The Little Critters That Live in My Kitchen

Hi! Meet my pet Fifi or Fluffy, I haven’t decided on a name yet. It is my sour dough starter. Yes, it is alive, and it is a pet. It is a living organism, It has to be fed and cared for, so how can it not be? It requires more attention than my plants, but less than my son. This sour dough was born three weeks ago, two days after mixing. This batch of sour dough is more active than my old one, I really think that the summer heat makes for a frisky bugger.

How active you say? The picture above was taken after Fifi’s morning meal. And here is a photo of Fifi in the afternoon:

It has doubled in size, meaning it has eaten through its food.

Pet Food

Pet Food

Fifi can tell me that it’s hungry. Yes, it can. All you have to do is smell. Caring for a living object requires the use of the senses, and Fifi is no different. If Fifi starts smelling sour, it means it is time for a feeding. And boy, does it eat a lot. It has been going through its food so fast, I go through a kilo of flour a week.

The not so nice part is that I have to throw away 80% of Fifi before every feeding. That is a whole pile of Fifi going into the compost pit, but unless I want to make the “sour dough that ate Milwaukee,” it is a necessary evil.

It is really strange that something can literally come from nothing, from the bacteria in the flour and my not-so-sanitary kitchen. I would like to thank Michael Pollan, if he is reading this (heh heh), and my cooking friends (please visit their links at the right). Without them I would have given up on the sour dough bread project.

Anyway, the recipe for sour dough starter from Michael Pollan’s Cooked is: Mix 50 g of whole grain flour with 50 g all purpose flour with 100 g of warm water. The water should just be slightly warmer than your hand. Mix it, and re-mix as often as you remember to do it throughout the days until you notice that the dough has become alive. That means that it has started to smell sour, or bubbles have formed on the surface, or the dough has doubled in size. This can take two days to one week, depending on the weather. I once used rye flour and it built a crust over the surface, quite neat! After it has come alive, feed at least once a day by throwing out 80 percent of the mixture and adding the same proportion of flours and water as the recipe above.

The best thing about Fifi that you can put it to sleep. No, I don’t mean into the good night kind of sleep. I just added 50 g of whole grain flour and 50 g all purpose flour, mixed it and put it in the fridge. I can wake it up again by taking it out, and repeating the process by throwing out 80 percent and feeding it twice daily until it is alive. So I said good night to Fifi and it is now in cryogenic sleep. Weird huh?

6 thoughts on “The Little Critters That Live in My Kitchen

  1. Pingback: Michael Pollan’s Sour Dough Bread Recipe | I'm Learning How To Cook…

  2. So my starter has started smelling &growing & bubbling.
    I did the removing 80% then feeding & the same day it did a repeat of smelling,growing & bubbling.
    What do I do now? Is it ready to make the leaven?
    It’s only been 2 days.
    I’ve covered it & wonder do I feed it or start the bread making?

    • Yes it is ready. Warmer temperatures = faster fermenting times. The first time I made a starter was last spring, it was unseasonably cold with snow and winter temperatures. It took a week to get the starter going, and it was quite sluggish and difficult to get it going again after a feeding.

  3. i’m not getting it:
    1) why throw out 80 %? couldn’t you just make several starters with the throw away?
    2) how many times do you have to “feed” it before it’s ready to make bread? you say to feed at least once a day…for how many days?

    thanks –liz

  4. hi! do i need to cover it somehow after I re-mix it every time? i think my thingy is getting drier and drier, after 30 minutes from remixing it forms a really dry ‘skin’ and nothing happens. three days already have pased. shall I cover it or add more water? 🙁

  5. I used 25g whole wheat, 15g white, 40g water (all measured on a scale) and the mixture was almost much too dry, almost like very dry cookie dough. We added a bit more water (maybe 10g but I forgot to measure of course) to get it wetter and are going from there.

    Maybe different flours require different ratios of water/flour? The wheat flour was Red Mill stone ground whole wheat flour.


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