Sourdough bread is simultaneously basic and complex. Making it involves just a few ingredients: flour, salt, water, and yeast—in the form of a sourdough starter (or “mother” if you want to get creepy about it). That plus some time gets you an airy loaf with an intense tang that can only come from millions of live active cultures. And as for the starter, you could literally keep this li’l guy in a dorm fridge. It might be the best pet you’ve ever had.
→This is a San Francisco–style starter—the most versatile—made with grapes and gifted to us by Donna Covrett, founding partner of the Cincinnati Food + Wine Classic. “Even though it comes from a starter,” she says, “it becomes yours. The wild yeast in your environment will alter it.
→Keep your starter in a loosely covered glass jar (tightly sealed is higher-maintenance) in the fridge, and check in every week or so. To “feed” it, pour off any separated liquid and about 1 cup of starter, replace that with about 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour, then stir.
→More hydration often makes a more-sour sourdough, like this one at 50–60 percent water.
→Starters are made up of live bacteria, so it’s not always springtime fresh in there. All is well as long as you don’t see any pinkish mold or foam, which means that the “bad” bacteria has overrun the “good,” and it’s time to start over.