The Unexpected Tool a Bread Baker Swears By for Making Sourdough Starter

Hint: It comes for free with your takeout.

April 20, 2020


Photo by: Sohadiszno


There are a lot of different sourdough starter recipes/theories/mantras out there, but one thing’s for certain: Sourdough starter is a pain to stir. It’s sticky. And it gets all over your stirring utensil, whether you’re using a regular old wooden spoon or a small rubber spatula. If you don’t wash said stirring tool immediately, the starter solidifies and becomes gluey, requiring extra scrubbing. This would be a mere annoyance, but since sourdough starter needs to be fed (i.e. mixed) frequently — sometimes several times a day if it’s a baby — it becomes a hugely messy hassle.

But pastry chef Zachary Golper, owner of the revered Brooklyn-based bread bakery Bien Cuit, has a brilliant solution. We discovered it watching his 30-Hour Sourdough Loaf class on the Food Network Kitchen app.

When Golper goes to mix flour and water with his starter (aka levain), he announces “Now I’m going to use this magical instrument here. It’s one of my favorite instruments for small batch mixing. You can get it for free with your Chinese takeout.” Has anyone caught on yet? He uses chopsticks!

“You take a chopstick, and you stir the flour and your levain and your water all together very quickly,” Golper continued. “Be sure to go around the edges at least once so you get all of the dry bits and make sure the dry bits mix with the wet bits.”

Golper stores his starter in a glass container, so he can look on the bottom to see whether every last bit of flour has incorporated. When he removes the chopstick from the container, it’s practically clean — the starter slides right off instead of clinging to it. He uses a pair of laquered, reusable chopsticks, but upcycling the disposable kind is totally encouraged. Which gives all aspiring sourdough bakers an excuse to order takeout and support your local Chinese joint.

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