My sourdough starter, Walter
Updated: Mar 30
Walter, my sourdough starter is turning 1 this month and I'm devoting this post to him to celebrate that milestone. Isn't he a handsome fellow?
Over the past year, he has become part of the family. My youngest daughter made him a Valentine and my oldest daughter Olivia calls him our pet. Does this sounds like bizarre behavior? Probably, but my sourdough obsession began over 20 years ago with my first restaurant job which was baking bread at Hawthorne Lane restaurant in San Francisco. We made about 10-12 breads a day for the bread basket and the star was a sourdough loaf. The starter was apparently "borrowed" from a rival restaurant. I truly regret not taking some starter when I left that job, but I'm so happy that Walter is around. It was iffy there for awhile, but I've been feeding him regularly and he seems bubbly and active.
Fermented foods have become very popular lately for their wonderful health benefits and they also have such a rich cultural history. For me, I love the fact that it is precise and intuitive all at the same time. Every starter reacts differently and every baker handles their dough in a way that creates a unique bake each time. I will never get tired of lifting the lid to my Dutch Oven to see how my bread has baked up or cutting into the crusty warm loaf. I never wait for it to cool down completely.
Especially now during these days of social distancing, baking has provided a great sense of solace. It also keeps me on a schedule of sorts and provides a quiet meditation. When the announcement came that schools would be closing, I went to the grocery store as most people were doing. I wasn't looking for toilet paper or sanitizer, I wanted to stock up on bread flour. Since we'd all be at home, my weekly bread production would increase with my hungry daughters and husband. I also wanted to bake for my neighbors and friends. It's a nice way to stay connected and show how much I care and appreciate those in my life. These are strange days we are dealing with, but I'm going to continue baking as much as I can. With this down time, it would be a perfect opportunity to begin a starter. There are so many wonderful resources to get you started on your sourdough journey. I used King Arthur Flour's guide when beginning my starter, and it took Walter about 8 days until he was ready. I also use The Perfect Loaf and Elaine Foodbod as my references for building my dough.
Now there are also a few pieces of equipment that you will need that I've outlined below. I am by no means an expert, but I love it so much that I'm hoping to encourage others to join in. If you have any questions about getting started, leave me a comment below. Also, I'll be posting a detailed outline about how I make my standard sourdough recipe, so stay tuned. And if your interested in joining the Instagram Sourdough group that I cohost with Doaa @asoulfulkitchen, leave me a comment or click here. Happy baking!
SOURDOUGH TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
digital scale (weighing ingredients will give you precise measurements)
lame (for scoring your dough)
shower caps (a great reusable cover for your dough, now you don't have to get the fancy patterns, but they are so much fun)