Since then, I have made my own starter a number of times, in a few different ways, with much success. The one I'm maintaining right now came from Azure Standard, and it's just beautiful. I've made bread, rolls, pancakes, crepes, crackers, muffins, cinnamon rolls, pizza crusts, pot pies, and even chocolate cake. It's marvelous to work with, and a little practice pays off quickly. We love the taste and our bodies love to digest it.
Today I thought I'd show you my feeding routine. Meet The Mama.
Isn't she lovely?
The keys to caring for your starter are food and warmth. If you feed once or twice a day, you can keep her out on the counter. If you'd prefer to feed her less frequently, keep her in the fridge (where things happen more slowly). Just remember that the longer you go without feeding her, the longer it will take to renew her vigor. I never use my Mama starter for recipes. More on that in a second.
(Incidentally, I have a wonderful book on natural yeast wherein the author states that she always gives her starters male names. That did not resonate with me. She must be female because she is full of life.)
I keep a pretty pitcher of water on my counter at all times. You must feed your starter with pure water, and though I'm fairly sure my fridge filter gets rid of the chlorine, I know chlorine evaporates, so I leave it out. Just to be sure.
I also always have a jar of freshly-ground flour on my counter. I generally grind my grain right when I need it, leaving any extra in a jar for sourdough feeding. It's always quite fresh. The fresher the better.
So here's what I do. It all takes 3 minutes or less.
I take roughly half of what's in the Mama starter, and discard it into a quart jar. I only use the starter from the quart jar for recipes so I never make the mistake of accidentally using all my starter. If you simply want to strengthen your original starter, you can always compost the discard.
I make sure I have 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup measuring cups on hand (the 1/4 for water, the 1/3 for flour).
Then, add a 1/3 cup of the (preferably) freshly-ground flour, and stir vigorously. Again, I double the amount in the quart jar.
Scrape the sides, making sure the rim of the jar is clean, cover with cheesecloth or a paper towel, and you're done! I thought that pint jar was looking a little crusty, so I changed to a new one after the feeding. I don't always.
Here's what they look like thirty minutes after feeding. See the life? They will eventually about double in size as the wild yeasts have their feast.
You can start making recipes right away. Many bread recipes only use 1/2 cup of starter! Once you have two cups in that quart jar, you absolutely must make this cast iron pancake recipe: Erin's Oh-So-Fluffy Sourdough Pancakes. I one and a half the recipe for my family of four big eaters and one little eater. There's no added flour, so you can make it right away with no additional souring time.
Here's my now 3-year-old blowing out his birthday candles on his own little pancake just yesterday (after he'd nibbled at the side a bit). His breakfast request.
There are hosts of other sourdough recipes online. If you want a great collection, the Gnowfglins Sourdough A to Z ebook is my current favorite, though the other I mentioned earlier (The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast) is good as well, with lots of information and lovely pictures.