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Baking 101

  • Baking 101 FOOD

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

    Ever wanted to know how to make your own sourdough starter from scratch? I know, sounds super intimidating, but I promise it’s not! All you need is water, flour, and 5 minutes a day.

    Homemade sourdough starter is something I’ve been wanting to make since culinary school but just never got around to. One of my chef instructors had a sourdough starter that she’d been keeping alive for several years, and the bread it made was so good.

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch
    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links. These are all products I use daily and highly recommend. Thanks for the support that makes Panthers & Peonies possible!

    A little about sourdough bread and wild yeast:

    Baking sourdough bread is much different than baking a normal loaf of bread. You first need a ‘sourdough starter’, which is a mixture made from a mixture of flour and water. Letting this flour mixture sit for a few days encourages the growth of wild yeast, which is what helps the bread rise and also gives it that signature “sour” flavor. Wild yeast is not only found in flour, but in pretty much everything and everywhere, including in the air. Wild yeast can be temperamental and high-maintenance, which is why commercial yeast was developed and mass-produced. It’s easier to store and easier for bakers to work with.

    In order to work with wild yeast, you first need to create an environment in which it’ll thrive. The easiest way to do this is to mix flour and water and let it sit for several days. The natural yeast will feed on the flour and water, then grow and multiply.

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch


    • When you measure out the flour, make sure to use a spoon to scoop the flour into a measuring cup and scrape it flat. This will give you the correct ounce measurement. If you use a measuring cup to scoop the flour out of a bag, you will be using too much flour and the proportions will be off.
    • Starter is extremely sensitive to temperature, so adjust your temperatures accordingly. If your house is warm, feed the starter with cool water, and if your house is cold use warmer water.
    • Regular tap water is fine to use unless your tap water has high levels of chlorine or other chemicals- if so, use bottled water.
    • Make sure the lid on your starter is not sealed or air-tight, the yeast needs air to breathe. You can cover with a cloth or a lid that doesn’t seal. I used one of these jars and it worked perfectly.
    • I followed the instructions from King Arthur’s recipe and it was hugely successful, so those are the steps I am talking about below.
    • PS a lot of my photos are updates from my Instagram Stories because, you know, millennial.

    Day One

    To create your sourdough starter base:

    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup cool water

    A lot of people use all-purpose flour to begin their starter, but I am using whole wheat because it is more likely to contain large amounts of yeast, which means my sourdough starter has more of a chance to survive and less of a chance to die.

    Combine the flour and water in a non-reactive container. Stir thoroughly to make sure there are no dry bits of flour. If it looks too dry, add a few drops of water- the consistency should be like very thick pancake batter. Cover the container loosely and let sit at a warm room temperature (around 70ºF) for 24 hours.

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch  How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

    Day Two

    You may or may not see growth within the first 24 hours (mine more than doubled!), but it’s ok. Discard half of the starter (4 ounces, about 1/2 cup) and add to the remainder a scant 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water. Mix well, cover, and let sit at a warm room temperature for 24 hours.

    I know discarding half of the sourdough seems wasteful, but it is necessary for the yeast to continue growing. Removing half of the starter before feeding ensures that the pH level will stay balanced (plus if you don’t, the starter will overflow). There’s good news, though! Using sourdough starter discard in recipes is super common, so you can use it all without having any waste. Plus, the starter will taste more sour and flavorful as time goes on, so it’s a fun experiment to taste-test the developing flavor.

    Looking for some recipes to use up that sourdough starter discard? Check these out:

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

    Day Three

    You will (hopefully) see some growth and bubbling, and the starter will start to smell pleasant, almost fruity. From day 3 on, the starter needs to be fed twice a day. For each feeding, stir the starter to get rid of excess air, then weigh out 4 ounces of starter (or a generous 1/2 cup) and discard the rest. Add a scant 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water and mix well. Repeat every 12 hours, or as evenly spaced as your schedule allows.

    Day Four

    Stir the starter to get rid of excess air, weigh out 4 ounces of starter, and discard the rest. Feed as usual.

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

    Day Five, Six, Seven

    Repeat the steps from day 4. By day 5, the starter should have doubled in size with lots of bubbles across the surface. It will smell slightly acidic but very pleasant. If your starter hasn’t gotten to this point yet, then continue the twice-daily feeding process for a few more days- however long it takes until your starter is risen, bubbly, and very active.

    Once the starter has gotten to this point, weigh out 4 ounces and transfer it to its permanent, long-term home (discard the remainder or use in a recipe). Feed the starter the usual scant 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water, mix well, then let rest for several hours at room temperature to make sure the starter is active and eating. Move your starter to the refrigerator and feed it regularly, about once a week (feed scant 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water).

    How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

    And that’s all there is to it! Now you can enjoy delicious, fresh sourdough bread whenever you want. I hope you all get a chance to make this, and let me know if you have any questions!

    >How to Make a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

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  • Baking 101

    Baking 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Vegan Baking

    Are you looking to make delicious vegan baked goods, but don’t know where to start? Look no further! Here’s my beginner’s guide to amazing vegan baking.

    Baking is, quite literally, my whole world. There’s nothing like whipping up a perfect meringue, torching the top of a perfectly smooth creme brûlée, or piping pastry cream into an eclair. But in 2013, I went vegan. Now there are two problems with being a vegan in a pastry kitchen packed full of eggs, sugar, & butter:

    1. I felt really uncomfortable serving something to people without knowing what it tasted like.
    2. I was jealous that I didn’t get to eat the desserts I was making.

    But a few months into being vegan (and once the “missing out” feeling went away), I started looking at things a different way. I spent my days making these desserts but imagining how I could translate the ingredients, the taste, and the textures into a decadent vegan dessert. My whole goal as a vegan is to find a way to enjoy food without sacrifice, and it’s my favorite challenge in the kitchen.

    I get a lot of questions about how I make my desserts taste so… not vegan. And honestly, it’s not that difficult once you figure out some basic ingredient swaps!

    Baking 101: The Beginner's Guide to Vegan Baking
    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission if you purchase through those links. These are all products I use daily and highly recommend. Thanks for the support that makes Panthers & Peonies possible!

    A list of my favorite vegan baking essentials, aka the ingredients I use in almost every recipe:

    • Sugar. Believe it or not, most sugar isn’t vegan. That pure white color of sugar is achieved by using “natural carbon”, aka bone char. (I’ll let you read all about it HERE) My favorite brand of raw sugar is Zulka (sold at Target, WinCo, & Walmart), but I also like Trader Joe’s brand (both raw sugar & powdered sugar).
    • Flour. I always use all-purpose flour in my recipes, simply because it’s so easy to find & there’s nothing worse than starting a new recipe without realizing that it calls for a different type of flour (and yes, flour type does make a huge difference!). I switch between bleached flour (lighter, softer, and fluffier) and unbleached flour (slightly denser, creates a better structure), but my favorite brand is King Arthur Flour.
    • Flaxseed meal. Hold on, please don’t leave! Flaxseed has a horrible reputation as being a gross diet food, and yes by itself it smells a little like what I feed my hamsters. But flaxseed is my favorite egg substitute in baking, & I promise you can’t smell it or taste it in anything once it’s baked.
    • Nondairy milk. I use Silk brand, always. Original unsweetened almond milk for most things, cashew milk for creamier things (like frostings or puddings).
    • Yeast. I switch between brands, but I always use active dry yeast. Usually I’ll just get one of the little packets in the baking aisle of the grocery store, but when I have a lot of baking to do it’s cheaper to buy a jar of it. I’ve used Fleischmann’s brand and it works perfectly every time!
    • Chocolate. My favorite chocolate is from Trader Joe’s (big surprise). Their chocolate CHIPS (not chunks) are accidentally vegan, as well as the Pound Plus dark chocolate bars.
    • Butter. My favorite butters are Smart Balance & Earth Balance. I use Smart Balance for most of my recipes, but I use Earth Balance for anything I want to have a rich, buttery taste (like butter cookies or vanilla cake).
    • Cocoa powder. I use a ton of cocoa powder in the kitchen, and my favorite is Hershey’s brand. Most cocoa powders are usually vegan, but double check the ingredient list because sometimes they contain a small amount of dairy.
    • Lemon juice. Lemon juice is the unsung hero of my kitchen. It’s like salt, it enhances the flavor of almost anything with just a small amount. I almost always add it to my frostings, plus you can add a small amount to nondairy milk to make your own veganized buttermilk! Magic.
    • Coconut oil. At the risk of sounding like a hipster, I use coconut oil for everything. I won’t go into the details about how it saved my damaged hair, but just know that coconut oil is a miracle worker both in and out of the kitchen. Not only does coconut oil contain healthy fats (aka the good kind), but it also has a higher melting point which makes it great for cooking. I use coconut oil in several of my recipes to replace unhealthy vegetable oils. I also add a small amount to melted chocolate when I make chocolate-covered anything (I’ll explain why in another post!).
    • Vanilla bean paste. I know it’s expensive, but it’s so worth it. Vanilla bean paste gives such a rich, delicious flavor to baked goods, much more so than regular vanilla extract. Plus it adds cute little flecks of vanilla bean into everything! Yum. Nielsen-Massey is my favorite.
    • Sprinkles. Last but certainly not least. Without going into too much gross detail, most sprinkles aren’t vegan & you can read why HERE. But I like to put sprinkles in everything I possibly can, so I’m really grateful to have found the Betty Crocker Parlor Perfect brand. Only the Parlor Perfect series is vegan, regular Betty Crocker brand sprinkles are not.

    And there you have it! What’s your must-have vegan ingredient?