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Maintaining a sourdough starter can sometimes feel like acquiring a new pet. Remembering to feed it regularly and allowing for adequate rising times may seem inconvenient, but it doesn’t have to be so. Here are some suggestions for making sourdough fit your schedule instead of ruling your life.
Neglecting a sourdough starter can cause it to take on an undesirable flavor that is hard to get rid of, especially with whole-grain starters, like spelt or whole wheat. When life gets in the way, or maintaining a regular feeding schedule is just not possible, mix a dry starter to preserve your sourdough starter and keep it healthy.
Once your bread dough is prepared, you should allow adequate time for it to rise (proof) before baking. To make this portion of baking sourdough bread fit your schedule, there are a couple of options:
While only one rise is essential, often it is easier to refrigerate the dough after mixing it, allowing it to have one slow, cool rise. Just before baking, shape the dough and give it a second, quick rise at room temperature.
Let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature before shaping into loaves. Put the loaves in the refrigerator to rise slowly, again baking at your convenience. If the refrigerated loaves seem to have risen too much, just reshape them and let them rise again.
Dough that is over-risen will often flatten in the baking process and have a crumbly texture. To determine if the dough has over-risen, press a finger into the side of the loaf. If the loaf starts to deflate, it has risen too long and will benefit by being reshaped.
Many sourdough recipes can be proofed in the refrigerator, freeing you up to bake when it is convenient. Some dough can even be mixed, proofed, and then frozen to be baked at a later date, like Sourdough Bacon-Rosemary Cracker dough. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other sourdough recipes to find which ones are the most flexible. Most of all, don’t let your sourdough starter intimidate you. It’s really quite forgiving!