Do you have a lot of extra time these days? Are you looking for low-risk responsibility? Well, you have come to the right place! I’m going to starter off (heh..) with a brief Q&A to cover some of the basics, and finish with step-by-step instructions so you too can capture (and potentially neglect and kill) your very own microbial community.
So, what exactly is a gluten-free sourdough starter?
A sourdough starter is simply a mixture of flour and water combined to create the perfect environment for wild microbes to flourish. Yeast and bacteria already exist on the flour. The microbe strains even differ in variety depending on the grain being used! Most any gluten-free flour can be used to make your starter, but some of the easiest include rice, millet, sorghum, and buckwheat flours.
What’s the purpose of a sourdough starter?
Have you ever baked with those little packets of yeast? A sourdough starter replaces commercial baker’s yeast commonly used in baking. Wild yeasts and bacteria originating on the flour and in the air act as a leavening agent for your bread to rise!
What’s the science of a sourdough starter?
The flour to water ratio is key, but not the only consideration. Temperature is another primary factor influencing the success and fermentation rate of your sourdough starter. The colder the environment, the more slowly the microbial community in the sourdough starter will grow. If your home is cooler than 70F try placing your jar on top of an appliance generating heat, or let it get cozy in your turned-off oven with the light on as a heat source.
Alright, now for the fun part, let’s get it started…
Supplies Required: gluten-free flour, water, measuring cup, spatula, cheese cloth, large container.
1. Combine a cup of cool water with a cup of gluten-free flour. Your starter will grow, so use at least a 1-quart container made of non-reactive material like glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic as your starter’s home.
2. Thoroughly mix and incorporate all of the dry flour into the water. Cover your container with cheesecloth or a towel to prevent any unwanted visitors, and leave in a warm area for 24 hours.
3. After 24 hours you may see no change (don’t throw it away just quite yet), OR you may start to see some fun bubbly activity! Either way, discard half of the starter (or gift it to an ambitious friend), and add another cup of fresh cool water, and flour. This is your first official feeding! Wooo!!
4. Stir the mixture until combined and let rest for another 24 hours. By this time you should start to see bubbles, and you can continue to feed the starter daily (step 3). To increase the starter, stop discarding half, and slowly increase the amount of flour and water each time, as it gets larger in volume your starter can handle larger feedings. The precise amount doesn’t matter (as long as the ratio is 1:1), the sourdough starter is quite forgiving.
5. After about 5 days, you will see the starter significantly increasing in volume following a feeding. The best time to use the starter is when the activity is highest. Watch your starter for a couple feedings to determine when it is most active.
6. You can store your starter in the fridge for months. Before using, remove from the fridge and feed 1-2 times to reactive the microbes in your starter baby!