In our office we have three different kinds of sourdough bakers. We have an expert baker, we have an average baker and we have a very, very new baker. So we share tips back and forth between us all the time. Now we want to share some with you and hopefully you will share some of yours with us.
Jar Size- We use a 1 quart (1 liter) wide mouthed canning jar. The lid is just loosely placed on.
Proofing Box- If you are in hotter climates, we suggest that you put an ice pack in your proofing box to bring the temperature down. Also, if you place your thermometer through the box mid way you do not have to lift it (which will change the temp) to check it.
Washing the Culture- Many people wash their culture when they do not need to. If the culture needs washed, you will know it. The smell is very, very rank. There will be no question in your mind that something is wrong.
Rye Bread- If you use 25% rye flour and 75% white flour the bread will be quicker rise and leaven. If you use 50% rye flour and 50% white flour this is when you get the best taste. If you use 75% rye flour and 25% white flour you will get a very intense taste. Also, when you are using rye flour there is a really different smell. You will think that you might need to wash it but it is just the unusual smell of the rye and it activates faster.
Whole Wheat Flour- Whole wheat flour can be substituted for white flour in most recipes.
Activation- When you are activating your culture, sometimes you miss when it has risen in the jar. The culture will go up and down. So pay attention to the jar and look for marks of culture higher on the jar where it may have risen to.
Big No to Salt- Never add salt to your original starter.
Bread Machine vs. Oven- What we have found is that when you do the cultures in the bread machine the crust is a lot softer. The crust on the oven baked bread is thicker and harder.
Sweeteners- When a recipe lists sugar, most bakers use white sugar. But many other sweeteners can be substituted, including brown sugar, corn syrups, and honey.
Specialty Ingredients and Substitutions- One of the major advantages of doing your own baking is your ability to adjust the recipes to your own health standards. High-fiber grains, Steel-cut oats are a few examples. Oil may be substituted for butter. Many options are available to change the recipes to what needs you have. However, a slice of most home-baked sourdough breads contains no cholesterol and less than 150 calories.
Feeding or Storing- If you are planning on using your culture quite a bit during the week, keep it out and feed it. If you are going to not be using it for an extended period of time, put it in the fridge. When you are ready to use it, get it out and reactivate it.
Converting Yeasted Recipes to Sourdough Recipes- We have two different ones for you. See which one works the best for you.
Substitute a cup of starter for each package of yeast and then subtract about 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of flour from the recipe to compensate for the water and flour in the starter. You’ll probably want to play with the ratio between the water and flour and adjust the amount of culture to get the results you want but this is a good starting place.
If it calls for 2 tsp yeast, replace it with 1/2 to 1 cup active sourdough starter.
Hope these hints and ideas are helpful to you. Let us know your ideas and hints!