Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to make a sourdough starter

This is the method I used to create my sourdough starter. It was originally published in Peter Reinhart’s “Whole Grain Breads”, an excellent book.

Phase 1:

  • 28.5g wholemeal flour (wheat and / or rye)
  • 28.5g unsweetened pineapple juice

Mix together with a fork, cover and let sit at room temperature for 48 hours, stirring two or three times a day.

Phase 2:

  • 14g wholemeal flour (or rye flour)
  • 28.5g juice

Add to the day one mixture, stir well, cover and let sit at room temperature for up to 48 hours, stirring 2-3 times per day. If the paste becomes very bubbly before 48 hours is up, proceed to the next phase, otherwise simply proceed after 48 hours.

Phase 3:

  • 42.5g whole grain flour (or rye flour)
  • 42.5g water

As previously, add the ingredients to the starter and mix well to combine. Cover and leave for up to 48 hours, stirring occasionally, until it becomes very active (nice and bubbly – if your starter was active at the end of phase 3, you will probably achieve this after 24 hours, else wait the full 48 hours before continuing.)

Phase 4:

  • 56.5g bread flour
  • 42.5g water

Throw half of the Phase 3 starter in the compost, and use the rest with the above ingredients (about 106g should be kept). During this phase, the starter should be highly active, and at least double in size within 24 hours, however if tapped on the bench, all the gas will escape and it will fall back down. If your starter doesn’t do this, keep repeating this step every couple of days until it performs as expected.

At this stage, you can use the starter in bread. I refresh my starter the day before I want to use it by mixing 10g of starter with 50g of water and 50g of bread flour and leaving it overnight to become nicely active again. This is known as a 100% hydration starter – it has the same amount of water as flour.

Whilst not in use, the starter can be covered with cling wrap and kept in the fridge.

If at any stage of the development of your starter does it grow mold or other fuzzy stuff, throw the lot away and start again – that’s not great stuff to eat!

You can refresh your starter to either higher or lower hydration levels, however you will get more sour results with lower hydration levels. Try around 75% hydration, ie. add 75g water to 100g flour and see what the difference is.


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