Hello, and welcome back.
After reading my last post, and I know you all did, you should now have a starter that is growing strong and happy. In making your starter you spent a lot of time and given it lots of love over the last week or so. Now let's talk about what "happy" means and how to care for your newborn.
A happy starter is bubbly, meaning if you look at the top or sides you will see bubbles smiling back at you. The starter also doubles in the jar when it rises, and has a pleasant yeasty smell.
Caring for your newborn is quite simple. I know, what you might be thinking right now. "but, Soni, I keep reading how much time and effort it is to care for a starter" and, "Soni, I have been through this before and I killed the starter last time". Yes, I have said and thought the very same things.
Many times in the past, I have failed or thought I failed at sourdough bread and starter making. Mostly I would get busy with life and my starter would find its way to the very back of the fridge, forgotten and lonely. It would get this black liquid on top and I would assume I killed it and threw it out. When I did get a starter going, I would then make bread and it would be very dense and not rise. So I would just give up and say, "Well I guess I am not cut out for baking".
One thing you should know about me is that I tend to be a bit lazy. So I look for the most efficient and time-saving way to do just about everything. That being said, here is how I have successfully cared for my starter and have done so for almost 3 years now.
In my fridge currently sits two jars, one is my discard that I use for many recipes, including crackers, pizza crust, and many more that I will discuss in future posts. The second jar is my mostly empty starter jar. Yes, I said empty.
My starter jar sits in my fridge (sometimes for weeks at a time) until I want to make a dough, the contents are just what is left over from the last time I used the starter, and poured most of the leftover starter into the discard jar. I don't take it out and feed it until the morning of the day I want to make bread, or english muffins, or whatever else I make with the starter.
Yep, that's it. No weekly feedings, no dumping it out, and feeding it if I don't use it. None of that silliness. It just sits at the front of my fridge and happily waits for me to take it out and feed it. It is just a jar with starter on the sides and a tiny bit on the bottom.
I have found that because it's so easy caring for my starter in this way I actually make bread more often.
The discard jar also just sits in the fridge patiently waiting to be used. It sometimes produces a "hooch" on top. Remember that hooch is just a layer of blackish liquid that the starter produces when it thinks it is hungry. Also, remember you have not killed your starter or discard if it produces a hooch. Just either pour it off or stir it in if you want a more pungent flavor to your final product.
Many think of sourdough making as an exact science. That there is little room for error and you must follow everything to a T. Well, I think sourdough is very forgiving. The more you work with it the more you get to know how it works, lives, and breathes. You will build a relationship with it and you and your starter will accept each other's flaws.
Please leave me comments if you have questions.