Sourdough has a long and storied history among Alaskan locals. Settlers traveling north during the Klondike Gold Rush carried sourdough starter in their backpacks to make bread as they moved between towns since yeast was often hard to come by. Legend has it that Alaskan miners in the 1890s even slept with their starters to keep them from freezing during the cold winter months. Some local sourdough strains are almost a hundred years old, passed down and maintained through multiple generations.
Having access to one of these well-aged starters isn't necessary to bake a good sourdough loaf or make a tasty batch of pancakes at home, though it's fun to know its history. Making your own is incredibly easy, and it's not difficult to maintain. In fact, feeding your sourdough starter is a nice way to add a little break into your work week. Go ahead and begin your own sourdough legacy!
Homemade Sourdough Starter
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 packet (or 2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups lukewarm tap water
- In a nonmetal mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Never allow sourdough starter to come in contact with metal.
- Stir in the water slowly, mixing by hand until the batter is well blended; it will resemble a thick paste. Don't worry about lumps as they will dissolve during fermentation.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a dishtowel, and let it sit in a warm place for 3 to 5 days, stirring the mixture three times each day. The starter will rise and fall over the fermentation period. It's ready when it thins, develops a pleasantly sour flavor, and appears bubbly. Store the starter in a large covered crock in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- To use the starter, measure out the amount the recipe calls for and let it warm to room temperature before proceeding, about 4 to 5 hours.
- To replenish the starter, add a mixture of 3 cups flour, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 teaspoon salt to the jar and stir to blend with the existing starter. Cover and let sit overnight in a warm place to ferment. In the morning, stir again and return to the refrigerator. Add 1 teaspoon sugar each week to keep the starter active if it's not being used regularly.
For our family's sourdough pancake recipe, grab a copy of our new cookbook. For sourdough bread recipes, we recommend the book Flour, Water, Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. Enjoy!