Have been gifted a homegrown sourdough bread starter -- HELP!!!
Last night a friend gave me a gift of about a cup or so of a sourdough bread starter (Nancy Silverton recipe). Very exciting but also daunting as hell. Got Nancy Silverton's bread book this morning -- but it feels all very complicated and daunting (she describes her bread as requiring more work than her husband and kids -- eeek) and wondering if someone has a simple advice on how to keep starter alive and make simple bread. Not looking to bake more than once or twice a week or so -- family of four. Would like to keep things easy as possible as our life is pretty hectic.
My friend advised giving it a cup of water and a cup of flour once a week then halving it and using half to bake with and the other half to set aside for subsequent baking. But not clear on when to put in the refrigerator when to take out -- if these proportions will work for a cup of starter or will overwhelm it. Do I need to get all sorts of thermometers and such? Proofing baskets?
Desperately seeking someone who can give some simple how-to advice.
Thx in advance.
Thank you so much for the support and advice. Appreciated this site esp for unintimidating introduction and instruction:
In terms of starter maintenance am doing a hybrid between these guidelines and Nancy Silverton's.
Favorite thing I've made so far is Nancy Silverton's focaccia. So pretty!!! Sourdough pancakes also went over well.
Keeping it "alive" is a matter of feeding it. But to feed it properly you really need to know its level of hydration, when it was last fed, and whether it's been held at room temperature or refrigerated. Generally speaking, if you can pour it from it's container it's probably in the range of 100% hydration. If you weigh what you have, divide the result (the tare weight - deduct the weight of the container) by 2 and feed it with the resulting amount of water coupled with an equal amount of flour (mix well so as to trap some air in the mix), allow it rest on the counter for about two hours (watch for it to increase in mass) then refrigerate it you should be able to keep in good health without feeding it more often than every 3 - 5 days (I sometimes don't feed mine more than once each week)From what I've seen of Nancy Silverton's starter, she uses a 100% hydration formula so I think that'll put you on the starting line. When storing it, keep it in a clean container that you can see through (plastic or glass) with a lid (but don't cover tightly - the CO2 that develops needs some room to expand and a tightly closed container raises the atmospheric pressure inside - that's not a good thing.
Here's a link where you can get all the helpful advice you will ever need:
No, you don't need proofing baskets. A large boil with a light coating of cooking oil and a piece of plastic wrap to cover it will work just fine. A thermometer isn't essential, but it helps to gauge the internal temperature of the finished loaf so you know when to remove it from the oven; usually in the range of 105 - 110 degrees.
I'd recommend you begin working with bread making by studying the science of baker's percentages and how they function (four,salt,yeast,water) and using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients rather than using the dip/level/pour method when building your bread formula(s). By weighing your ingredients you'll be FAR more consistent in your endeavor and consistency spells success.
Good luck .... and welcome to the fascinating science of bread making.
Check out the Fresh Loaf site
There is lots of information there about bread baking in general and sourdough.
And here's a good sourdogh primer
Here's some sourdough information I put together some time ago
Basicall, to answer your immediate question, to maintain the starter by feeding once a week, take the starter out of the fridge. Remove half the starter (either discard it or use it for baking), Replace the amount removed with equal amounts of fresh water and flour. Let the starter sit out for an hour or so and then put it back in the refrigerator.
While I like working with an instant read thermometer, the only thing you need to be really sure of is that you use cool room temp for your starter and never, ever hot water. If you want to bake those pretty round loaves with the circles around then, you'll need a proofing basket. But if you want to bake pan loaves or baguetts, you don't need a proofing basket.