BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Sour Puss

39 Comments

A sourdough starter is something of an elusive creature- At least to me, that is. A creature that creates unparalleled artisan breads, that one can store in the refrigerator for decades as long as it stays fed; it sounds more like a fairy tale than an actual ingredient used to raise loaves. Hoping to see the magic first-hand, I was thrilled when Bazu so kindly offered me some dried starter to work with about a month ago. While I couldn’t wait to get my wild yeast prepped and baking, the timing was not in my favor. It arrived just as we had begun to clear the chametz out of the house for Passover, and then I was trapped on campus for another couple of weeks. Storing the starter in the freezer with fingers crossed, it was only yesterday that I could “activate” the little beasties… Although I wouldn’t exactly call them active now…

I knew things had gone awry as soon as I unwrapped the plastic. What had once been a dry powder was now a wet, sticky dough. Hm, not so good… But maybe it still works! It was frozen, after all, I reasoned with myself. Dutifully mixing in fresh flour and water, letting it sit over night, and then pouring off what appeared to be hooch in the morning, I hoped for the best. Of course, it wasn’t actually bubbling at all… but then, what do I know about sour dough? Plans for my first batch of sour dough English muffins continued as scheduled.

Mmm, doesn’t that look good? “Look” being the keyword, because the last thing you would want to do with this pucks is actually taste them. Yes, they look so puffy and nicely risen, but trust me, it’s all a facade; Deep within each brick lies not airy bubbles, nooks and crannies, but instead a solid chunk of gooey dough. I should have taken the numerous hints tossed out before getting my hopes up, but alas, one bite of this disastrous dough makes it undeniable: The sourdough starter is dead.

Maybe sourdough and I were just never meant to be.

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

39 thoughts on “Sour Puss

  1. I’ve been intrigued by the sourdough starter, since a lot of bloggers have been posting about it (Bazu, Mihl, etc.) – yours looks fabulous!!! I’m so sorry that it doesn’t taste as good as it looks though :0( No worries, girl!! We all have a few mishaps :0)

  2. I have never ever thought of making my own english muffins, so I commend your bravery! I’m sorry they didn’t turn out. =(

  3. FYI, your sourdough starter probably isn’t “dead” it just needs to be fed and left a room temp. for several days. It typically acts like that once it’s gone dormant, but you can revive it! If you have more questions or need any additional tips email me!

  4. if you still want to try, go see if you can’t fine “The Bread Bible” at the library – it has instructions for making your own sourdough starter, and while a bit time consuming, it’s relatively easy.

  5. Lol, poor you! But at least they looked good. ^^

  6. Wow! Those looked deceptively good. I’m sorry the timing messed things up for you. It’s kinda strange though because I just got through a cycle of Amish Friendship bread that had a 10 day fermentation process.

  7. I had a ridiculously similar experience with sourdough a month or two ago. It doesn’t seem that difficult to start your own starter, though. I’m planning on trying the Better Homes & Gardens one here soon. We’ll see. :o)

  8. I can never keep a sourdough starter nice and healthy either. I really like using a poolish or sponge. You have a really wet dough that only ferments over night and then you add the rest of the flour and bake it the next day. It makes a much more flavorful bread without worrying about caring for a starter.

  9. Ooh, I am totally new to this sourdough thing. I’m sorry this didn’t turn out well for you! but don’t give up hope just yet, I’m sure you’ll be able to make something great out if you give it another try sometime…

  10. It truly does look fresh and yummy and wonderful and that’s a start! Sourdough starter can be a pain in the brain, but I’ve found there are different techniques. The one I used out of ‘How it All Vegan’ was extremely easy and tasty in the end! I’ve never frozen any before… I don’t know how it would kill it, seeing as freezing actually preserves life…

    Hmmm… Don’t give up, though! I know you can do it! :)

  11. Make your own with the yeasties floating around!

    First day: half a cup of flour, plus half a cup of water in a biggish plastic lidded container (the lid is so the moisture doesn’t escape). Leave alone at room temp, in a nice warm darkish place.

    For the next 5 or 6 days, keep feeding it 1/4 cup of flour plus a 1/4 cup of water, mix it in, replace the lid, and let it be.

    After a week, you should have a nice bubbly sourdough starter. I should smell sour (duh!), and have risen a lot and then colapsed, so the bubbles left are on the small side.

    Now, grab a cup of this starter and proceed with your recipe. You can keep the rest in the fridge (again, lidded!), and feed it the day before you plan to use it with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 flour, and taking it back to room temperature.

  12. I think you can revive it. I haven’t been able to kill mine off & I’ve left it for weeks at a time.

  13. I have never been able to get sourdough starter to work for me either. No matter how hard I’ve tried. It’s too bad. I do love sourdough bread so much.

  14. Oh no- what a shame……. Sourdough starter really is something special (when it’s alive that is…) and I’m sure you will try again one day and have success!

  15. you can do it! don’t give up.
    i got a friend of mine to give me a live starter, and like melisser, mine is very easy to NOT kill.

    and there are definitely delicious rewards to keeping it alive and using it!
    keep on the keepin’ on, lady!

  16. No, no, keep trying! I still have not been brave enough to delve into the world that is yeasted breads. And I don’t blame you for continuing to assemble the English muffins – curiosity can get the best of us when we are creative spirits. You never know what good may come of an experiment!

  17. If you read the Omnivore’s Dilemna – they talk about making sourdough bread just from the yeast floating in the air.

  18. There will be a new envelope of sourdough starter placed in the mail for you tomorrow- we can’t let this experiment end at hockey puck muffins!

  19. Aw, well, they do **look** good at least! I’m lucky in that my mom taught me how to make and store starter when I was little. I haven’t tried it on my own yet, but it’s not as mystifying at least. Good luck with the second batch I know you’ll make!

  20. I feel your pain; I’ve had a few sourdough-starter failures myself, with nary a success to show for it. (But plenty of hooch.) :)

    If you try it again, keep us posted – I’d love to see how it all turns out!

  21. What a bummer! I love english muffins.

  22. try a simple starter, such as the one found for baguettes on http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog

    good luck!

  23. I am so sorry that this happened. I also freeze my starter but in liquid form. To revive it it only needs to be thawed and then fed for a couple of days.
    Don’t be discouraged, starters are not so difficult to make. I had really good results with whole rye flour and with feeding the starter only every 24 hours.

  24. Say, I give you oodles of credit for trying your hand at English Muffins – never had the nerve! Sorry they didn’t come out as you’d hoped, but thanks for sharing your experience. There’s a lot to be learned from goofs and we all make them!

  25. I just buried my sour dough starter a couple of weeks ago after nurturing it for several months. I’m willing to try it again!

  26. Alas, the story does not have a happy ending :(. Sourdough starter seems like one of the most complicated pieces of kitchen wizardry, and I don’t think I have the patience for it. I love that you went ahead and tried baking with it anyway…now you have a good story, at least!

  27. I tried this once. Let’s say that it ended in failure, and had me swearing never to do it again.

  28. Don’t give up! It took me three tries to get a starter going last summer (easier in summer than winter) and now it just lives in my fridge. I think it’s luck, because sometimes I forget to feed it and I just take it out, add some flour, wait till it gets bubbly some 5 hours later, then put it back in. It’s a very strange yet beautiful thing.

  29. what a big bummer.

    by the way, i made yr crumb-topped brownies today and they rocked!!!

  30. Oh no!! How tragic :-( I have my sourdough starter in the fridge and am a little scared to try it out (though my first try, pancakes, was successful). Sound slike Bazu is sending you another, so keep trying!

  31. I’m so sorry that it didn’t work out. The muffins do look picture perfect. Don’t give up, I know you can make it work the second time around. :)

  32. r.i.p. starter… I had the same thing happen with a loaf of rye. tragic, isn’t it?

  33. Hannah,
    I hope sourdough starter batch two works out better for you… I’ll be thinking of you!

    :) Amey

  34. Hannah — Try again, sourdough starters are so nice and give a wonderful depth of flavor to your bread.

    When you try again…If you have frozen it, first thaw it, but don’t pour off the hooch. Stir it back into the starter and then remove some starter. Then feed it. Do this for several days and then use your starter for bread. When I’ve frozen mine, I notice that it can’t be used right away. The yeast needs time to recover and a chance to get fed again.

    Have fun trying again!

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

  35. Aw don’t be discouraged! Sourdough can be tricky … I still haven’t mastered the art of baking it and I’ve tried many times!

  36. Well, regardless it made for a wonderful photo op–they do look delicious, even after your telling me it’s a facade I still want a bite or 10!

  37. Where are you Hannah? =( hope life isn’t giving you too much.

  38. we miss you! come back!

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