Why Make a Sourdough Starter?
Back in the day...people didn't just run to the store to purchase yeast for their baking needs. Yeast is actually abundant in the air all around us. One method of capturing this yeast is by creating an environment that it enjoys and wait for it thrive in that environment.
So, to create a sourdough starter, one could theoretically mix together flour, water and sugar (yeast's favorite food) and leave it out for the happy little yeast to come along and feast. The by-product of this would then be sourdough starter.
The problem with this method is that you have no control over what type of yeasts you may attract. And some of them aren't very tasty.
In our current culture, it is very easy to obtain a wonderful tasting yeast by running out to the grocery store and purchasing bread yeast. Although yeast is not outrageously expensive, it can be stretched much further by using it to create your own sourdough starter. The other benefit, of course, is a more flavorful bread with a wonderful texture.
You can also determine the "sourness" of your starter. If don't like it too strong, you are able to make a milder version.
The last time I bought a simple loaf of white sandwich bread, I payed neary $2.00 for the loaf...and any type of artisan bread runs much more. So, I have begun to make my own bread using my bread machine. I still had to run out and purchase yeast rather often because my family eats quit a lot of bread....especially when it's home made.
So, I began to read up on sour dough starter...mainly because we like the flavor, not realizing there would be monetary benefits as well.
The benefit that I found is that when I make a batch of sour dough, I end up with a gallon jar full of active yeast. This means that I can make many, many loaves without having to purchase more yeast. As a matter of fact, as long as I keep the culture alive, I will always have yeast!
So, every weekend I make 2 loaves of bread to last my family the entire week. I do use my bread machine on the dough setting and let it do all the mixing and kneading and rising. I then turn the dough out onto a pizza stone to shape, rise and bake. It really takes suprisingly little effort and the rewards are great. One of the nicest things is that I know exactly what is in our bread!
By the way....I also use the sourdough in a recipe for a pizza crust that would blow you away. Pizza night is a lot more fun!