Sourghdough starters do sound challenging, but I hope to help make them more approachable as I was not born a bread baker. Starters are great for not only baking bread, but also cakes, cookies, and pasta. You can become your own bakery essentially, which is especially helpful being shut in. We have been making a Cabernet Sourdough since we opened in 2018. This starter was made from our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which you can read about on a previous blog post here. While I love our starter, it is not feasible for those at home wanting to start their own right now.
Two weeks ago I saw a starter recipe that looked really simple from Taste of Home and decided to try it a couple weeks ago. It went great, so without further ado I am going to share the recipe with a few tweaks, feeding info, and helpful starter info as I had a ton of questions when I started! Also, I will have a few tips if you are missing ingredients, or in need of a gluten free starter as everyone has different needs right now.
The Starter Recipe:
1 & ½ teaspoons (or a packet) of Yeast
2 Cups (11 oz) of Flour
2 Cups (16 oz) of Water at 70-75°F
Use a container like a large tupperware that you can put a lid on. Avoid a metal bowl for your starter as that will impact the temperature of your starter. You can use measuring spoons/cups or a digital scale. Digital scales tend to be more accurate. You will also need a thermometer to take the water temp.
*Yeast: Original recipe calls for Active Yeast. I used Instant Yeast and turned out just fine. Use what you have.
*Flour: The recipe calls for All Purpose (AP) Flour, but you could substitute for Bread Flour. Below I share the differences in flour.
Step 1 – Put 2 cups of flour the bowl/container.
Step 2 – Pour in yeast and stir with flour.
Step 3 – Measure 2 cups of water and take its temperature. 70-75°F is ideal for the temp, but if your home runs cooler or warmer, make adjustments. Like I'd do 80-85°F for a colder home. Yeast likes warmth and it encourages activity. I would avoid going over 90°F.
Step 4 – Gradually pour in the water, while stirring with a spatula. Stir until well incorporated. I like to stir for a few minutes to encourage the yeast to be active.
That’s it. You’ll notice it will become active and bubbly within hours. Let it hang out for about 4 days. Stirring occasionally throughout the day to encourage the yeast to be active. You will notice that it will start to smell more sour and a liquid will form on the top. All apart of it and it is fine. By day 4, feed the starter.
Step 1 – Stir the starter for a few minutes. Do not pour off the liquid. Some recipes do this, but I disagree as it’s just apart of the starter.
Step 2 – Pour out about ½ to 1 cup of starter. I did a cup.
Step 3 – Pour in 1 cup (8 oz) 70-75°F water and stir.
Step 4 – Pour in 1 cup (5.5 oz) of flour and stir. Stir as long as you can to encourage activity.
So, that’s the recipe, but here’s more info to help with your sourdough starter journey.
What is happening in the starter? Protein in the flour forms gluten. Yeast eats gluten and it produces CO2. The gluten helps the bread have strength and gives it rise. The water in the starter is helping the yeast move around and encourage the integration with the gluten. Also, yeast likes warmth and movement. So, the water temperature and the movement of the stirring encourage the activity.
There's no yeast in the stores right now? A real issue and there’s no need to panic. I have read blogs mentioning alternatives and one of those is…pineapple juice. This is similar to what we are doing with our grapes. Here's one I found on Breadtopia.
I’m gluten free? Okay! Well there’s sourdough starters that are gluten free…I found this on King Arthur's site.
Bread Flour vs. All Purpose Flour? Bread Flour has a higher gluten percent than All Purpose Flour (AP), which is why it is used for baking breads. The typical percentages are below:
The more gluten you have for the yeast to eat...the more activity you will have. That said if all you have is All Purpose or Wheat, making a starter will still work!
Storing the starter?
Method 1: Store on the counter and feed daily. This is great if you are a baker and bake daily.
Method 2: Store the starter in the fridge. So, the cold will cause the starter to slow down in activity. Upon removing from the fridge for use, feed more like 2-3 times a day for 2-3 days to awaken the starter.
Some starters can be kept in the fridge without feeding for up to a month or more. I would say this depends on the strength of your starter. If it's super active, then it will do great. I do usually up to a month for some of my starters.
Method 3: You can dry the starter on parchment during feeding. Take some of the starter and just spread it out on parchment paper and let it dry for a couple days. Then put the starter in a container like a mason jar. I recommend this for any starter you are discarding during feeding. Here's the article on King Arthur's site.
What is the liquid on top of the starter? So, believe it or not this is called hooch and that's because it is technically alcohol...the byproduct of the activity between yeast and gluten. It is okay and it doesn't mean that your starter is bad. Stir it into the starter and then feed your starter.
How can you tell if it has gone bad? Starters share a lot about themselves via smell. Sweeter means that it has been fed and is happy. Sour means that it is probably needing food.
Acetone and funky smells equals hmmm, something is awry. You just want to start feeding the starter, like you would when waking it up, to try to save it.
Mold or discolouration are a sign of no bueno. Just try your best to feed and save, but I would look at your saved dry starter at this point.
At feeding it feels wasteful, can I make something with the discarded (pitched) starter? Yes! Pancakes is a well-known option, but there are plenty of things you can do with pitched starter. You can dry some for storage. You can also give the pitched starter to someone else. Starter = giving.
How to know if your starter is ready for use? The visual activity of the bubbles will indicate its activity level, but again smell is important. In Tartine’s Bread, the sweeter smells it is fed and more ready to use. The more sour means it needs more feeding and time. I will say that with time you will get to know your starter and will have a feeling.
Another method is the Float Test. Take some of the starter (like a little piece) and put in water. If it floats, it’s ready for use. If it doesn’t float, well it’s not ready. This is not always accurate, keep in mind, according to some bakers.
Can you bake with whatever flour and the starter? You can bake with whatever flours you would like. Some recipes use blends for more flavor. You will get different textures and densities as well. Bread flour due to its higher gluten percentage will have better crumb (meaning the texture and hole pattern in the bread will be more desirable for the sourdough).
How sour does the sourdough get? The sourness of sourdough is just what the starter decides to create. It's the nature of your starter. So, do not be surprised if if it is not super sour. If you want more sourness to your sourdough bread, try using more starter in the recipe. Or try longer fermentation when making the dough.
Ideas for best bakes with sourdough bread? Dutch ovens are awesome and easy. You need steam for sourdough bread. Let's say you don’t have a dutch oven or cast iron with a lid and a water bath in your oven is a bit of a deal. This write up had some great ideas for getting steam going in your bake: https://truesourdough.com/3-ways-to-make-amazing-sourdough-bread-without-a-dutch-oven/
Best ways to store bread? Wrap in parchment, sarane wrap, and then leave on counter - lasts about 4 days-5days.
That was quite the write up, but I wanted to share thoughts and ideas that would encourage anyone to try their hand at this. This is a great project while stuck at home and/or you have some kids. Honestly, the starter becomes like a pet. You have to care for it. The Parrish team giggle at me as I will remember I have to feed my starter, or fold my bread in the midst of a meeting and rush out to care for it. Regardless of the amount of work it has brought to my life, I enjoy it and the fact that it brings joy to others.
Be well and Enjoy!
While we wait for budbreak in the vineyard, the winery team has been working on our wines to be sure they are ready to go as soon as we can welcome you back to the tasting room!
Today, Cellar Master Ethan Ray takes us through a process called Topping Off which is done frequently in the barrel room.
The Topping Off process is crucial to the winemaking process because without it we would be making very expensive vinegar! The wines are stored in wood barrels and those barrels breathe in and out. Through that process, some of the wine is lost to evaporation creating space for oxygen inside the barrel. This same process happens in whisky barrels and is often referred to as the angel’s share.
But, in winemaking, the presence of oxygen can ruin the wine turning it sour and bitter. So, Ethan and Assistant Winemaker Cody Alt have to regularly take down each barrel from where it’s stored, move it to the floor and refill each barrel to ensure there is no space left for oxygen after evaporation has taken place.
Our winery also has two huge humidifiers which help control the temperature and humidity in the barrel room, but there is still work that needs to be done.
Here is Ethan explaining more about the process and the role it plays in creating our delicious estate wines.
Winemaker David Parrish and Certified Sommelier Vanessa Igel wanted to take a sneak peek at the Sauvignon Blanc and the newly released Rosé and Chardonnay. These white wines are great to have on hand now that the weather is getting warmer. They help to create a little escape from reality and take a little vacation in your backyard.
The Sauvignon Blanc continues to be a wonderful wine capable of a wide range of pairings from a bowl of fresh raspberries to Thai or even Indian food. At $16 a bottle, we're seeing a lot of people stocking up on it before summer is in full swing.
The Rosé is one of our team favorites. We had a double blind tasting before the shutdown with our wine and other Paso rosés. Ours was a unanimous winner, though they were all delicious! The nose is full of bubblegum, strawberry and cherry Jolly Rancher notes. The wine can be paired with just about anything. Some of our team favorite pairings are potato chips, spinach salad and salmon.
The Chardonnay has a great balanced style with 40% new French oak and 60% stainless steel. This breakdown gives the wine those classic markers of butter and roundness while maintaining crispness and acidity from the stainless steel. It can be paired with anything from scallops to brunch faire.
We hope you enjoy the video of this virtual tasting and that you'll join us for another one this Friday, April 3 on our favorite reds.
We wanted to take a moment to enjoy a new wine and a little time with each other (at a safe distance!).
Our 2017 Estate Zinfandel is now released and we love where it's at in its development.
Grown here on our Adelaida Road property, the head-trained Zinfandel vines are almost seven years old and have become a cult favorite for our tasting room guests and club members.
Done in a restrained style, Winemaker David Parrish picks the fruit from the cool side of the vine so that the fruit doesn't get overripe. This style also keeps the wine more medium bodied and a little lower in alcohol. If you like lighter-style, less jammy Zins, then this is one you have to try!
The nose on this Zinfandel is so unique almost coming across as a Pinot Noir because of its spice notes. It is loaded with dried cranberry, rose petals, white pepper and cedar.
On the palate, it has a bright acidity with a lot of roundness as it waves from the front of the mouth to the back.
The acidity and profile make it a great candidate for all kinds of pairings ranging from charcuterie boards, to lentil and sweet potato fritters, all the way to shepherd’s pie and brisket. It's definitely a wine to experiment with and enjoy soon!
From the vineyard to the winery, Assistant Winemaker Cody Alt is starting the racking process for our 2019 wines this week.
Racking is important for the quality of our wines. It’s when some of the spent lees (dead yeast) falls out of the solution (wine) and no longer contributes to the finished product. Our wines are typically racked three times before they are bottled as part of our winemaking process. First the wine is racked as part of the initial fermentation process, then several months after fermentation has finished and then finally right before bottling.
Today, Cody is racking the 2019 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon moving the wine from one barrel to another to “rack off the lees.” Using a pump, a wand and a flashlight (super technical, right?), he watches the wine come up through the pump to see when it changes from clear to wine with sediment. It’s easy to see because it becomes cloudy instead of clear. Once he sees the sediment, he stops the pump and then leaves the rest of that wine in that barrel. All of the clear wine is what will be kept and ultimately finished into our final wine.
The wines will be racked one more time right before bottling to ensure they are clear and perfect for you to enjoy for years to come!
Click here to watch Cody explain racking and demonstrate. Have any questions? Just ask on our Facebook or Instagram. We love talking wine with you!
We needed a break and ventured outside to catch up with Winemaker David Parrish on what's happening in the vineyard.
Right now, crews are going through the vineyard manually hand cutting each vine to remove last year’s growth and make way for this year’s new buds. It’s an exciting time as we say goodbye to last year’s harvest and prepare for what’s to come in the 2020 vintage.
Hand pruning takes a lot of time, but like most things, the effort is worth it.
For all other varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, etc. the crew hand selects two of last year’s arms to stay into this new harvest. Everything else is cut away. The two arms are then tied down onto the wire to establish a grounding for new growth.
But, our dear Zinfandel, is a little different. Like you can see in the video, everything is cut back and creates a circular form around the trunk of the vine. Nothing is left on it. This is to keep all of the growth as close to the vine as possible for water and also to leave room for where the new growth will take place. Ideally, the crew is creating an outline for where they want this year’s growth to set based on how close each vine is to each other and where the sun will eventually hit the fruit on the vine.
If you’ve had our Parrish Zinfandel, you know that it is a much lighter style and body than a traditional Paso Zin. Winemaker David Parrish likes this style because it’s easier to drink and pairs well with a wide range of foods. The way it gets there is based on where the crews are selecting next year’s vines to grow and that happens right now.
We hope you enjoy this short video on Zinfandel pruning!
Friends, please know we have been thinking about you constantly as our world suddenly looks and feels so different. We hope you are well and are safe.
As you've heard us say many times, we believe that wine has the power to create connection and to make memories. And, I think we all need a little of that right now.
With that in mind, we are asking for your support of our small business. We have created a few promos to share our wine with you and to keep our team employed. Literally every bottle helps and we're humbled by your support. Here's the easiest way to head to our wine page.
Our current hours for our team to field calls and emails is M-F 9am to 5pm.
We are thrilled to share that we have a new Paired Flight and we cannot wait for you to try it! The Paired Flight is a seasonal showcase featuring three wines crafted by our family and three dishes crafted by our Estate Chef Samantha Eitel. She is thrilled to showcase our wines through her food.
Argentine Prawns and Soba Noodle Salad Paired with 2017 Sauvignon Blanc
Sautéed Red Argentine Prawns nestled on top of an Asian Soba Noodle Salad with a Lemongrass Tamari Vinaigrette and Sesame Seared Baby Bok Choy
"This pairing made me speechless the first time I had it. The dish was perfect at complimenting the wine and making it shine." - Vanessa, Director of Wine Experiences
Braised Short Rib Paired with 2016 Silken
Silken Braised Short Rib with Cherry Wild Mushroom Bordelaise, Crumbled Big Rock Bleu Cheese, sautéed Broccolini topped with Crispy Shallots
"I love the 2016 Silken and to pair it with a tender short rib...delicious." - David, Winemaker & Owner
Bosch Poached Pear Paired with 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Spiced Cider Poached Pear with Cabernet Raspberry Reduction and Chinese Five Spice Mascarpone Whip
"The pear is a beautiful way to finish the paired flight as it is elegant and I love the warm spices from the mascarpone. The Cabernet and pear end up balancing each other to make a clean finish." - Cecily, General Manager
We invite you to join us for this experience, which is available on Fridays and Saturdays from 12:00pm-2:30pm. We do recommend reservations, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. The experience is $50 per person and can definitely be enjoyed for lunch. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Hi everyone! Cecily Parrish Ray here. I wanted to share with you all my passion for our Cabernet Sourdough bread and the journey I’ve been on to make it for our tasting room. In 2017, my dad and I discussed what our hopes were for the new tasting room at our Adelaida Vineyard and one of those was baking our own bread.
Unsure how to go about this, one morning I stumbled upon an old Julia Child video featuring Nancy Silverton, who started La Brea Bakery. Silverton was crafting a sourdough starter from store bought table grapes. It dawned on me in that moment that we had a whole vineyard and I could use grapes at harvest to make a starter. But, there was one fact that still remained…I didn’t know anything about baking breads.
That changed with a serendipitous visit from Chef William Carter and his wife Katherine of Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast to our downtown tasting room. He was the Executive Chef of the Playboy Mansion for 30 years and during that time he had begun baking artisan breads. I told him about the Cabernet Sauvignon starter I wanted to do and I asked if he could help me.
For six days in January 2018, Chef Wills worked with me in his kitchen where it smelled of delicious baked bread and my hands were covered in flour. He showed me the ropes of managing a sourdough starter from feeding to baking. He had taken some of our 2017 Cabernet grapes at harvest and began a starter from it. He gifted me with the starter for me to use at our new tasting room. He also taught me other artisan breads. including the focaccia we now make in the tasting room. It was a wonderful experience that I cherish.
I have continued to keep alive the original Cab starter, but in the Fall of 2019, I decided to try my hand at making my own Cab starter. Early on September 22nd, I rushed into the winery with a bucket and grabbed freshly picked grapes from the bins. It was busy season to start working on a side project, but I really wanted to see if I could do my own starter. I then began mixing flour and water with a cheese cloth full of Cabernet Grapes. It bubbled and popped. It smelled like sweet yeast. It took about 12 days for the starter to get to a point where I could begin to use it. I fed it for a while and then did my first bake with it to share with family on Thanksgiving. The bread turned out perfectly.
I now have two starters that I am keeping alive and we’ll see if I have time do any others. Regardless if I increase my starter family, I am happy that I can continue to bake Cabernet Sourdough for my family as well as the families that come in to our tasting room. It has been a lot of work, but it fits with the food program my dad and I envisioned for our tasting room and we hope you enjoy it!
It was so much fun that we're doing it again!
Mark your calendars for Friday, November 22nd as we host a wine & cigar pairing night. The owner of The Sanctuary in San Luis Obispo will join us with a selection of high-end cigars to smoke on-site or take home with you.
Tickets are $25 and include a glass of wine of your choosing and a decadent dessert made by Estate Chef Rachel Ponce. Cigars can be purchased individually.
Join us from 6:30pm-8:00pm.