100 Year Old Sourdough – Q & A

Posted January 13th, 2017 — Filed in Miscellaneous

So far I’ve sent over 50 sourdough starters to people who have asked for them, many who haven’t had any experience baking with yeast or sourdough.  I encourage anyone to write if they have questions.  Since most of the questions are probably of interest to others I decided to post them here.
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Q… Thank you very much for the starter, I received it yesterday.  I followed your directions and got things started right away.  Like I said, I am a novice at this at best.  I haven’t seen a whole lot of bubbling but will check it tonight after work and see how it is going.  I am wondering about a lot of things but was wondering if I have more questions, can I ask you?
When you say covered – do you mean with a cloth or a lid loosely on a jar?  You said you drilled a small hole in a plastic lid – very small or relatively small, to release gasses?  When you feed the sourdough – do you do approximately what you had us start with – or a smaller amount?  I currently have it starting in a quart jar and I see you use a pint.

A… First off, RELAX ,   this starter has been around for 100 years and isn’t likely to die unless you poison it (with soda, baking powder or self-rising flour), or get it too hot.
Look at the sourdough through the side of your glass jar.  If you see tiny bubbles in the dough, things are going well.  I’ve kept a plastic bag, just like the one I mailed to you on my counter for the past two weeks, just to see how it would do.  Yesterday I put a spoonful of this into fresh flour and water and it bubbled up wonderfully.
Yes, cover with a cloth or loose lid to keep it clean.  It doesn’t take a very large hole to let gasses escape
I try to keep about 1/2 cup for starter.  When you feed it, discard all but about 1/4 cup and replace with enough flour and water to make 1/2 cup.
I suggest you put the discarded starter in a little bowl.  Add a pinch of salt, a little sugar, and a dab of butter.  Stir in enough flour until you can handle it.  Knead it for a few minutes and place it in an oven-safe cereal bowl (or a tuna can or. . .).  Cover and let it raise for two or three hours and bake it.  You have now made a little loaf of bread!  This is a good way towards building your confidence and learning how long, under your conditions, you need to let your bread raise.
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Q… I usually try to avoid wheat flour since I am gluten intolerant, but do you know if gluten-free flour, like Buckwheat, Quinoa, Sorghum, or Coconut would work for the feedings?

A… They should work OK.  You might keep a little starter going with regular flour then experiment with the others.  Let me know how it works out.
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Q…I have made one batch of biscuits.  They really weren’t too bad!  I am wondering about how much they raised or rather didn’t raise.  I started them as per the recipe in a big crock bowl which I set on the back of our wood pellet stove top.  It is just barely warm there.  At first the dough grew fast and then didn’t change for the next 4-5 hours.  I finally just added the other ingredients and put them on a cookie sheet on top of my cook stove with the oven turned to 200 degrees.  They didn’t double in size but did get bigger.  When baking they did grow some more.  They had very nice texture and we thought it was a fairly strong sourdough taste.  Should I have kept the dough warmer to start with?

A…No, I don’t think you needed to keep them warmer, maybe just let them raise a little longer before baking.  I’ve had problems sometimes putting them in a “warm” spot, not realizing it was too warm.
Sourdough bread will not be as light as yeast bread.  You will get the most “growth” immediately after feeding or adding the final ingredients for your recipe.  Unlike yeast bread don’t “punch it down” halfway through the raise period.  As soon as you add the final ingredients, make up the loaf or cinnamon rolls or  . . . , let raise then bake.

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Comment from Canada…I’m happy to report that your starter arrived tired and cold about a week ago.  It came to life quickly with a bit of TLC and I made this bread a couple of days ago.  I was interested to see if the taste of the bread was different from that made from the starter I have.  The answer is yes, a little.  The biggest difference I discovered happened overnight.  I made a couple of batches of bread (two loaves with your starter and two loaves with mine) before I went to bed last night.  When I am not going to be around to put it in the oven, (or if its to late) I just leave the bread pans covered in the garage (which is heated but cool) and let it sit overnight.  By morning is usually has risen a little, and I bring them back in the kitchen to finish rising and then bake.  This morning when I went out to retrieve the bread my loaves were within about an inch of the top of the pan and your loaves were just starting to hang over the edge!  So, your starter is pretty lively!  I had to flatten it out again and let it rise and they are in the oven now — looking pretty tasty.          So thank you Eunice.  I’m having fun with this.
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Comment from Texas…The bread is wonderful. It has a very rich sourdough taste and a great texture. The whole family loves it. I gave my sister-in-law a start from it this weekend. I’ll do my best to keep the starter going and share it around.

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Comment from Oregon…I just wanted to let you know the starter arrived in great shape and I fed it and cooked up a big batch of Pancakes with it yesterday for supper. Everyone loved them and our youngest son (23 YO) took 3 pancakes to work the next day for lunch because he liked them so much. I just wanted to thank you for your generosity.
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Another Comment from Texas… Thanks so much for the starter.  We had to be out of town so oldest daughter got first use.  Her family loved the pancakes she made.  Tonight I get fresh bread.  Thanks for your efforts.
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Comment from Minnesota…Thank you very much for the sour dough.  WOW, we really enjoyed the pancakes from your sourdough.  We used spealt instead of wheat flour and had blueberry and banana in them but they were the best I have ever had.  I also greatly enjoy the French bread and corn bread recipe’s.   Thank you so much.
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