February 5, 2010

Problems With My Sourdough

I have been having a couple of problems with my accidental sourdough starter. Oh, it remains alive and well....

This in itself is something of a minor miracle because it requires daily feeding, and I can be decidedly absent minded about things like that. However, daily feeding also means daily growing. This is my first problem. It keeps growing and I continually need to do something with it so that it doesn't outgrow it's crock.

One possible solution would be putting it in the fridge to slow it down. But I don't have room in my small refrigerator for it! So it resides in our unheated back room "cold storage," quite happily, but still growing. Under the circumstances there is nothing for it but to use it.

My first couple of experiments using my starter weren't that great, as I tried to use the starter itself as a batter base. Then Sharon gave me a sourdough applesauce cake recipe and I began to understand how to use my starter. The basic process is to mix the starter, flour, and liquid, and let stand for several hours at least, if not overnight.

I have to confess that even though I've used her recipe quite a bit, I still haven't made it with applesauce! What I have done, is to modify it and substitute things like some of my rehydrated figs, canned pumpkin, or unsweetened carob chips....

Sourdough Carob Chip Cake

1 C sourdough starter
1 C unbleached white flour
1/2 C milk

Mix and let stand about an hour and a half. Then cream

1/2 C organic palm shortening
3/4 C raw sugar

Mix with starter mixture and add

1 egg
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well. Lastly, fold in

1 pkg unsweetened carob chips

Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan and bake at 350° F about 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Unsweetened carob chips are naturally sweet, so I was able to cut the sugar by 1/4 cup. We loved it! I do plan to try the original recipe with applesauce soon. If you'd like a copy of that, you need to ask Sharon.

While experimenting with this, I began to wonder why the starter couldn't substitute for buttermilk in pancake, muffin, and biscuit recipes. Like buttermilk, it contains lactic acid, which reacts with alkaline baking soda to create carbon dioxide bubbles, causing the batter to rise. I reasoned that it should be able to replace buttermilk in any baked goods recipe.

With that in mind, I started using starter in my muffin and pancake recipes, without allowing the batter sit and rise. I found that I sometimes have to add a little more liquid, but it works well, uses up some of the starter, adds fermented whole grain flour to our diet, and makes things mighty tasty.

Between these two things, the problem of ever increasing starter was solved.

The most challenging thing has been bread. Do you remember my first loaf? I was delighted that it rose, but the texture was more like muffins than bread and the taste was distinctly sour. I needed to work on the recipe.

I found that by using less starter, say 1/2 cup for 3 cups of flour, I could get a dough that rose well and produced a better textured bread. I felt this may be the answer until DH told me he really didn't care for the sour in the sourdough bread. This was my second problem and it was devastating because I thought I'd found the answer to natural bread baking!

I was still puzzling over this when I read this post, at Chiot's Run blog. In it, Suzy mentioned reading that baking soda is supposed to help reduce the sourness of sourdough pancakes. I had definitely noticed that all the recipes in which I'd been using both starter and baking soda (muffins, pancakes, cake, etc.), really didn't taste like sourdough. I hadn't realized it was the baking soda however.

I decided to experiment with my bread recipe. The result?

Leigh's Sourless Whole Wheat Sourdough BreadBeautiful whole wheat bread with no sour taste to it! Second problem solved.

Here's what I did...

Sourless Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

The night before:

1/2 C sourdough starter
1/2 C warm water
3 C whole wheat flour

Mix to form a soft dough, adding more warm water if needed. Grease or butter the surface to keep it from drying out. Cover with a clean dishcloth, and let sit overnight.

Next day add:

Big glob of honey
Big blob of organic palm softened shortening
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp baking soda
Enough unbleached white flour to make a stiff dough

Knead well (I cheat. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook). Shape in bread pan and let rise until double in bulk. This takes quite a bit longer than yeast bread and I could have let mine go a bit more if I'd wished. Bake at 350° until done (I use the baking cycle on my bread machine.)

Problem solved! DH is happy with the taste of the bread, and I'm happy that I'm baking beautiful bread without yeast.

Related Posts:
Accidental Sourdough

Problems With My Sourdough text and photos copyright
5 February 2010 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com/


  1. One of these days when I don't have to work 50 hours a week, I'd love to try this. They look and sound wonderful and I really miss the smell of fresh baked bread in the house.

  2. I love sourdough starters... Thanks for reminding me, I may just start one today... Your post made me think of when I gave some of a starter to a cousin of mine... She placed it on her counter and fed it with one problem.. She put a lid on it.. Needless to say it did grow.. and eventually expanded to the point the bowl popped its lid throwing started everywhere.. I dont think I ever laughed so hard in my life.... by the way your wheat bread looks wonderful

  3. Oh, that's really good to know about the sour flavour. I think I might be about to run into the same problem myself with my picky other half...

    There is another solution to the Growth Problem, if you don't want to bake every day. I am keeping a very small amount of starter in my fridge, and building it up before baking. I got the original idea from here, and am adapting to my needs! We eat little enough bread that I'm probably only going to bake once or twice a week, and I can plan ahead for my 'bakes', so it makes a lot more sense than keeping it warm all the time.

  4. glad you got that figured out. :D

  5. Wow, I had no idea starter could do all these things. And you bread looks fantastic!
    I'm going to try these as well. First, the starter, though. I love this kind of experimenting, and hopefully it will get my baking started again.

    PS. Thank you for your comment on my Power Down entry. It makes such a difference to have the first comment on such a contentious issue be a positive one!

  6. I am now interested in getting a starter of my own. I couldn't help but think that having a starter is much like having a pet. It needs care and attention and when taken good care of, it gives much in return :)

  7. Benita, it's a real treat. And it is time consuming, not so much in the amount of time spent working it, but in the amount of time it takes for the waiting and rising. I find I really have to plan ahead.

    MMM, thanks for the laugh! I can so relate. That was a lesson your cousin learned well, I'm sure.

    Alison, I'm enjoying your sourdough adventures too. But I have to confess that my true fear of the fridge is that if it ever goes in, I'll forget about it and it will never come out!

    Renee, thanks! The real question is though, how long can I keep this starter going!

    Katrien, you're welcome. We contemplatives are often cautious about speaking our minds, I think.

    You will have a lot of fun with sourdough. Amie will too.

    "Like having a pet." Leslie, that's exactly it. At least it's a quite pet. :) It's a lot of fun to try, and I hope you'll post your experiments on your blog.

  8. I think I should stop looking at your blog, when I am hungry! everything looks yummeh.... (growl:)) I think I read somewhere that you can freeze the starter as well, so that it doesn't need feeding.. have to look that up again! the absolute favourite with "sourdough" in our house isn't bread, but a sweet cake in various designs, with cinnamon and brown sugar or with pineapple etc.. I'll better go and eat something or I'll start to chew on the keyboard:))

  9. When my kids were growing up, I'd make bread once a week. I'd set it after dinner and then put the loaves in the refrigerator to rise overnight. In the morning, I'd put the bread pans in a cold oven and turn on the heat. I miss it, but we just don't eat bread anymore and I ended up letting my starter die. I'm glad you enjoyed Dawn's recipe. She gave it to me in 1973!

  10. Way to go with sourdough! I am amazed that you made your starter accidentally. Seriously cool. I was scared to try to make one b/c I thought it would be too hard! I'm definitely linking to this post when I talk sourdough this month at KS. Sarahs-musings.blogspot.com has the BEST sourdough recipes in the world, plus tips on starters. It's a must-visit!
    Thank you for linking up with Finer Things Friday! :) Katie

  11. Oh wow! I'm so glad I stumbled into your blog. Your sourless wheat bread looks fantastic. I just started a sourdough starter and have been wondering, as I watch it develop, if I'll actually be able to get the kids to eat sourdough bread. You have just provided my answer and become my hero du jour. Thanks!

  12. That looks really good. Almost good enough to make me want to make bread. :)

  13. Bettina, freeze it? Interesting. I will definitely have to give this a try with some of my starter.

    Sharon, gosh that sounds easy! I'll have to try that. Since sourdough doesn't do well with a bread machine, I could make a bigger batch of loaves and freeze them. Thanks for the idea.

    Katie, I confess, I was scared too! If it hadn't been for my "accident" I'd probably still be dragging my feet, *LOL Thanks for the link to Sarah's blog, it's excellent!

    Maggie, thank you so much. Your encouraging comment has made my day!

    Robin, almost??? *LOL There's nothing better than a slice of fresh hot bread slathered with butter you know. Mmmmm.

  14. I had a friend give me a starter a few weeks ago and do you think I could remember to take care of it! Now after seeing your recipes I wish I had keep it!

  15. Julie, starter is easy! You can make it again and again as you need. You can give it a try with just flour and water, add a little yeast to boost it, or try a little whey. It's worth it!

  16. Ohhhh, your cooking looks so yummy! I've starred your recipes in my Google reader:-) And now that my son has finally started school, I might actually have time to bake!


My sincerest apologies for my apparent neglect in answering comments and returning blog visits. I am in the thick of preparing Critter Tales for publication! This is both exciting, but also intense, as I push to get it out before Christmas. Please don't give up on me. I appreciate and am encouraged by every comment.