A couple years back, I took a bread-baking class at Living History Farms in Urbandale, where I learned how to make my own sourdough starter. You can buy sourdough starter from several sources on the Internet, but it's really easy to make it at home.
King Arthur Flour offers a master recipe for sourdough starter. But the Living History Farms instructor shared an even simpler recipe, which I thought I'd share with you.
First, find a plastic container with a lid. Make sure it's a container that you don't use everyday, because you can keep the sourdough starter in the fridge indefinitely, as long as you remember to "feed it" regularly.
Next, mix 1 C. flour with 1 C. water in the plastic container. Cover the container with the lid, but don't seal it all the way tight, so the gases given off by the fermenting process have a chance to escape. Then leave the container on the counter overnight. No need to refrigerate just yet.
Now, each day for one week, add 1/2 C. of flour and 1/2 C. of water. By the second or third day, you'll start to see bubbles forming on the top. That's a good sign. That means you've created your own yeast! Eventually, a layer of liquid (or alcohol) will float to the top of the mixture. You can just stir the liquid back into the mix, or drain it off right before you want to bake with it. It should start to smell a little like beer. That's the sourdough flavor you're aiming for.
|See those bubbles. That's a good thing. That means your sourdough is alive!|
To be honest, I actually "cheated" a little with this batch of sourdough. I mixed up a batch of bread dough from my favorite "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" cookbook. When I baked up all the dough, I didn't wash the container. I left behind the sticky bits of dough, and then added the flour and water to create the sourdough starter. The leftover yeast really helped get it all working fast. I had bubbles after the first night!
I'm still new at this sourdough thing, but if you have some questions on how to start your own sourdough starter, just leave me a comment, and I'll try my best to find an answer for you. I'll also share a couple of my favorite recipes, although the King Arthur Flour website also has some excellent sourdough recipes. Have fun with this! It's like a science experiment in your kitchen!