My Sourdough Starter: Late Nights With Yeast

This may look like a Zerg infestation but this is a picture of success. After almost four days of research, and seven sleepless nights, I have recreated an extra bubbly Sourdough Mother Starter. No baked goods yet though, but soon.

We have a spotty history, sourdough and I. Memory 1: My first attempt at sourdough starter was thrown out unceremoniously on its Day 3 by doubtful family members who didn’t think that anything that smelled like rotten feet could be edible. Memory 2: Hugging a big Boudini Sourdough Boule like a comfort blanket at the San Francisco Airport after being told that our flight would be delayed by a day and realizing all I had was the loaf of bread, since my clothes were happily tucked in the plane’s belly.

So, definitely felt fulfilled to see the bubbling, jiggling, slightly sour-smelling Thing in the picture above.

I read through so much literature discussing the methods, and the  whys and wherefores of sourdough recipes.  Whole wheat or white flour or rye? Pineapple juice or water? Commercial yeast or pure wild yeast? On hindsight, my advice is don’t sweat it. Man was successfully making bread this way even before we knew that there were living organisms in the starter.

I finally used the recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads Everyday book.  There is a summarized version at this link. You can also use the Bread Baker’s Apprentice version which describes the process from seed culture to barm/mother starter very well.  For sheer simplicity, just use the KAF version here.

The first thing I would check once I got home from work was whether my Kusai was OK — has it risen? is it hungry? has the bouquet changed? does it need more flour and water? Should I mix it? Have they thrown it out?!  (My daughter calls it Kusai which is Japanese for stinky, an apt name as it went from sweet flour smelling, to rotten eggs, to the smell of markers, to a slightly vinegary, sweetish smell). I would feed it after dinner, and visit once more before going to bed, then pored over more books to understand what is happening underneath that blanket of froth. Towards the end of the week, when the bubbles were growing, I would stare at the concoction for what seemed like hours, sniffing it for alcohol or any off smells, and once, possibly spotting movement!

This was the seed culture on Day 5, doubling almost perfectly.

Top view showing bubbles.

Cross section of the container for the mother starter, showing how the mixture has doubled, but collapsed when moved because of intense protease activity (see, I actually picked up something from all that reading)!


 Fermented mother starter and ready for use.

I still visit Kusai twice a day just to see if its adapting well to its zero feeding schedule in the refrigerator. I can’t wait to try it out over the weekend!

11 thoughts on “My Sourdough Starter: Late Nights With Yeast

  1. That’s unbelievable!…to have the patience to make this starter!…I admire you!…but, i know you must be so happy to finally accomplish the task…I say, “If we get to do it “ONE” time it is worth t!…good luck on the bread…I imagine the wonderful smell of it baking fresh in your oven…will be awesome!~mkg


  2. Hi! Thanks for the pingback on my post. You are very brave making your own starter and it looks very healthy. I hope you get some great loaves of bread from it. I made my own when I had just discovered the joys of sourdough and I managed to bake one gorgeous loaf of bread and a fantastic chocolate cake with it. Then my starter lost it’s mojo from something that I did or didn’t do. I really like your blog. I can’t wait to see your first baked load of bread. Good luck!


  3. Pingback: Sourdough – Make you own Starter | James's Recipes

  4. Pingback: Home-made Sourdough | Silvia's Cucina

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