Well, a few days from the start of spring. I solar cooked some long grain brown rice with turmeric to eat with stir-fry leftovers. Afternoon temperatures have been in the mid-60s, so I’m putting the fig tree on the balcony for a few hours every day. I also baked another loaf of whole wheat bread and soaked soy beans for making soy milk in the evening.
You can tell just by looking whether or not a sourdough starter is healthy. Sourdough cultures are ecosystems composed of multiple species of wild yeast and lactic acid-producing bacteria living together in a mix of flour and water. The microbes live together in symbiotic polycultures like plants, animals, fungi, and microbes do in larger wild ecosystems and permaculture garden guilds. Optimally, feed and use sourdough starter at the peak of its leavening activity.
Making a loaf of cracked grain caraway sourdough with freshly ground whole wheat flour in the coolness of my shaded house. The olive oil is for oiling the bread pan before dusting semolina on it.
Adapted from Wild Bread: Handbaked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen:
It’s been more than a year since I made backup starter for long-term storage so I decided it was time to make a new batch of dried starter for long term storage in the freezer. Never put fresh sourdough in the freezer. Wild yeast (Saccharomyces exiguus) and some strains of lactic acid bacteria, including L. sanfranciscensis, will not survive freezing in an active state. When dried, the microbes go dormant and the culture can then be stored in a freezer without harm. The starter can easily be reactivated by dissolving it into water and adding flour for food and increasing the volume until you have active bubbling starter.
I made a loaves of my whole wheat bread and Dan’s Sandwich Bread at the same time. Because the super polyunsaturated oil in wheat germ goes rancid quickly, it’s best to make back up start using unbleached flour so I added extra unbleached flour and water to the bowl of Dan’s bread starter for making the back up starter.
I used a spatula to smear a thin layer of active starter on parchment paper with the back of a spoon. I put the tray with the starter in a safe out-of-the-way place (on top of the bowls above my refrigerator).
I let the starter dry for a few days. I live in the dry climate of Arizona. If you live in a more humid climate, a food dehydrator set at 80°F or below will speed up the process; it might be a necessity to allow the starter to dry before mold and bacteria can contaminate it). I crumbled the starter into a jar and put it in my freezer for safekeeping.
An aside about the bowls: the white bowl with the black gooseberries was a wedding present to my parents more than 50 years ago. The blue bowl I bought in Romania in 1998 for $3.
This is where my sourdough starter lives in a back corner of my refrigerator in between bread making sessions. I’ve had this starter for nearly 20 years (mid-1995). Caring for a sourdough starter has similarities to caring for a houseplant. I bake about every five days, but a healthy sourdough starter can live in near-suspended animation for a couple of months if need be. Maintaining a sourdough starter frees you from the need to buy commercial baker’s yeast. Moreover, sourdough bread is so much healthier than non-sourdough bread, mostly due to the lactic acid bacteria that are part of the sourdough ecosystem.