Sourdough Starter Recipe for Bread Baking and More

Cathy Johnson shares an easy sourdough starter recipe along with a German-style sourdough bread recipe worth trying.

| September/October 1971

Clarence Massey's recipes for sourdough in this issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS are darn good ones . . . But there's more than one formula for sourings and the baked goods made from them. Here are two more variations on the theme. It's especially interesting that Cathy Johnson and Clarence Massey both knead their dough long and vigorously while Dudley Shaw cautions against unnecessary handling of the dough. Since both methods obviously produce the desired result, it seems that sourdough will work most any ole way you want to make it.  

If you're tired of forgetting the yeast or tired of whole wheat bread's tendency to crumble (mine, a no-knead recipe, does anyway) or just tired of the same old taste . . . try some bread with real body. Try sourdough.

There are a number of recipes for sourdough starter and most of them scare off the beginner by calling for potatoes and other things more complicated and esoteric than you may have on hand. Forget them. Life wasn't meant to be that difficult. I've rummaged through the cookbooks and amalgamated the following formula that works (for me, at least) perfectly every time:

Sourdough Starter Recipe

1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup lukewarm water (can be potato cooking water if you have it but we've found that it's not necessary.
1/2 cake or 1/2 tablespoon dry yeast, softened in another 1/2 cup warm water.

Stir these ingredients together and put the mixture in a clean crock with a lid if you have one . . . if not, a bowl with a plate on it, an enameled pan with a lid or even a nice big jar should do (just don't screw the lid down too tight or you may find yourself cleaning sourdough off half the Free World).

Without stirring or disturbing the starter, allow it to rise and fall until it gets as sour as you want it. And how sour should that be? We didn't know either the first time through, so we just ad-libbed and let ours get good and sour. The original recipe said, "allow to work two or three days" but our first batch, sitting next to the wood heater (on the cold floor` took about four. Once the starter is sour, put it in the refrigerator till you're ready to use it.

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