Want to know the weirdest sourdough questions about sourdough baking and sourdough starters? You'll find the strangest sourdough questions answered here plus some random sourdough facts you might not have heard before.
I've been teaching people to bake sourdough for a while now and have been running a Sourdough For Beginners Facebook Group for over 2 years. After seeing these questions pop up multiple times, both in my group and in my email inbox, I thought I would put together some answers that can be read by everyone - just in case you've been wondered about the answers to the weirdest questions about sourdough too!
Whether you want to know if your sourdough starter can catch COVID or whether your sourdough starter can grow a SCOBY. Or maybe you're curious as to whether you can brew beer using your sourdough starter?
You'll find the answers to all of these questions and more.
You might also enjoy these posts which address sourdough FAQ:
Can my sourdough starter catch COVID?
No your sourdough starter cannot catch COVID. If you catch COVID you don't have to stop baking sourdough either. You can feed your sourdough starter and bake as per normal - even when you're testing positive.
It's best not to share your sourdough bakes while you have COVID. While Corona Virus is not a food born virus and cannot survive the baking process, you could contaminate the bread with COVID once it's out of the oven and when you handle it.
Baking sourdough for your own household while you have COVID is fine, just don't share your bread with your friends and neighbours until you're testing negative.
With many people taking up sourdough baking while in lockdown during 2020, sourdough starters have become one of the most popular hobbies to be ignited by the pandemic.
COVID Safety Tips for Sourdough Baking
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling your sourdough starter jar.
- Keep your baking within your family home while testing positive for COVID19.
- Don't share dried or liquid sourdough starter with anyone while you are testing positive (the virus can live on the surface of the jar or packaging).
- If you sell sourdough from your home, you'll need to put a pause on this while you are testing positive.
Can I eat raw sourdough starter?
No, it's not advisable to eat raw sourdough starter. While some people claim to have healed their gut problems by eating probiotic rich sourdough starter, it's not really advisable.
Raw sourdough starter contains uncooked flour which can harbor harmful bacteria among other things. You can read more about why you shouldn't eat raw flour here.
If your child eats some raw sourdough starter, it's not going to be harmful in a small amount, but it's not encouraged to allow them to lick the spoon or bowl containing raw sourdough starter.
In summary, while eating raw sourdough starter will not harm you, it can give you a stomach ache and bloating and is really not advisable. Save that sourdough starter for making sourdough bread!
Dogs should never be given raw sourdough starter or dough. You can read about what to do if your dog eats raw sourdough here.
Can I make a sourdough starter without wheat flour?
Yes you can make sourdough starter without wheat flour. Gluten free sourdough starter is made using gluten free flours like white or brown rice flour, buckwheat or even a blend of gluten free flours.
Gluten free sourdough starters essentially behave in the same way as sourdough starters made with wheat flour, however they don't always rise in the same way due to the non existence of a gluten network.
Making gluten free sourdough is quite involved, given that the crux of sourdough baking rests on developing a strong gluten network - something that is non existent in gluten free sourdough.
You can follow these sourdough starter instructions to make a gluten free sourdough starter.
Does eating homemade sourdough make you fart more?
Like most things, if you eat too much sourdough bread it can make you very gassy. However, in comparison to yeast leavened breads and store bought white breads, sourdough bread should actually help you to fart less!
If you are new to sourdough bread and baking up a storm, you might find you are passing more wind than normal because you are consuming a lot more bread than you once did. This is normal. Using an immature sourdough starter will also cause you to feel bloated and be more gassy than normal.
If you eat sourdough in moderation, it should actually not cause you to fart more. In fact, you could see a reduction in gas and bloating because of the lower fructan levels in the sourdough. Sourdough is also rich in prebiotics and probiotics which can also help your digestive system.
Is it possible for my sourdough starter to grow a scoby?
Yes it's possible for your sourdough starter to grow a scoby. A scoby is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast and is most commonly used to refer to a Kombucha scoby.
In short - a scoby that forms on your sourdough starter cannot be used to brew kombucha but you can use kombucha to get a sourdough starter established.
In essence, your sourdough starter is in fact a scoby because it is a colony of yeast and bacteria that live in symbiotic harmony.
However, when most people ask about scobys they are talking about the slimy disc that forms on top of a jar of kombucha and allows you to brew it over and over again.
Your sourdough starter can grow a scoby, however it is different to that of a kombucha scoby and you will not be able to start brewing kombucha with it.
Generally you will find that if a slimy, filmy disc does appear on the top of your sourdough starter it will be because it has not been fed for a while and is generally being stored in the fridge. In my experience, these kombucha like scobys form when there is a lot of hooch present.
Can I brew beer using my sourdough starter?
It is possible to brew beer using your sourdough starter, but it is a very involved process that requires strong experience in brewing beer and a lot of patience for testing and experimenting. Your sourdough starter must be mature and ripe, just like if you were making sourdough bread.
The results of brewing beer with sourdough starter can be somewhat inconsistent because you are dealing with naturally occurring wild yeast (which is just like when you make sourdough bread).
Beer brewed with sourdough starter is described as having a complex flavor with a sour after taste. It is often described as smelling bready (which is kind of understandable, right?).
The reason you can brew beer with sourdough starter is that brewers yeast and sourdough starter share saccharomyces cerevisiae. However, brewer's yeast has honed and cultivated a single, predictable strain of this as opposed to your sourdough starter which could contain a myriad of naturally occurring, wild strains.
If you're not up for brewing beer with your sourdough starter, why not add beer to your bread and make sourdough beer bread!
Is it more difficult to make sourdough bread at higher altitudes?
Yes it can be more difficult to make sourdough bread a higher altitudes. You will need to adjust your recipe to account for the complexities that lie at higher elevations.
Lower air pressure and drier air can cause wet sticky dough that spreads when tipped out of the banneton resulting in a lack of oven spring.
But with some tweaks and adjustments to your process you can still make excellent sourdough bread at higher altitudes.
You can find a full guide to baking sourdough at higher altitude here.
How can I get a sourdough ear and blisters? What do these even mean?
Ears? Blisters? Aren't these things that appear on the human body? Well yes, but did you know that a loaf of sourdough bread can also have an ear, blisters and even a belly? Say what now?
EAR: The ear refers to the raised flap of crust that is pushed upwards during baking. It can be highly sought after in certain sourdough baking circles! You can find a full guide to getting a sourdough ear here.
BELLY: The belly refers to the part of the sourdough bread exposed when the loaf opens up.
BLISTERS: Blisters occur on the crust of your sourdough bread as a result of the CO2 slowly leaking out of the dough. There are certain things you can do to increase the blisters on your sourdough crust.
Does sourdough starter need to breathe?
Sourdough starter does not need to breathe because it utilises fermentation as opposed to respiration. In saying this, your sourdough starter will benefit from regular stirring in the early days, as much to add oxygen to the mixture as to move the organisms around.
In my experience, sourdough starters that are stirred regularly between feedings for the first two weeks will be stronger and faster acting than those that aren't.
Your sourdough starter is a living colony and the yeast do produce carbon dioxide which can create pressure in a container or jar if it is sealed tightly. This pressure can eventually cause the jar to crack or shatter.
My advice is to cover your jar loosely with a paper towel or coffee filter for at least the first two weeks. After that, a lid sitting loosely on your container to ensure no contamination is perfect.
Is it true that some of the yeast from a sourdough starter comes from your hands?
Yes! Some of the yeast in your sourdough starter jar has come from your hands. Pretty cool huh! You can read about the origins of sourdough starter yeast here.
Wild yeast are pretty much everywhere and by establishing a sourdough starter you are creating a collection of wild yeasts which can come from the air around you, the flour you're using, your kitchen utensils ... and your hands!
Why don't the bacteria in my sourdough starter eat the yeast and vice versa?
Your sourdough starter is a symbiotic culture which means that the yeast and bacteria are able to live in harmony with each other, each doing their own job but not working against each other.
The lactobacillus and other bacteria strains in your sourdough starter will not eat the yeast and vice versa.
The bacteria and yeasts feed on the carbohydrates formed in the flour when water is added. These sugars are consumed by the yeast and bacteria and turned into CO2, acids and ethanol.
So you can see that the yeast and bacteria both have the same food source, which is why they can live in a symbiotic relationship without causing harm to each other.
It's also important to note that the yeast is resistant to the acids produced by the bacteria and likewise the bacteria is not affected by the CO2 produced by the yeast. Isn't science interesting! You can read more about this here if you'd like to.
I hope this has helped to answer some of the weirdest sourdough questions that you might have! If you have other weird questions about sourdough that you would like answered, feel free to ask them in my Facebook Group or leave a comment below.