.5 which is right where it should be. I’ve read that at this point I can cut back the feedings to once a week. Is it possible that I’ve created a wild dough? I’ll test it out and let you know!

So there you have it – the ramblings of a woman on a mission to create wild dough. The process certainly had it’s highs and lows. I’m not even sure if the starter will start but I do have hope. After the diligence of daily feedings I’m going to keep my mother starter in the fridge to be dormant for a few days. I think I need a break from it. When I’m ready to use the starter, it will need to be reactivated and I’ll explain that process in another post. I’ll keep you posted for my first trial of sour dough loaves. Have a great week!

XOXO, Em

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One thought on “march madness? starter madness!!!

  1. Pingback: breaking bread | deux dilettantes…

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