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Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better for You and How To Start One

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Let’s Start at the Beginning. What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a combination of flour, water, wild yeast, and bacteria that live in symbiotic harmony.

Wild yeast is responsible for leavening (rising) dough by producing carbon dioxide.

The bacteria are responsible for souring the dough by producing lactic and/or acetic acid.

The leavening process starts to happen when the wild yeasts break down the sugars in the flour, predigesting it and using it for energy. The sugars in the flour feed the wild yeasts and allow them to multiply.

While the yeast is multiplying it is producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Carbon dioxide is responsible for making the bread rise.

This “leavening” happens when the carbon dioxide gas is trapped under the network of gluten protein that is produced by mixing flour with water.

The beneficial bacteria in sourdough produce the lactic and acetic acids that give sourdough breads their classic sour flavor.

These beneficial acids also neutralize the nutrient-blocking phytic acid that is naturally found in the hull of all grains.

Lactic Acid Also Breaks Down Gluten

Gluten is a kind of protein found in all wheat grains. It forms long protein strands when mixed with water, thus giving bread the structure it needs to trap the gasses of fermentation.

The hard-to-digest gluten protein is predigested by the lactic acid during fermentation. It is then broken down into easier-to-digest proteins and enzymes while retaining the important structure that gives bread its shape.

Flours that are organically grown and have a higher percentage of bran and husk will have more of their own wild yeasts and bacteria attached to the flour. That is why using a whole organic grain like whole wheat or rye is recommended for starting a starter from scratch. Even so, some wild yeast remains in hulled flours, so it is possible to start a starter with just organic white flour.

Wild yeast and bacteria are everywhere. I mean everywhere! It’s on all organic and wild fruit and veggies and is responsible for the beginnings of fermentation. A fallen fruit in the organic orchard will ferment just the same as a fallen fruit in the jungle.

Yeast really likes sugar, so it can be found in higher concentrations on fruits — think wine grapes with their white yeasty skins. Wild yeasts were responsible for the first alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, and mead and have been utilized for leavening bread for countless centuries.

Wine grapes with natural yeast bloom.

 

Page Guide

Page 1. Intro
Page 2. What Is Sourdough?
Page 3. Bread Terminology
Page 4. Why Eat Sourdough?
Page 5. Tools
Page 6. Starter Recipe
Page 7. Fresh Starter vs. Discard
Page 8. Starter Hydration & Feeding
Page 9. Favorite Recipes
Page 10. Troubleshooting Sourdough
Page 11.  Starter Insurance Policy
Page 12. Using Stale Bread
Page 13. Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss
 

Sarah

Sunday 7th of August 2022

Hi Courtney!

I’m very new to the sourdough world and am doing some reading before I fully commit. With your starter recipe, what size of glass container do you use? Some have said it can more than double in size... I want to have a big enough jar but not too big... Also, would a plastics twist lid work? I’m thinking it would breathe very well?

Thanks for being such a thorough sourdough resource for this newbie!

Butter For All

Thursday 11th of August 2022

Hi Sarah!

Welcome! Typically I use a quart jar or larger. I like to have lots of starter on hand for many baking projects. But it really depends on how much you want to keep. You can always switch containers if you need to make more or less. You are right, a plastic screw on ball jar lid works great! I also like locking lid jars with the seal removed. You'll have to keep me posted on your progress!!

Happy Baking,

Courtney

Annie

Saturday 21st of May 2022

Hi Courtney! Thank you for explaining all this. Is there a place where I can just buy this same sourdough-type bread from instead of making it myself??? I get a very inflamed joint when I eat gluten-containing bread, so I'm hoping this sourdough will fix the problem.

Thank you, Annie

Butter For All

Friday 3rd of June 2022

Hi Annie!

Do you have any local sourdough bakeries? Many times store bought sourdough will be soured with vinegar. But a lot of traditional bakeries still produce long-fermented bread. I'm happy to help you locate something if you provide me with your location!

Courtney

Ellen

Friday 18th of February 2022

Hello again! Can purchased sprouted wheat (lindley mills) be used in 1. Starting a starter and/or 2. Feeding the starter.

Thank you.

I love your site! Ellen

Ellen

Monday 21st of February 2022

@Butter For All,

Hi Courtney! Thank you for your reply.

I completely understand what you are saying.

I have been very impressed with your quick responses.

Thank you!

Butter For All

Monday 21st of February 2022

Hi Ellen!

Thanks for the kind words!

So sprouted wheat can be used in the entire sourdough process BUT it doesn't make any gluten structure so the bread will be very dense. It is best to use a combination of bread flour and sprouted flour if you want the bread to rise and have the flavor of the whole wheat. Because it's rather expensive, I personally use sprouted wheat for quick bread, cookies, and pastry. Things where it wouldn't be appropriate or are too difficult to ferment. I let the fermentation process take care of the un-sprouted flour in my bread recipes. Hope that makes sense!

Hope you have a wonderful sourdough journey!

Courtney

Ila Kaiser

Sunday 5th of December 2021

I am diabetic and wondering how to calculate the carbs and fiber for the sourdough breads. Can you help?

Butter For All

Sunday 12th of December 2021

Hi Ila,

So, unfortunately there is no definite way to calculate carbs for sourdough. The longer the bread ferments, the less carbs it has. As the yeast and bacteria eat up sugars the bread gets more sour. So a really sour sourdough, that has been fermented for 24+ hours will be the best for you. I would personally eat a small amount and then test blood sugar to see how the long-fermented bread affects you.

I hope this is a little help! Take good care!

Courtney

Donna

Monday 15th of November 2021

I’m on day 5 of my rye starter. Day 2 it almost doubled in size! Day 3 almost no activity. Day 4 it hasn’t risen but I can see a few bubbles! Is this normal? Should I continue to do the daily feedings or is this batch a lost cause? Thanks

Butter For All

Monday 22nd of November 2021

Hi Donna!

Don't toss it! This is totally normal. At first the yeast go crazy, then they mellow out as the bacteria get going, over the next few weeks they will balance out and harmonize into a lovely starter! Hope I caught this comment in time!

Best,

Courtney

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