Sourdough is the tangy, spongy, and funky bread that most everyone loves. Like many breads, it requires yeast, and a lot of it. Unlike many breads, however, it requires a starter, which can be made from, among other things, wheat germ. I got my starter from the folks at Carl'sFriends.net. They have put themselves in charge of maintaining and distributing one of the oldest yeast cultures in the world - a sourdough yeast born on the Oregon Trail, in 1847! They will happily send you a dried sample of their yeast for free, and they are open to donations, so feel free to support their passionate work!
Disclaimer: The pursuit of homemade sourdough and starter are not for the faint of heart. This is not just a hobby, this is a commitment. You may very well lose track of your social life, job, etc., but the results are delicious and more than worth it.
Ingredients for sourdough starter: 1/2 teaspoon of Oregon Trail Sourdough wheat germ granules Lukewarm water Roughly 1 cup of all-purpose flour
1. In a small container, add one tablespoon of lukewarm water to 1/2 teaspoon of your wheat germ granules and let stand for a few minutes to mingle. 2. Add 1 tbsp flour. Depending on the flour, you may need to add an extra teaspoon or two of water. It should resemble thin pancake batter. 3. When it begins to bubble, put it in a little larger container. Then add in 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of flour. 4. When the mix rises up add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. 5. Wait. It will take a couple of hours for the mixture to rise. The amount of time will depend on the warmth of the room. You will want to have a little more than one cup of ripe starter that is ready to be used or kept in the fridge.
Note: If you're lucky enough to have an obscene amount of flour and free time, you can keep your starter at room temperature, and feed it, use it, discard it, or give the discards to your neighbors if they want a pet. Keeping your starter at room temperature will require that you feed it twice daily, on a 12-hour schedule. This requires a lot of sourdough production to justify the amount of flour used. At last, you found something to do with all of that free time since Vine shut down!
Feeding Your Starter: Many sourdough recipes, like the King Arthur Flour one, require one cup of ripe starter per two loaves, so the Oregon Trail Starter recipe is perfect for it. Starter requires a 1-to-1-to-1 mass ratio to flour and water to ripen, so adjust the amount you plan on feeding, so that the total mass after the feed is as close as possible to the amount the recipe demands. For example, if you are making sourdough bagels, and plan to use sourdough starter in place of an overnight sponge, the recipe may demand 3 cups of starter, so you should weigh your 1 cup of starter, and add as many ounces of flour and water, and mix thoroughly with a fork. Some recipes will provide more detailed instructions, but essentially, starter needs to consume its weight in flour and water to survive healthily.
For regular sourdough bread, use the starter between 5 and 7 hours after feeding it, when it reaches peak ripeness. Ripeness can be determined most easily by how bubbly the starter is, so we personally recommend storing it in a quart-sized mason jar for maximum visibility.