Monday, February 9, 2015

Tips for Growing Sourdough in a Cold House

    As I write this from New England, we are receiving a huge major snowstorm. We have received nearly 3 feet and the snow is only now beginning to slow down after 24 hours of continuous snowing. The outdoors is like a marshmallow fantasy land with its billowy white shapes. I love the beauty of the snow but 3 feet is really challenging! We've also had many days of frigid temperatures. My little house is well insulated and toasty warm but my bake shop, located in an old mill building, is drafty and hard to heat.

During this period of arctic temps, It has been challenging to grow my starters and in this newsletter I share the tricks I've learned to help my starters ferment properly in a chilly space.           

Happy sourdough starter.
top, Rice, left Sorghum, right Teff

When we regularly buy a food product, we expect it to have the same taste and texture as the ones we bought in the past.  One of the challenges of making fermented products is being able to maintain a constant product from batch to batch. If you purchase my baked breads, you may have noticed some variation from batch to batch.
If you bake my bread mixes or breads, you may notice some differences in how they grow in warm weather versus cold weather. Alas, there are so many variables that can be difficult to control.

My bake shop is in a drafty old mill building. Some of the suites are well heated but mine is not. In order to really get my starters going, I have needed to get creative about getting them some supplemental heat. If you have a cold kitchen, my tips might help you:
  1. Use room temperature flour rather than chilled flour
  2. Use warmed water rather than chilled or even room temperature water
  3. Place your bowl of starter in sunny window
  4. Place your bowl of starter near a gentle heat source such as:
  • on top of the fridge or freezer
  • near a pot of simmering soup
  • near a crock pot
  • near a wood stove
  • in a warm oven
  • in a warm dehydrator
  • near a radiator
Keep in mind that too much heat may kill rather than energize the bacteria and yeast. You just want the bowl itself, and the sourdough starter, to be warm rather than cold. With practice and experience you can gain a feel for what the starter needs.

If you buy my breads, I ask for your understanding if batches are not exactly the same each time. I do my best to work with Mother Nature as well as with the billions of bacteria and yeast I have the pleasure of raising.
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