Late in 2016, I read an article about making bread being somewhat Zen-like. I decided that more importantly, it would be delicious. And there began my plan to start baking bread. Mind you, I have never been good at baking anything outside of Jiffy corn bread – so this was a big step.
Starter, Take 1: I got things started by purchasing a scale and an instant thermometer, and following this great tutorial from the Kitchn. You’ll find all the instructions and science you might need there – really helpful.
I went with a basic Corningware dish with a glass lid for the container – nothing fancy. Its sturdy, retains heat, and is breathable if pressure were to build up.
After a week of feeding the starter as required, things seemed to be going well, at least to me. It wasn’t rotten, and there were some bubbles.
I even made some awesome pancakes.
Then I tried to bake. The first loaves were pretty awful – dense, brick like. I realized that my starter was to blame – it simply wasn’t healthy enough – due to it being winter, I was storing it in a cabinet that was around 62 degrees. Apparently that’s not ideal.. note the lack of bubbles there.
Starter, Take 2: Knowing from beer brewing, yeast can be finicky – so it was time to start hacking. I ended up clearing off my workbench in the basement, and laying out my “seedling starter mat” – from some other failed garden experiment (damn pine trees).
Even though its clearly even colder in the basement, the mat easily keeps the starter in the upper 70’s, which has really helped it thrive.
And by “thrive”, I mean it became grosser – more bubbles, more goop – which all equates to better bread!
After a few weeks, I’ve gotten a little more lax with the starter. I still try to feed it daily, though I don’t measure – I just throw some flour and water in there. If its too liquid-y, more flour. Too thick, more water. That’s about it. And while you are supposed to throw half of it away every week – I just use it. As it turns out, when not baking loaves, you can make pancakes, waffles, popovers, english muffins, biscuits, and all kinds of other great stuff with the starter. So why throw it out?
Now that the starter is figured out.. baking begins.