Making a Sourdough Starter from scratch
There are many ancient myths about making and keeping a healthy sourdough starter, but let me warn you, most are completely untrue. For example, when you go on holiday you do not need to get someone to babysit your starter and keep it fed regularly and you certainly don’t need to pay good money for it to go to a sourdough starter hotel service (which I believe they do in Sweden). Once you get your starter off to a healthy start you can leave it in the back of your fridge in a tupperware container for many weeks ignoring it totally. I have done this and it does go a little grey and pasty, but if you throw away practically all of it and feed it flour and water it will bounce back in a day or so ( but more of how to feed your starter in a later blog) One thing that I think is important is that once you have got it going, don’t keep it in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid- it is full of live cultures and therefore grows as it produces gases, so there is a risk of minor explosions in your fridge. I keep mine in tupperware.
The reason why I’d like to teach you how to make a starter is that ultimately if you love artisan bread, nothing, absolutely nothing beats a chewy sourdough loaf with a strong and complex taste. Its great when its freshly baked eaten on its own or dipped in olive oil and later in the week it makes the best toast and croutons.
I find I get best results using organic rye flour because its high in nutrients and fermentable sugars and therefore helps get the culture off to a good start. I discovered this through reading ‘Bread, a baker’s book of techniques and recipes’ by Jeffrey Hamelman. This is a pretty scholarly tome, full of great advice, theory and recipes. My recipe below has been adapted from his recipe for developing a ‘Stiff Levain Culture’
1/4 cup organic whole grain rye flour
1/4 cup strong white bread flour
1/4 cup of water ( I use tap water, but make sure your water isn’t full of chlorine)
Glass jam jar
1. Put the flours in the jam jar and mix together with a teaspoon
2. Add the water and stir to form a moderately stiff dough
3. Tip the dough out on to the work surface and knead it briefly until it all comes together and just about all the flour has been hydrated
4. Gently place the lid on the jar without screwing it on
5. Leave for 2 days on your counter top and enjoy having a look at it periodically to see if you can spot any signs of life in the form of small air bubbles (hence the glass jam to start with)
In a couple of days, I’ll show you how to do the first feeding.