I tried creating my own sourdough starter several times last summer, but consistently ended up killing the starter somehow around day 3. I convinced myself that I was not ready to begin caring for ferments daily and so I waited.
In the meantime I acquired milk kefir grains and they were so much work. They really do need constant (or at least daily) attention, but the result is wonderful tasting kefir so it's worth it. Perhaps sourdough starter would also be worth it?
And it really is!
For those who don't know, or those who are considering cutting out grains, sourdough can be a wonderful addition in your life. Here's a really quick summary:
Basically, sourdough starters contain natural yeasts (and not just one type of yeast like the packets in the supermarket), which is really important because the yeasts create enzymes to pre-digest the grain. Because it's also fermented, you get the bacteria in there eating the sugars and starches. The bacteria also activates that break down phytic acid, which is what makes eating grains so tough on your stomach. It also produces acetic acid, which creates the "sour" part of sourdough bread - which helps the bread store longer, preventing mold.*
So if your stomach hurts when you eat a sandwich or you're wondering if you should cut out gluten**, start making your own bread and the negative effects should go away. I'm not going into too many details just because there are SO many wonderful lists of benefits already out there (and linked below), but I will say it's really changed my life in such a great way.
So far, I've used my starter to make bread, pizza crust, pie crust, donuts, and I'm looking forward to continuing to experiment. While it does sometimes require a bit of planning ahead (for example, if you want to bake a loaf of bread you need to start the day before), it doesn't really require THAT much more planning than using store bought yeast and it tastes much better. Best of all, I don't have weird stomach cramps after eating that I normally get after munching on store bought bread.
I use the basic no-knead sourdough loaf recipe from Breadtopia. It's really simple. Just mix and let it set. You're supposed to move it a bit - change the plastic wrap covering to a damp cloth and use fancy equipment like a bread proofer and a dutch oven.
I do not have the expensive equipment and it comes out great. I've also forgotten about it and not done any of the steps - just popped it in the oven after 24 hours, and it came out perfectly. A key step for me is pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees WITH some cast iron dish in there and then placing the bread in for its time. I can't remember if that's in the instructional video, but it works really well for me.
The pizza dough and donuts were all prepped and ready to go with only 10 minutes of resting. You can't argue with that! Plus, you know, they both tasted amazing. A lot of times you can't really even tell a difference, which is not always the case when you start using different flours (i.e. rice and wheat flours).
The best part is that if I only want to do one loaf a week, I just pop my starter in the fridge and let it rest. (If you leave it on the counter, you should feed it daily and, you know, use it daily.)
Do you have sourdough starter? Have you thought about getting one?
*Read more about the science behind sourdough starters at Simple Bites, Cookus Interruptus, and Real Food Forager.
**While some people with gluten sensitivities can eat and enjoy sourdough bread, you should do so under the care of a medical professional. Not because I said it might be okay.