Our relationship with our sourdough has continued to evolve. Recently we ignored the starter in the back of the cool box a little longer than was polite. When we brought it (him? her?) out to use, it required two “feedings” before it had enough rising power to make bread. This gave us a couple quarts of extra sourdough to work with . . . the bread recipe only uses 1/2 cup of starter. We have enjoyed several batches of sourdough gingerbread, biscuits and bread in the last couple weeks.
Before I began feeding the starter I went back to www.thefreshloaf.com to make sure I remembered the process correctly. I found some interesting posts about bread making of all kinds that discussed some concepts I already knew about and some I’d never considered.
One thing I knew was warming the ingredients and bowls before starting. This is especially important in the winter here. A new concept for me was actually measuring the temperature of the ingredients. There is a formula for knowing how warm the water should be to get the dough an ideal temperature for rising. 240 minus the temperature of the flour and the air temperature and 10 (for how much heat you create from kneading). So if your room is 70° and your flour is 70° the math would be 240–70-70-10= 90. So you would want your water to be 90°. This works with regular yeast dough too. The ideal temperature for rising is 78° F.
Another thing they talked about was incorporating air into the starter when you are feeding it. Apparently using a wire whisk to stir the warm water, flour and starter helps a lot. Then you need to give it a couple whiskings (I dare not say beatings) during the day while it is beginning to work. The air is needed by the natural sourdough yeasts to grow.
Of course, we don’t usually make this much fuss about it. But we do keep these things in mind especially when we make bread.
So we know more about making the sourdough more comfortable now. It’s about time, since it has been a part of the family longer than Aly has . . . and she is off at college! Today marks this sourdough starter’s 20th birthday.