How to Make a Starter in a Hot and Humid Climate
Can you imagine making and baking sourdough in a small, compact bachelor apartment in the sweltering heat, lungs muffled by high humidity?
I can, because that’s precisely what I experienced in Cambodia, Southeast Asia.
When living in the hot tropics, you may befriend your air conditioner to combat high temperatures and humidity. Unfortunately, it has its limits.
Back in September 2012, I created and nurtured my first sourdough starter, using Debra Wink’s pineapple method. However, several days after the inception of my starter, I noticed a defect on my beloved mass of wet flour. My starter, who I aptly named Abital (Hebrew for “my father is dew”), developed a thin, dry crust.
Under most circumstances, sourdough starters and bread dough needs some humidity to remain limber and healthy. Hence, starters and dough are not too fond of air conditioners. Besides the air, they can leech moisture from starters and dough, inducing them to develop dry, chapped skin. (On an additional note, air currents produces the same effect.)
Subsequent to that bleak discovery, I discontinued the use of my air conditioner during the incubation of my starter and bread baking. Because the humidity and temperature became much less tolerable, it was common for me to bake solely in my underpants. Essentially, I’d perspire profusely, glistening like a disgruntled salamander.
One major problem. After abandoning my air conditioner, the ambient temperature of my apartment skyrocketed. We’re talking above 30°C / 86°F on any given day. Consequently, a translucent, liquid substance called “hooch” kept appearing in my starter. This was a visual indication that my starter was fermenting too rapidly and starving for food.
Since then, I have learnt and applied a few lessons to reduce the metabolic rate of my starter in tropical conditions.
Avoid sources of heat:
- Cover your windows. All of them. Preferably with thick, light-resistant curtains, also known as “blackout curtains”;
- Minimize the use of electrical appliances and equipment;
- Place your starter away from sunlight and electrical devices.
Adjust your starter’s diet:
- Decrease the hydration (i.e., water amount) of your starter;
- Increase the frequency of feedings or refreshments;
- Chill your flour or water, perhaps both.
Personally speaking, I don’t recommend incarcerating your poor starter in a refrigerator, especially if the starter is less than a month old. Otherwise, your starter’s thriving community of bacteria and yeast may degrade and yield to undesirable microbes.
My question: Do you have other suggestions concerning sourdough starters in hot, humid climates? If so, feel free to share your valued wisdom by commenting below. Thank you!
Author: Zita (bakingbadly)
Published: August 28th, 2013
Last Modified: September 24th, 2013