INDIANAPOLIS - Not long ago I took a breezy Saturday afternoon excursion to Earth House for a monthly food swap with Indy Food Swappers. I'd prepared some tasty treats to trade, and I returned home with a big bag of food swap swag.
One of my favorite things I swapped for was an Amish Friendship Bread Starter. It was, quite frankly, amazing.
It got me to thinking about my bakery days, and how easy it is to create a simple sourdough starter.
What is a starter?
A sourdough starter is called "wild yeast." By mixing together flour, warm water, sugar and packaged yeast, you are making the perfect atmosphere for the yeast to go "wild," letting it ferment until it begins to develop a richer, more complex flavor.
By replacing the regular yeast or adding to the recipe when you are baking, you're basically turning your bread up to 11. You'll see quite a difference as the bread rises and in the taste after you bring it out of the oven.
Making and maintaining a good starter is as much art as it is science, yet it is something manageable and worth the effort if you are willing. When you succeed, you'll also have the beginnings of some delicious homemade bread.
What you'll need
Basic Sourdough Starter: Ingredients
Makes two starters
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. granulated sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast [2 ¼ tsps.]
2 cups warm non-chlorinated water [let tap water sit overnight – chlorine can hinder yeast growth]
2 medium Mason jars, sterilized
Designate a warm, safe place for your starter. It will need to remain there for several days, so finding a place out of the way is best. You'll also want to make sure it will maintain 65 to 75 degrees in temperature in order for your starter to grow. I usually put mine back in the corner of my kitchen counter where it's cozy and dark.
You'll want to use a medium ceramic or glass bowl. Steer clear of metal bowls.
*A starter is a living organism, actually millions and billions of good and delicious bacteria. When this comes into contact with metals, it can kill the good bacteria.
Silver and stainless steel both have dangerous properties that are toxic and can destroy your "wild yeast" before it even gets a chance to grow.
Mix the flour, sugar and yeast together and stir gradually until you've created a thick, gooey paste and the lumps begin to disappear.
Set your starter mixture onto a tray or dish and cover with a towel in the warm, dry place you've set aside. Let stand for three to five days, stirring once a day.
When you see your mixture is bubbly and you can smell a sweet but sour odor, the starter should be ready to go.
After you've sterilized your Mason jars, transfer about 1 cup of starter into each of them and tighten the lids. Place the starter in the refrigerator.
Using your "wild yeast"
When you are ready to use your starter for a recipe, set it out and let it acclimate to room temperature – around 65 to 70 degrees – before using it.
Pour the starter into a bowl (remember no metal) and add one cup of all-purpose flour and one cup of warm, non-chlorinated water.
Stir and let the new mixture sit for at least 8-12 hours. You can then return one cup back to its original container, and you are ready to begin your bread baking!
So, how DO you feed your starter?
Like most fermented things, bread starter just gets better with age. Try and feed your starter once every couple of months by following the same instructions for using it in a recipe.
One of the best things about making a bread starter is you should have enough to share with your friends and family. It's a great gift that keeps on giving. The more you feed it, the more you get out of it.
Pro-Tip: Make sure to read the recipe! When using your starter for a bread recipe, make sure read closely where and how the starter is used. Sometimes a recipe will repeat the same steps listed above, so you don't want to duplicate.
For more on food and for more recipes check out twinklevanwinkle.com.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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