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All things sourdough.

Maintaining a sourdough starter

Fresh sourdough starter is a wonderful resource. Bread, pancakes, waffles, cake… there are so many uses for your sourdough starter. It is important however to maintain your starter to ensure it is happy, healthy and ready to rock when you are.

If you bake a lot, you may want to keep it on your counter top, at room temperature or keep it in the fridge and feed it daily, in Bread 41 we keep it in the fridge to control the consistency of the starter and subsequently our breads. You should feed it once daily or if your starter is increasingly active i.e. bubbly feed it twice. Starter can last up to 7 days in the fridge without being fed and then just use it when you need to.

If you are using starter from the fridge take it out the night before you plan to use it allowing your starter to reach room temp. The next morning your starter should be active with lots of bubbles and ready to bake with.

Flour, water and time, that’s all there is to beginning a sourdough starter from scratch. Once you have your starter add some flour and salt and hey presto hard to believe but these are the 3 simple ingredients you need to starting baking bread at home.

Making sourdough starter from nothing.

The most important thing in any naturally leavened bread is to make a good sourdough starter from scratch or use the Bread 41 starter that we give out for free.

What is sourdough. Sourdough is simply a naturally occurring fermentation that happens when you mix flour and water and leave it over time. If you add flour and water together you’ll witness this magic over time.

A couple of tips to start with

Water : Use filtered water if you can or leave water in a jug for a few hours before you use it in case it has a high content of chlorine alternatively use bottled water if you can to initiate the starter.

Put your starter in a container that is mostly covered. Choose a reusable container or something that has enough space for the starter to rise.

What you will need.

Scale : Use a scale to ensure you are adding and measuring the correct amount of flour and water needed for each addition of flour and water. This will ensure your starter is consistent so measure correctly this is important.

Flour : You can use any grain based flour in making your sourdough you can use anything from Rye, to all purpose white flour. We use a range of flours when we make our breads, from Rye, white, wholemeal to malt.

Sourdough starters are very resilient. If you forget to feed it for a few days don’t worry just refresh it with equal amounts of flour and water and watch it come back to life.

Daily Feeding Process

At each feeding we will perform the following quick steps:

Stir down your starter a little bit before you start. Place a clean container on your scale and scoop in some portion (outlined below) from the jar you just stirred down. Add equal amounts of fresh flour and water, mix well to incorporate completely. Cover the container loosely and let rest until the next feeding.

That’s all ! Once you get your process down, it should take no more than a few minutes each day.

Day by Day instruction

On day 1 in the morning, place an empty container on the scale and zero down your scales. Add 50 g whole grain rye flour and 50 g tepid water into a clean reusable container and mix. Let the mixture rest out of direct sunlight for 24 hours. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

Repeat days 1 – 5 adding equal amounts of flour and water to the starter i.e. On Day 3 & days 5 take some starter out and use it for pancakes, waffles or general baking.

On day 2 you should see some fermentation activity which is normal in the first few days. At this stage the starter is not yet ready to bake with yet. This initial surge, while encouraging, will typically disappear by the third or fourth day. Stick to the schedule, and it will come back!

Make sure you mix well until all the flour has been incorporated.

On day 3 you may start to see more activity, or you may see none. Regardless of what signs your mixture is presenting, stick with the process.

On day 4 you should start to see further signs of fermentation if you haven’t already. There will be bubbles scattered on the sides and top, and the level of the mixture might have risen and fallen a little.

On day 5 your starter should start to be quite active again with a few bubbles and a sour smell. If not overly don’t worry either-way give it another feed on the 5th day leave it out overnight and by the 6th morning your starter should be ready to make some real sourdough bread.

Once your starter is in this state you can use it to make bread and to keep it live keep it in the fridge and feed every 5-7 days to use as required.

The starter will continue to develop flavor and strength over the next week and into the future. With an active starter, you can now use a portion of it when “mature” to make a leaven for any recipe for your sourdough bread, or even in pancakes, waffles or anything else you might consider to use if for in baking. .

What Flour Should I Feed My Starter?

Once your starter is rising and falling predictably, it’s also okay to switch your feeding flour to suit your preference. You can continue feeding with a mixture of rye, wholewheat or white flour. There is no right or wrong flour to use when feeding a starter. Don’t be using self raising flour however.

Each flour choice imparts a different set of qualities to your starter and the whole grain the flour the shorter the time span between feedings. There is no right or wrong flour to use when maintaining your starter; it’s up to you and your starter!

Remember baking is a science so stick to the recipe no deviations and even at that with Sourdough there are no guarantees as the natural process of fermentation varies depending on the humidity, the various temperature and other variances that exist at times of day and different locations etc. It is hard to get right for sure but stick with it until you conquer it, it is likely to be one of the interesting battles of endearment ever.

Simple Sourdough Recipe.

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 300g water
  • 10g salt
  • 100g starter

Mix the flour, water, starter and salt in a bowl or on a clean surface and make a well in the center.

Bring together with your hands or a spatula, and then turn out on to a clean kitchen surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the windowpane effect is achieved. The dough should be soft and elastic.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and leave to prove in fridge overnight or until it has doubled in size.
Turn the proven dough out and knock it back. Divide the dough into desired portions. Allow to prove. In fridge (10-12 hours, outside of fridge 2-4 hours) allow to double in size then bake.
Heat the oven to 240 and then bake @240 for 18 mins, drop temp 200 for 8 min

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