Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to make a Sourdough Starter

Quite some time ago, I had this wild idea and decided to try making sourdough bread. It sounded all earthy and somewhat romantic to, not only make my own bread (which I've been doing for many years) but to start the entire process from scratch. Using nothing but flour, water and a bit of salt to create delicious, homely, earthy sourdough bread. Ahhh....

With great enthusiasm I began. . . . . Three attempts later, I had a starter I could work with.

Since then, many loaves of sourdough have been produced in my kitchen. Some declared as 'perfect' and others almost inedible. I've discovered that my pet sourdough starter doesn't really like the heat of our sub-tropical summer and only lasted a couple hours before wanting to be fed again, or else it goes rather sour, in a not-so-good way. (It's been nick-named my pet, but it's rather like a baby at times). I've discovered that on our cool, winter days it requires a bit more time to prove. I also found out that it loves the warm morning sunshine found beside our bedroom window - so do I, coincidentally!

My pet and I have got to know each other fairly well now and I've developed a routine and recipe which seem to work perfectly every (well almost every) time.

Today I'll walk you through the process of making the starter and keep posted for the next instalment when I explain the process of making the sourdough bread itself.


Making a Sourdough Starter:



:: Good Quality Wholemeal Flour
:: Filtered water
:: Juice of Half an Orange

Day One:

:: Put 4 Tablespoons of flour in a bowl
:: Whisk in juice of half an orange and approx 4 Tablespoons water. This should make a thick but stir-able batter.
:: Whisk for a couple minutes.
:: Loosely cover bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place. Possibly beside an open kitchen window.


Day Two:

:: Stir in another 4 Tablespoons of flour and 4 Tablespoons of water.
:: Loosely cover bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place

Day Three:

:: Stir in another 4 Tablespoons of flour and 4 Tablespoons of water.
:: Loosely cover bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place
Hopefully your batter will be showing signs of action, bubbling and rising up in the bowl.

Day Four:

:: Tip out about half of the starter.
:: Feed with 4 Tablespoons of both flour and water.

This is a good time to evaluate your starter.

:: If it has shown no signs of bubbles at all it's probably not worth continuing, I'd start again, maybe with different flour or location.
:: If it is showing a small amount of bubbling action but not doubling in size each day, then continue feeding as per day four until it is showing good signs of activity.
:: If your starter is bubbling away nicely a few hours after feeding and it doubles up in size then it's probably ready to use.
:: If you aren't sure, then give it another day or two or even more (feeding daily as per day four) - it won't hurt.


A few comments I'll add:

:: Don't rush this process. You are breeding a living, yeasty organism here. Growing a 'pet' from thin air, sort of. So give it time to develop.
:: But if you think it's just not working then be prepared to throw that one out and give it another go.
:: Depending on how heavy your flour is, you may need to add extra water each feed. Even up to twice the volume of water. Remember you want a thick, stir-able batter.
:: The starter needs approximately half it's volume in food (flour and water) each day - or twice daily in hot weather. That's why you begin to tip out some of the starter each day. If you kept feeding as much as it needed, you would end up with one very large container full, very quickly.
:: Once you have a nice active starter you can either use it or tip some out at each feed.
:: Once your starter is active you can then keep it in the fridge and then it only needs feeding weekly.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions. I'll try to answer them but do remember I'm not an expert, I've just figured out a system that works for me.

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