This post is approximately one hundred years in the making, i.e., I’ve been thinking about and putting off making sourdough for roughly one hundred years. HOWEVER, I’m writing a story where the protagonist basically is having a mental breakdown and makes a lot of bread (which is obviously autobiographical, but she’s more advanced than me and makes sourdough, so I figured I would have to learn so as not to let her get ahead of me) (and also so I can see if the story makes any sense). I’ve been working on this story for almost a year and I’m SO tired of it (I’m on draft 6.2, per my numbering system) and I’m hoping that the sourdough experiment will somehow push it into being finished.

So I got this brilliant idea at the library during writing group, and then I got home and started preparing, and then realized that Passover starts on Friday. But I think the starter itself will be ready right around Friday, so then I can put it in the fridge (where it will enter a state of suspended animation) and revive it after Passover ends (much like happened to Khan, but hopefully the starter will be less distressed/violent). And then I can have sourdough to break Passover. It will be very exciting.

I am starting with Phickle’s sourdough starter tutorial; it’s based on Tartine Bakery‘s book (link courtesy of my neighborhood independent bookstore!), and thus should be good. It looks easy to follow, thus its appeal (and it was the first thing I found). If anything goes terribly wrong I’ll consult Breadtopia, which is a very soothing and lovely site.


Everything is going exactly according to plan, no issues here whatsoever.

Day 1

I half filled a “glass bowl” (an old tomato sauce jar, because I do not own glass bowls) with warm water and then started adding equal amounts whole wheat and white flour until I got a sort of sludge. [Useful note: apparently ww flour speeds up the sourdough-ifying process.] I realized I made a terrible error in using the jar, because it required so much flour to create a sludge, and I stopped at pre-sludge levels because I didn’t want to use up that much flour that I would just have to throw away later. (That’s what’s going on in the picture above.)

Then I mixed everything with a spoon, and not with my hands, which I also later realized was a mistake, because now it’s going to be sterile and hygienic and no wild yeast is going to get in, whereas if I had mixed it with my hands probably lots of disgusting hand-stuff would have gotten in, and formed lots of weird, interesting flavors.


The bubbles are a ruse. They are not yeast bubbles, just mixing bubbles.


Wearing a nice shawl/hat, much like a babushka. Very comforting.

Now it is sitting on my kitchen table. It will wait there for a while. I’m realizing the main issue with this, which is that I’m now stuck dealing with it for at least the next few weeks, and I am already tired of it.

It’s now been like four hours and the liquid has separated out, so there is some very disgusting yellowish liquid sitting on top of the sludge. I will not take a picture.

Day 2

Very bad things are happening.


Auuuuughgghghghhgh what happened

I do not know what to do about this. It has exceeded its hat. And it smells like …….. cheese.


The true story underneath (the weird dough-glob was from the underside of the hat, it didn’t grow like that)

There is a certain amount of bubble activity going on—in fact, it very much appears to be alive, in a deeply horrifying, monstrous way

(I tried to center this using my mad HTML skills but the entire page turned blank and vanished)

—and it is much too big for its jar, but I have no other jars. I’ve brought the Serious Eats guide in for extra support.

I have put it in a Tupperware. Good night, sweet sourdough starter.


Day 3

[Google search] “is sourdough starter supposed to smell horrible”

answer: I couldn’t read any of the links, they all looked nauseating.


There is a ton of bubbling going on, so based on 2 of the 3 tutorials I’m looking at (Kitchen Konfidence is the third), that means I can get rid of a bunch of the current starter and put some more water and flour in. I hope this batch of water and flour attracts less horrifying stuff. Which reminds me of the question I was asking myself this morning on the subway: why is there *so much* of this wild yeast and bacteria in my apartment (I feel like my starter … started? faster than expected) and, more importantly, WHAT WAS IT DOING BEFORE I GAVE IT THE FLOUR TO SIT IN?????

Ugh, ugh ugh. I poured out a bunch of the water (because if you don’t like the smell, you are allowed to do that), then poured out about half the mixture. (Do not pour it into the sink.) I added a bunch of nice clean water, then realized I had added WAY too much water, and added WAY too much flour in response to get it to the right sludgy consistency, and I am worried I just started the whole thing from scratch.


Sorry this picture is so useless. It shows a three-day-old sourdough starter in a tupperware. There. You’re welcome.

[I added maybe 2/3 white flour and 1/3 whole wheat—I wanted to do all white, but I don’t have that much left, so I did some whole wheat as well… And whole wheat is good for sludgyifying.]

This post is getting very long, so I will post it. The rest will come along in a few days; or, barring that, in a month or two I’ll be writing a new post here and be like “oh fuck, where is that sourdough starter I forgot about,” and then I guess I will die in a puddle of gooey, revengeful breadmixture.



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