Some would consider sourdough baking a lost art. It first piqued my interest when I moved away from Nashville to our little farm in a very rural community 700 miles south. I didn’t really know it at the time, but I was craving a slower paced life. Sourdough baking definitely offered me that, and I know that there are so many others out there who are craving the same.
Making sourdough bread leaves me feeling accomplished. It definitely feeds my soul for the slower paced life that I was craving. There is no instant gratification of opening up a package from the pantry or the freezer and getting my carb fix. I have to work for it and wait for it. It makes me appreciate this homesteading lifestyle, because I know that I am using simple items that God provides to create life-giving sustenance for my family! I feel like sourdough baking offers a life of purpose, because everything I bake is a labor of love.
Sourdough Health Benefits
It wasn’t until I began doing the actual research that I learned how much healthier sourdough bread can be as opposed to store bought commercialized bread. As with most things, bread should be eaten in moderation, but if you are like me and you just need some carbs in your life, sourdough bread made the old- fashioned way without added store-bought yeast is the healthier choice when compared with most store-bought options. And the taste is so much better!
There are many health benefits to eating sourdough bread. Because sourdough bread is made with a sourdough starter that has been fermented, it contains many properties that support gut health. Sourdough is filled with prebiotics which is necessary for a healthy gut because that is what feeds the good bacteria that your body stores inside. Good bacteria equals a healthy gut, and a healthy gut equals a healthy mind and body. Gut health is important friends.
Studies have shown that even people who are gluten intolerant are able to eat true sourdough bread because the sourdough breaks down faster and is more easily digested. However I am NOT a doctor so do not take that as advice. Any kind of bread or gluten containing food can be dangerous for someone with Celiac Disease. Fortunately I am only gluten intolerant, and while gluten can give me some undesirable symptoms that are exactly like those who suffer from Celiac, I have found that I can tolerate sourdough foods in small amounts.
Sourdough bread also delivers lactic acid into your body. Lactic acid contains antioxidant benefits which is what helps your body to fight off infection. I don’t know about you, but I love the idea that my carb fix is delivering health benefits as well.
Better Choice For Diabetics
One of the biggest benefits about eating sourdough bread for me is that studies have proven that the glycemic index is lower than that of store-bought bread. Diabetes runs in my family, and I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I am supposed to be strictly watching my blood sugar levels and staying within a certain range. Some foods will spike my blood sugar dangerously high, but sourdough is not one of them. Research even shows that sourdough white bread gives most people an even smaller blood sugar spike than regular whole grain bread. Diabetics have to watch their spike. Spikes are not good, so if I can eat bread, pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and french toast without having to worry about my blood sugar spiking, I am SO WINNING! Obviously I have to follow the “everything in moderation” rule, but this girl needs her bread! I have never been one to eat very many sweets, but when it comes to bread I am crying if I don’t get it. I was definitely not blessed with a ton of will power.
How To Make a Sourdough Starter
Cooking with sourdough is super simple once you have your sourdough starter created. So the first step to getting started is to create your starter, and it really couldn’t be more simple.
- Choose your sourdough starter container. I suggest that you choose one that is about the size of a flour or sugar canister. This may seem like a really large container, but keep in mind that your starter will eventually double or even triple in size while it sits on your counter. If it is easier for you to start small and then transfer to a larger container later, that is fine too. It needs to be ceramic or glass. Plastic or metal is not recommended.
- Add one cup of flour to your container. I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour. You can use regular all-purpose flour but you should always use unbleached at the very least.
- Add approximately ¾ cup of water to the unbleached flour in your container. I use water from my Berkey rather than tap water since most water systems add bleach to our local water supply.
- Stir it well and cover it with a paper towel and a rubber band to keep it in place.
- For the first three to four days you will need to feed your starter twice a day. Feeding directions are below.
PLEASE NOTE: Most articles that you read online about creating a sourdough starter will tell you to use equal parts flour and water. So if you add a cup of flour you should add a cup of water. However, I have found that using a 75% hydration ratio works better for me. Keep in mind that the temperature in your kitchen, the level of humidity in your home, and even the altitude could affect your starter. You want the consistency to be similar to a thick waffle batter. Some people will use equal amounts of flour and water which will make their starter a little runnier. This is totally fine if you choose to do that. But I have found my way to be fail-proof.
Feeding Your Starter
Go ahead and give your starter a name because you will have to feed it daily in order to keep it alive. I call my starter Betty Lou. Betty Lou is a beloved member of my family who feeds us well. She is probably the most useful “pet” that we own.
When creating your starter for the first time, you will need to feed your starter twice a day for the first three or four days. The reason for this is because baby starters are super hungry. Once your starter begins doubling in size you can start feeding it only once per day.
To feed your starter you will ALWAYS need to remove a portion of the starter and then add more fresh flour and water. If you added one cup of flour to begin your starter, then use a measuring cup to remove ½ cup of what you have in your container. This is called discard, and once your starter is established and healthy there are SO MANY recipes you can cook with it such as these amazing sourdough pancakes or these delicious blueberry sourdough biscuits, rather than throwing the discard away.
After you have removed a portion of your starter it is time to feed it. If you removed ½ cup then replace it with ½ cup of fresh flour and maybe 1/3 cup of water. Again you are looking for thick waffle batter consistency so if you need to add more water that’s okay too. Congratulations you have just fed your starter. Do this twice a day for the first three or four days and then you can begin doing it only once a day.
When stirring your starter, be sure you are using a jar spatula or something similar. Scraping sourdough off the sides and the bottom of your container can get a little frustrating because when the starter begins to grow, it will stick. You just need to be able to scrape the sides of your container very well. This is the jar spatula that I like to use.
You should begin seeing lots of thick bubbles. This is a beautiful thing! By day seven or eight you should see your starter growing at least double in size. By day ten your starter should be ready to cook with. There are a lot of various opinions on when your starter is ready. Keep in mind that the longer it sits and ferments the better it will become. I know people who are feeding a starter that was handed down to them twenty years ago. As long as you treat it like a pet and feed it daily, it will last forever. I have even forgotten to feed mine before and it bounced back easily.
DON’T GIVE UP! One of the biggest reasons that people fail at their sourdough starter is because they give up too soon. They do not see it doubling in size by day four so they toss it. I get it. We are anxious to have that beautiful jar of bubbles so that we can start baking, but as with all things worth doing, slow and steady makes the payoff worth the labor. Don’t be too quick to give up on your starter. Just keep at it, and one day you will realize that you were making things more difficult than it had to be. However, if your starter begins to smell putrid, it may be time to start over. It should smell sour but not spoiled.
Storing Your Sourdough Starter
I store my sourdough starter on my kitchen counter. I bake with mine several times a week, but if you only want to bake with yours every now and then you can store it in the fridge. Once your starter is established (which will take about ten days) and you are feeding it daily and seeing it double in size, feel free to put it in the fridge for up to one week. Refrigerated sourdough starter needs to be fed no less than once weekly. When feeding a cold starter, make sure you allow it to sit on the counter and reach room temperature first. Then it can be safe to feed, double in size, then return to the fridge. I usually pull it out of the fridge on Sunday morning, let it rest on the counter until about 2:00 pm Sunday afternoon, and then I will feed it. If I feed it at 2:00, then that gives it plenty of time to rise and double in size before I put it back in the fridge Sunday night. By the way this is the same process I go through when I want to bake with it, but instead of returning it to the fridge that night, I leave it on the counter and feed it again the next morning. A few hours later it is ready to bake with!
Every morning when I feed my sourdough starter that I store on my counter, it makes my skin crawl to even think about tossing out some of that yummy starter that I have to remove when feeding. When you are first establishing your starter you probably need to go ahead and toss the portion that you remove, but later on that almost becomes a sin to do so. HAHA. I kid. I kid. We all have to do what we need to do for our own home. Tossing it is fine if you just don’t want to cook with it. But there are so many recipes that you can make using sourdough discard. Sourdough pancakes or fluffy sourdough waffles are two of our favorites! And there is almost nothing better than hot, fluffy, homemade sourdough biscuits with fresh butter and honey drizzled on top. I’m getting hungry just thinking about those biscuits!
Made From Scratch Life
Knowing where my food comes from is important to me. We have always had to be careful simply because my daughter has some food allergies. Those food allergies are what opened up my eyes to the actual ingredients that the entire world is consuming when eating store-bought products. I may not be able to avoid all packaged products completely, but making small changes where I can adds up to a lot. Baking fresh sourdough bread rather than buying it from a store is just one small change added to a list of small changes that gets longer every day. This is what creating a made-from-scratch life looks like.
There are many health benefits that true sourdough bread made from scratch without added store-bought yeast can offer. However, none of those benefits are as appealing to me as the one that makes me slow down and realize that what I am creating with a little bit of flour and water is a labor of love. It is a labor of love that my grandparents and great great grandparents passed down for me to share with my own family. One day my children will do the same.