We tried having the entire family go grain-free once, but it came with too much resistance. Instead, I try to make the bread-y stuff the rest of the fam eats as healthy as possible. A couple summers ago, I set out to create my own sourdough* starter.
*If you need a primer, type “benefits of sourdough” into your preferred search engine.
Equal parts of flour and water in a mason jar on my counter. To my amazement, it got bubbly and starter-ish looking after just a couple days.
Or so, I thought. It seemed no matter what I did, I could not get this starter to make anything rise. I tossed brick after brick of sourdough “bread.” I had almost given up and assumed I might have to cave and buy a starter, when VOILA! After almost 2 years of trial and error, I finally found success. I think I had never gotten my starter (or dough) warm enough. Eighty-ish degrees Fahrenheit (80 F) seems to be the magic threshold. In the winter, I need to keep my starter and rising dough stacked around my slow cooker which I fill with water and set to warm. I had tried putting the dough in the warm crock once, but that gets too hot.
Here are some other tips and resources I’ve learned during my sourdough journey.
- If you want to get started (and don’t live close enough to me to get a jar of my starter), check out Cultures for Health.
- Starter is pretty forgiving and resilient despite the hype. I leave mine in the refrigerator when I’m not actively baking. It has gone up to months without a feeding, and I’ve been able to revive it. Ideally you should probably feed cold starter every 1-2 weeks.
- Gluten-free starters (I feed mine with rice flour) are just as much fun. I now keep one of each in my fridge.
**8/10/2017 UPDATE** I converted my gluten-free starter to grain-free by feeding it with cassava flour.
- I can get mine active enough with just one feeding out of the fridge as long as it’s warm enough. This is great because it creates less extra starter.
- In case you end up with lots of extra or discarded starter, find a go-to recipe. There are recipes for discarded, gluten-free starter, too!
Tried and True Sourdough Recipes
English Muffins–I make these the most often. I’ve used almond milk and 1% milk with no issues. I leave them out overnight and skip the refrigeration part. I’ve also found that letting them re-rise after mixing in the baking soda water gives the fluffiest muffins. I can squeeze out 10 if I let the dough do this second, short rise.
No-Knead Bread– This is my favorite no-knead bread. I’ve subbed a 4ish ounces of sprouted whole wheat or spelt flour with success. This recipe makes a larger loaf, or I’ve successfully split it for 2 smaller ones. I’m also experimenting with parbaking (just doing the first 30 minutes covered) and freezing so we can have less sitting out and another fresh loaf without the full process.
Grain-free Bread– This is Ty’s favorite! I’ve subbed flax meal for the psyllium husk and hazelnut flour for the almond flour. The hazelnut flour definitely changes the flavor more towards a dessert bread. We make paninis and even french toast using this bread!
Every other sourdough recipe I’ve tried has also come from the Cultures for Health recipe blog. We’ve tried the basic sourdough loaf (I do a half recipe at a time), gluten-free snicker-doodles, french baguettes, muffins, and we always turn our discarded starter into crepes (for the gluten free starter) or pancakes.