Posts Tagged ‘Fermented’

So I’m sure a few of you will have fitness bootcamp resolutions for 2013. I’m challenging you instead to a sourdough bootcamp.

When I read through the “Boreal Gourmet” for the first time, the “Sourdough Bootcamp” jumped right out at me as a must-do.

It starts, “Cooks! It’s minus forty, you’re housebound, you’ve colour-coded your wardrobe and reread your old journals to the point of terminal boredom… you need a project. You need sourdough bootcamp.” It sounds a bit ridiculous, but if you’re not that good at keeping busy, it’s easy to get to that point up here in the Northwest Territories apparently. We’ve gotten quite involved in the community and host regular potluck breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; so boredom is not really on the radar. Instead we juggle feeding the starter in between going to grocery shop and then hitching a ride out to the cross-country ski club for the evening. The starter is kind of like a child: one that eats a lot, goes to sleep if hungry for too long, but doesn’t make any sounds.

Great Slave Lake Moonset

We began our sourdough adventure before we dipped below the minus twenty mark, early in November, so I’m worried about where our adventures will take us in the remaining five months of winter (we’re already at 3 months). Let’s just see.

The great thing about this bootcamp is that it takes anywhere from two to three weeks to make, and as the starter gains strength, there are a number of recipes you can make along the way with a starter of different ages. That means we were baking basically every other day for the last three weeks (so have tons of flour handy!). The whole adventure culminated in the baking of our first two sourdough loaves, which were many times tastier than I had ever dreamed possible. They were beautifully coloured, textured with an amazing crumb, and delightfully flavourful. The fun part of the recipe is that the taste will vary with geography, depending on the wild yeast of the location.


As I post more of the intermediate bootcamp recipes, I will post links on this parent post. It’s been a great adventure to make up the starter, and I look forward to trying new recipes with our mature starter.

The Sourdough Bootcamp: a day-by-day recipe (if you attempt this recipe, I just want to say it’s not very hard but does require some advance reading in order to be ready).



Unbleached best-for-bread flour

Warm water


Day 1: mix 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup warm water in a glass/plastic bowl with a lid and cover loosely. If you don’t have a bowl, you can cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rest at room temperature.

Day 2: look at the starter – you may start to spot a few bubbles.

Day 3: more bubbles will have formed, probably along with a yeasty or somewhat cheesy smell (it was not altogether pleasant, our apartment smelled of off cheese for a few days but that does eventually disappear to be replaced by a sweet yeasty smell which is quite nice). It might have fewer bubbles by the end of the day – don’t worry, that just means it’s less active, meaning that the yeast have eaten most of the food available to them for the time being and they are resting.

Day 4: afternoon or evening. Mix in 1 cup flour and water. I learned from G. to mix the flour in first and gradually add the water to reduce the amount of lumps formed. If you notice a purply liquid on top of the flour mixture, just stir it back in. You should have around 3 cups of starter.

Day 5: morning. You can use 1 cup of starter to make buttermilk scones. Replace what you’ve removed with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. If you don’t have time for scones, just leave your starter alone, other than giving it a little stir.

Day 6: morning. If you want to have homemade pizza tonight, feed starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. If not, leave it alone.

Day 6: afternoon or evening. Remove 1 1/2 cups of starter and make sourdough pizza crust. Add 3/4 cups flour and 3/4 cups water to replace the starter you used to make pizza dough.

Day 7-9: Check starter and stir a few times a day. We started noticing a few sets of bubbles sending up some floating debris – which turned out was normal. As we were worried about mold we first worried it was mold but it was not. If you do notice mold, remove it and transfer starter to a new bowl and wash the bowl thoroughly before returning the starter to it to and feeding it a cup of water and flour. We didn’t have any problems with mold, despite the sketchy highrise in which we’re living.a

Day 10: morning. Stock up on flour. Feed starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water.

Day 10: evening. Discard all but one cup of starter (in compost!) or bake intermediate bootcamp recipes with it. It will be painful to discard so much but this is just the beginning, and believe me it is important. If you want to bake, use the starter as per the recipe instructions. It will be active from the morning feeding. To the main mix add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour, cover loosely and let sit as usual.

Day 11: morning. Reserve 1 cup of starter and discard/bake with the rest. Feed the cup with 2 cups of flour and water. Stir and cover and let sit. As the starter gains strength it will start increasing in volume. Ours was usually becoming less active by the time we came home from work so it would reduce its size but that depends entirely on the environment, the flour, the yeast, etc.

Day 11: evening. Repeat morning’s actions. Feel free to bake any of the intermediate recipes with the discarded starter.

Day 12: morning. Start the day off with Ione Christensen’s Sourdough Hotcakes (pancakes), accompanied with spirited cranberry preserves if you like. The recipe is super easy, and you wouldn’t believe that there is absolutely no dairy in the recipe.

Reserve 1 cup mix, add 2 cups flour and water, mix and let rest as usual.

Day 12: evening. Remove all but one cup

Day 13: morning. Discard starter and feed remainder as usual. Feel free to make something with the extra starter. We made a lot of scones, english muffins, and hotcakes!

Day 13: evening: continue discarding extra starter and feeding with 2 cups each flour and water.

Day 14: morning. Your starter may be ready! Ours was not quite as active as we thought, so we continued the routine for another 5 days before baking our bread.

The morning of the day you want to start preparing for your bread, take out 1/2 cup of starter and follow recipe for 2-day sourdough bread.

Good luck!


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