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As a mom, I find it very important to pay attention to the nutritional quality of what my family eats. About two years ago, I discovered the wonders of sourdough bread and the old school way of making it. Before I started making my own sourdough, I would have various symptoms of gluten intolerance. As I began researching this, I found so much information on how bread, bread-making, and even the way we grow the wheat for the bread has changed through the centuries. (I could write so much on this subject but will spare you the lengthy report. That’s a post for another day.)
What Makes Sourdough Different?
Unlike regular, store-bought bread, sourdough is made with a wild yeast sourdough starter instead of a yeast packet. The problem with the yeast packets, although convenient, is it is an isolated strain of yeast. This proofs our bread quickly, but lacks the complexity and health benefits of wild yeast. It converts natural grain sugars and starches into carbon dioxide, making the dough rise via air pockets. Wild yeast, though, are like mini communities of yeast that use healthy lactobacilli bacteria to convert proteins in the dough (such as gluten) into lactic acid, giving the sourdough its distinctive flavor and saving our guts from that hard-to-digest gluten. This wild yeast is everywhere – in the air we breathe and on fresh foods we buy. It comes to ferment your food for free! By using a wild yeast sourdough starter, the bread dough is basically predigested for us through long fermentation.
Thus, I found that I didn’t really have gluten intolerance but poorly fermented bread intolerance.
Sourdough Starter Recipe
This recipe is based on the old ways of baking, back when food preparation took more than 15 minutes. It is incredibly easy to make and maintain with a little bit of love. This can be done with store-bought all-purpose flour (organic if possible); however, I like to grind my wheat seeds (Einkorn) into flour right before adding it to my starter in order to give the yeast a living flour to ferment. Here is what I use.
Freshly ground (milled) flour is much more nutritious than store-bought because it retains most of its vitamins and enzymes, and all parts of the seed. Store-bought flour tends to make a lighter loaf, but it has sat on the shelf for who knows how long, has less vitamins (unless they added synthetic vitamins back), and may not have the whole wheat seed. I grind my flour very easily in my Vitamix, but you can also use a mill designed for grinding flour, if you choose. I have tried a coffee grinder, but it yielded a more coarse flour.
A traditional sourdough starter takes seven days to initially create. Once it is made, you can refrigerate it or continue to feed it new flour an water as it is used up. I make mine in a large gallon glass container. Each day you mix in a little more flour and water, cover with a cloth, and then leave it on the counter. Yes, you heard that right—you just leave it out, and let the wild yeast in the air colonize!
- 1 cup freshly ground flour
- 2 cups filtered water (chlorine and fluoride free)
In your glass container, thoroughly mix the flour and water, cover with a cloth, and place on a countertop away from extreme heat or cold.
- 1 cup freshly ground flour
- 1 cup filtered water (chlorine and fluoride free)
Add the fresh flour and water to your glass container, mix thoroughly, cover with a cloth and leave.
As the wild yeast colonize and feed on the flour, your starter will go through a few stages. By Day 2, you will begin to see a few bubbles forming in the mixture. Usually around Day 3 comes the frothy stage. A sour smell will begin to come from the froth, which I call “the old beer smell.” Don’t be afraid if you see some separation between the flour and water as well. As you add more and more flour, you will notice increasingly active bubbling happen in your starter. This is a great sign that your starter is healthy and thriving. By day 4 or 5 you should smell a distinctive sour smell—hence the name “sourdough”.
After seven days, you should have a very active starter, ready to use in your recipes. As you use your starter, replace what is used with fresh flour and water.
Here is a free printable to keep handy.
Just click the picture or link below to download.
Stay tuned for more recipes and uses of this starter.