Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Healthy Bubbles Sourdough Starter ~Updated~

Saturday was sourdough starter day and I finally began a batch of wild yeast sourdough starter. Sourdough contains naturally occurring lactobacilli and wild yeasts - found in the air and in the flour used in the starter.  It's the lactic acid from the lactobacilli bacteria that gives sourdough bread its sour taste.
Sourdough starter - Day 3

The starter is pretty simple to make.  I just mixed together three Tablespoons of white flour and three Tablespoons of whole wheat flour with enough filtered water to make it into a cake mix consistency and covered it to sit on my counter for a day or two.  Once I started to see some bubbling action, I mixed in another 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour into my mixture and added just enough water to maintain that cake mix consistency.  I covered it and awoke to see bubbling goodness! 

Each day, I discarded half my starter and added another 1/4 of a cup of whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of white flour and enough water to maintain a cake mix-like consistency - for a total of ten days.

I think I was a bit ambitious with my sourdough dreams and tried bread too soon.  I achieved amazing flavour in my early loaves but I didn't get the ultimate rise I was looking for and felt a bit discouraged.  Make sure your starter is able to double on the counter after feeding or it won't have the strength to make your bread rise.

Eventually, I started feeding my sourdough starter with some organic rye flour.  Rye is supposed to promote hearty microbial growth in starters and I must admit that once I switched it helped a lot.   After multiple successful batches of English muffins, cake, pasta, pizza dough and pita bread, I think my starter has enough microbial activity to start the bread making process again.

Continue to use at least some rye flour as food for your sourdough or a combination of whole wheat, rye and white as a food once the microbial activity is truly established. So far, I have the most active and healthiest starter when I add a tablespoon or two of rye to my starter now and again.

I store my sourdough starter in my fridge and feed it with flour and water to form a thick paste rather than a runny batter.  It should have lots of bubbles and deflate when you spoon it out to use it or feed it.  I feed mine whenever I use it or once a week ~ whichever comes first.  If it smells like nail varnish then don't worry.  Give the starter a stir and feed it a couple of times before using; the smell just means it is very hungry!

The day before you use your starter, take it out of the fridge.  I take half of the starter, place it in a separate bowl, and feed it equal weights of water and flour; leave this starter on the counter.  I then feed the remaining amount of starter from the fridge and return it to the fridge for later use.

In the morning, I either discard half of the fed counter top starter and then feed it the same amount again; or I keep the whole amount and feed it double the amount of flour and water that I did the day before.  I mix my bread within four hours of this feeding.  If I double the amount of fed starter then I am usually baking a double batch of bread.

I have had lots of success with this method and hopefully you will too!

Happy baking!

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