A juvenile sourdough starter.A sourdough starter!  This is something which, given the right conditions, is actually very easy to create & once active, can be kept in the fridge, where it will happily live until such time as you want to use it to make a loaf, or whatever other sourdough product you have in mind.  It will simply need to be "refreshed" each time, before use, but more on that later.  Firstly, lets deal with the starter itself which is sometimes referred to as a "mother".  I will simply refer to it as a starter.  Some folk like to name their starters & this can be useful in reminding you that your starter is actually a living thing which needs "feeding".  My daughter calls our original one Prince!  Prince is a wheat starter, & in keeping with the rock star theme, our rye starter is called Elvis, (yes nuts, I know).

A couple of things before we get started, which will help.

Basically, a sourdough starter is a mixture of flour & water which is then left to ferment.  Pretty much any flour will ferment if mixed with warm water & then left for a while, but your starter will become active much quicker if you use a wholemeal flour.  The reason for this is because the outer bran of the wheat grain contains far more yeast, which is essential to make your bread rise.  Wholemeal, or dark rye flour contains even more yeast & microbes, making it particularly good for a starter.  The other important factor for your flour is that it is organic.  Non organic flours are sprayed with fungicides &, according to statistics, residues are found in a large proportion of non organic UK flours.  Yeast is a type of fungus, therefore fungicides kill yeast, therefore dont use a non oragnic flour!  Need I say more.

The water you use make your starter is also important.  Tap water contains chlorine, which is a strong biocide.  This is decidedly grim for the bacteria which you want to nurture in your starter.  You can reduce this threat by either leaving the water you want to use standing in a jug or bowl over night, allowing most of the chlorine to evaporate, or use some still spring water.  Your starter will cope admirably with water straight from the tap once it has established itself but give it the best  chance of getting going by avoiding tap water in the first few days of its life.

Your starter will need warmth to get it going.  If you dont have a particularly warm house, or a nice warm place to stand it, dont despair.  It will simply take longer for your starter to establish itself, but generally speaking, the optimal temperature for a juvenile starter is 25 to 30 degrees celsius, perhaps even slightly warmer for a rye starter.  Once your starter is established it will cope finer with all sorts of temperatures & heat is one of the important ways in which you can control your starter.

The last thing to mention is the receptacle to store your starter.  Use a glass jar or a plastic container with a loose fitting cover.  There will be some build up of gas pressure & the last thing you will want will be exploding starter. (here speaks the voice of bitter experience!!!).  Never use a metal container as your starter will be acidic in nature & may react with the metal, causing it to corrode, (never good!).

Lets Get Started.

The quantities that I've given here are very small, but by doing it this way, you will not have to throw any excess away but if you want to make a bigger amount, simply increase the amounts given to your chosen quantity.  Here are two types of starter, the first with wholemeal rye & the second with wholemeal wheat.  You will notice that the water/flour ratio differs between the two starters.  This is because rye is more absorbent & much stickier than wheat flour.

Rye sourdough starter

Day 1

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 75g

Day 2 add

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 150g

Day 3 add

  • 25g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 225g

Day 4 add

  • 50g wholemeal rye flour
  • 50g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 325g

 

Wheat sourdough starter

Day 1

  • 30g wholemeal flour
  • 30g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 60g

Day 2 add

  • 30g wholemeal flour
  • 30g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 120g

Day 3 add

  • 30g wholemeal flour
  • 15g water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 165g

Day 4 add

  • 90g of white or wholemeal flour
  • 45g of water (35 degrees C)
  • Total 300g

 

With all starters, getting the consistency of the mixture right is crucial at this stage.  The starter should always be quite sloppy & almost pourable so that you can see evidence of the yeast working & also a more liquid environment allows for quicker biological reactions to take place.  Use your hands, or a finger, (make sure you wash them first & thoroughly rinse any soap off them).  One of the key bacteria present in sourdough, lactobacillus, is thought to be introduced through contact with bakers hands, so get stuck in!  You'll notice that on the third day of your starter, the water/flour ratio decreases & you will have a thicker, less pourable consistency.  By day 4, if you've followed the instructions accurately, you should have a starter which is ready to use for the first time to make a loaf.  It should give off a fruity, slightly sour smell, (mine always smell a bit like banana!), will be bursting with yeasts & lactic acid & bubbling away.

If it's not, dont despair.  I shall cover what may have gone wrong, in my next blog.  In the meantime get "Started"!