and starter instructions
What is sourdough?
A true sourdough starter is nothing more than the flour and milk or water which sits at room temperature for several days and catches live yeast bacteria from the air.
According to Wikipedia;
“sourdough is a dough containing a Lactobacillus culture, usually in symbiotic combination with yeasts. It is one of two principal means of biological leavening in bread baking, along with the use of cultivated forms of yeast” read more.
Sourdough starter can be stored in the fridge and becomes relatively dormant. Clear, amber colored liquid will accumulate on the surface of the starter. This liquid contains 12% to 14% alcohol. When yeast is in contact with air, it produces carbon dioxide; when it’s not, it produces alcohol. When you blend the alcohol back into the starter, it helps produce the unique flavor you find in good sourdough breads.
For milder flavor, you can pour off some of the alcohol if you wish although this will thicken the starter requiring a bit more liquid to return it to its “pancake batter” consistency. The alcohol itself dissipates during the baking process.
Why bother with sourdough?
Breads made from sourdough have an assertive tang and keep longer than other home baked breads.
Hints and tips for keeping sourdough
- Working with a sourdough starter can be very time consuming. Especially if you follow instructions that tell you to feed them everyday. If you don’t use the starter everyday, then store it, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge until ready to use. When you want to use it, then remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (e.g. overnight on worktop). Then feed it with 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water. Let this sit 8 hours or preferably overnight. It is now ready to use in sourdough recipes.
- Always use the sourdough when it is “hungry”, having not been fed for 24 hours or so.
- Each day it is kept out of the fridge it will need feeding with flour and water (so use some, and feed the remaining portion ready for tomorrow). If you don’t want to use it the next day, feed it and store it in the fridge, where it won’t need feeding.
- Sourdough starters can last for decades, and seem to be resistant to contamination. This may be due to an antibiotic action similar to that of the moulds in cheeses such as Stilton and Roquefort.
- Each time you make a loaf, you will have leftover starter. This can be kept in the fridge, feeding it every 4 days to keep it alive, and will improve in flavour. Any starter you do not need or want can be discarded, or given to a friend. Click here for instructions for a German Sourdough Friendship Cake.
- If your starter ever changes colors, to purple, for example, discard and start another one.
- Stirring the starter invigorates the yeast and expels some of the alcohol.
- After removing a portion from the starter, the starter must be “fed”. Simply add equal portions of milk or water and flour as was used. For example, if you used 1 cup of starter, replace it with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of bread flour.
- Always use the same kind of flour. If you used bread flour in your original starter, use bread flour to feed it. Also, alternate between milk and water for each feeding. Since your original liquid ingredient was milk, the first liquid feeding should be with water. If you forget which you used last, that’s okay, but try to alternate at least every other time.
- You must use a portion of the starter at least once a week. If you choose not to bake sourdough breads that often, then remove a cup of your starter and feed it as though you used some during the week. If this is not done, your starter will turn rancid and have to be replaced. Should you be away on vacation or otherwise not able to tend to the starter, freeze it. Upon your return, thaw it in the refrigerator and then remove a portion and feed it as soon as you are able.
- If the bread is getting too sour for you, feed with water more often than milk.
- For tap water, substitute water from cooking potatoes. It contains nutrients which any kind of yeast loves and along with making the yeast happy, it creates great flavor in bread.
How to make sourdough starter from scratch – the Hugh Fearnly- Whittingstall way.
Hugh’s sourdough loaf recipe which comes highly recomended.
“In a large bowl, mix the flour for the starter with enough warm water to make a batter roughly the consistency of double cream. Beat it well to incorporate some air, drop in the rhubarb, then cover with a lid or cling film and leave somewhere fairly warm. A warm kitchen is fine, or a coolish airing cupboard. Check it every few hours until you can see that fermentation has begun – signalled by the appearance of bubbles on the surface (it can actually smell quite unpleasant and acrid at this stage but don’t worry, it will mellow as it matures). The time it takes for your starter to begin fermenting can vary hugely – it could be a few hours or a few days. But make your starter with wholegrain flour (which offers more for the yeast to get its teeth into), keep it warm and draught free and you should be rewarded with the first signs of life within 24 hours.
Your starter now needs regular feeding. Begin by whisking in another 100g or so of fresh flour and enough water to retain that thick batter consistency. You can switch to using cool water and to keeping the starter at normal room temperature – though nowhere too cold or draughty. Leave it again, then, 24 hours or so later, scoop out and discard half the starter and stir in another 100g flour and some more water. repeat this discard-and-feed routine every day, maintaining the sloppy consistency and keeping your starter at room temperature, and after 7-10 days you should have something that smells good – sweet, fruity, yeasty, almost boozy – having lost any harsh, acrid edge. But don’t be tempted to bake a loaf until it’s been on the go for at least a week.
If you’re going to bake bread every day or two, maintain your starter in this way, keeping it at room temperature, feeding it daily, and taking some of it out whenever you want to create a sponge.” read more