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Sourdough Starter

27 Apr

I’ve written this starter recipe out a few times in the comments sections on various posts now so I’ve decided to do it in a post so that its more accessible for people. There is something very wholesome about making your own baked goods. Its fun, rewarding, challenging and profitable. I wont bother going into the health benefits or the science behind sourdough as there is so much available on the internet about such topics.

There are many versions of sourdough starters on the net; potato starter, wholemeal / whole wheat starter, white starter, plum and grape starters – the list is long and exhaustive. While researching starters, I spent the better part of the summer looking to various internet sites for the right starter for me until I got this one.

I’d love to be able to give someone credit for this recipe, cause I sure didn’t invent it. After three failed starter attempts, the starter I am about to describe has worked a treat for me and given me superb results. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where it actually came from though, but the actual recipe is probably as old as the hills.

This start container has ample room for the starter to grow and is protected from wild yeast by a shower cap / bowl cover. This photo was taken about 5 hours post feeding and has doubled (risen) in size - note all the bubbles indicating an active healthy starter?

Ingredients

50 g Rye Flour
50 g White Flour
100 g Water

Method

  • Mix the above ingredients well and place into a container covered by some cheese cloth or other breathable material. I use a loose-fitting shower cap style bowl cover (photo above)
  • Find a nice spot in your kitchen for your sourdough to sit. It will need to be in a warm spot free of drafts. Mine sits on my south-facing kitchen window.

A room with a view: My sourdough starter, sprouts and indoor herbs sit on a south-facing window sill. In the southern hemisphere, this position gets limited early morning direct sunlight, reducing the risk of over activation, drying out or scorching.

  • Every 12 hours, give your sourdough a vigorous stir. In a few days, you will notice bubbles forming that aren’t from the stirring. This is the tell-tale signs of your starter coming to life.
  • Once the bubbles have been observed, its time to feed your sourdough. You always want to feed it enough to double its weight. As we started with 100 g (total) flour and 100 g water, its time to add that same weight (200 g total between flour and water) to our starter. Mix 100 g of water into your starter followed by 50 g white flour and 50 g rye flour. Mix well and let it rest.

An active sourdough culture should be light, bubbly, and have a yeasty smell about it.

  • After this initial feed, you want to reduce your starter by a cup or so before each feed. Just ensure that you leave at least 1 cup of starter in your jar at all times to keep your starter going. Depleting it further than this point will weaken it and may cause the cultures to die. You can use the discarded cup or two of start in breads, pizza crusts, muffins, scrolls and pancakes. If you do not remove this starter each feed, you will soon have enough starter to fill a swimming pool. Also consider this; you must feed it enough weight to double which will soon become too costly to feed!

Sourdough pancakes are a sensational way of using up your discarded cup or two of starter culture.

Observations

  • A healthy active starter that is sitting at room temperature will require feeding every 12 – 24 hours. You will notice a pattern in your starter over time. Within an hour of feeding, my starter begins to grow. Within four or five hours, it will come close to doubling in size before deflating as all of the food is consumed by your starter culture. When this occurs, its time to feed it again, however, I find morning and night feeds is sufficient.
  • Quality flours produce quality products. If you are going to go to all this trouble, don’t cut corners. I use organic, unbleached flours that are stone ground where possible. They do cost a bit more, but the end results are worth it. (IGA Organic White Flour is about A$3 / kilo while Fundamental Foods Organic Stone Ground Rye is about A$5 / kilo. I use a kilo of each in the starter every two weeks. (Sidenote: Since switching to the rye flour, I’ve had no problems at all. I think it is worth its weight for this sort of thing.) (Pro Tip! to save time, mix 1 kg Rye with 1 kg organic white flour and store in a container. The 50% / 50% flour mixture can just be measured straight, saving time.

Quality flours create quality products.

  • If your sourdough doesn’t appear to be active after three or four days, discard it and try again. If your sourdough doesn’t appear to be active after two attempts, change flour brands.
  • I would not use the discarded sourdough starter until it has stabilised. This may take a week or two. When your sourdough is predictable, its good to use!
  • If you are going away, put your sourdough in the fridge. This will put it in a dormant state until you are home again. Slowly bring back to room temperature, stir, and resume normal feeding.
  • Remember, you want to double its weight each feeding – don’t cut corners or you will starve your culture to death. Learn to weigh your starter. To do this, get to know the weight of your container. Total container / starter weight of 400 g less container weight 100 g gives you 300 g starter. To feed this, add 150 g water, 75 g Rye and 75 g White Flour. This is sufficient to double the starters weight, giving it ample food for growth!

These delicious cinnamon scrolls were made with a sourdough starter. Note how much they grew in just 120 minutes? There is no yeast in that dough - just some precious sourdough starter.

  • After feeding, don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your container. This will stop mould growing in warmer, more moist conditions. Also, change your container every three or four days.
  • When choosing a container to house your starter, consider that you will be feeding it (doubling its weight and volume) and it can rise by as much as 150% in hot weather. Make sure you have enough room in your container for this to occur.

Look how light and airy this bread is! Who would have thought it was possible with wholemeal bread? Sourdough no knead bread magic!

  • Final note of importance: Try to not use cup measurements. Weight and volume are not the same. You want to have equal portions by weight, not volume. By volume, your starter will become too watery and will not be able to hold its weight or raise bread. Weight, dear friends, is the road to sourdough heaven.
  • I know it all seems daunting and probably a tad overwhelming at the start, but trust me – once you get started it’s an addictive process that you will just love. It’s a happy part of my morning chores. I wake up, and feed my living dependent things – the cat, the garden (water), my sprouts and sourdough. So satisfying! AHHH its good to be alive!
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31 responses to “Sourdough Starter

  1. anonymous3891

    April 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you! Can’t wait to get started, 🙂

     
    • Rhianna

      April 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      Its a load of fun!

       
  2. Archibald

    April 30, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Hello good article , Thanks for giving this information

     
  3. Rachael

    July 18, 2013 at 6:10 am

    I love your blog!!!
    Am definitely going to try this with my new San Francisco sourdough starter : ) Just ordered it from Sourdough’s International! Love their products.

     

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