Sourdough is formed when naturally-occurring yeast start to ferment and feed on flour. This process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day to really get started which is obviously not practical when it comes to baking. In order to get around this problem we use a sourdough starter – an already-fermenting culture that we can add to our ingredients to give the process a head-start.
Sourdough products are great because the bacteria start to pre-digest the grains, making more of their nutrition available for us and removing toxins. Lower gluten and anti-nutrient levels and a higher nutritional value with less of a blood-sugar rush. That’s the recipe for a healthy food.
Three ways to get your own starter:
- From a friend – This must be the easiest way. If you have a friend that regularly bakes using sourdough they will probably be more than willing to set you on the right path by giving you some of their cherished starter.
- Buy some – There are many places on-line that will send you either a live or dried starter for a small fee.
- Make your own – This is what I did and it’s super easy, it just takes a little time.
Sourdough Starter Recipe
- 100g wholegrain flour such as spelt or rye
- 1Kg flour to ‘feed’ the starter
- Using a fairly large bowl, mix 100g of flour with enough lukewarm water to make a batter that is runny and with no lumps. You want a similar consistency as for when making a pancake batter.
- Cover the bowl with a lid, plate or clingfilm etc.
- Leave the bowl to stand in a warm place, such as a warm kitchen or cool airing cupboard.
- Check the batter every few hours to see if the fermentation has started. It may take a few hours or even a day, depending on how warm it is. You’ll know it’s started by the appearance of small bubbles and the distinctive smell.
- Using a sturdy whick, mix in about 100g of flour and sufficient cool water to maintain the batter-like consistency.
- Leave the mixture to stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Scoop out and discard about half the starter.
- Repeat steps 5 to 7 for one week. By the end of the week you should have a starter that smells sweet and almost fruity.
- Finally, instead of discarding the half the starter each time, use it in your baking
Maintaining the starter:
- If you’re baking every day or two, maintain your starter by keeping it at room temperature and feeding it daily. Take out some of the starter out whenever you need it, remembering to replace what you’ve taken out with sufficient flour and water.
- If you plan to bake less frequently, add sufficient flour to make it into a stiff dough, this way it won’t need feeding for four or so days. You’ll just need to add more water when you come to make the sponge.
- If you keep you starter in the fridge it will go for about a week without needing to be fed.
- By using a combination of the two above, making a stiff dough and keeping it in the fridge, you should be able to keep your starter for a couple of weeks without feeding it.
- Remember, you can even freeze some of your starter and it will reactivate on thawing. Keep some in the freezer in case you manage to kill your starter, or so that you’ve got some to give to a friend. 🙂