Over four years ago, I made a sourdough starter and have been happily dibble dabbling in bags of flour ever since. I love it and my family loves it and it’s easily become a regular part of our life.
When I initially started, I really had no idea what I was doing. I read and read, confusing myself by all the different methods that people made their beautiful loaves by. I decided like most of my baking, I just need to play, play until I came up with a method that suited me and with that I could then find a rhythm that I could follow.
The whole bready process is still an evolving one. Our family needs change and along with it so does my weekly baking. I am by no means an expert but I do enjoy the whole floury process of it all.
When you are first starting out there seems to be a lot to understand with bread baking. My advice is; do some reading and once you’ve got a vague idea of what you are doing, jump in. Learn by your mistakes and keep fiddling and tweaking until you get to a loaf that you and your loved ones all enjoy, (I’m still learning too!)
Now as long your starter isn’t grey, smell like vomit, smell like acetone, growing purple mould, or simply just dead, you should be able to bake with it. Ready to get started?
You’ll need a ceramic bowl, an old plastic shopping bag, rye and bakers flour, tap water. Try to feed your starter at approximately the same time each day.
Day one- Added 50g rye flour and 50mls water together. Weighs 100g.
Smells like- rye flour and water
Looks like- rye flour and water
Day two– First feed. Adding 50g rye flour and 50mls water to flour and water mixture. Now weighs 200g.
Smells like- rye flour and water.
Looks like- rye flour and water.
Day Three– Second feed. Adding 100g white flour and 100mls water to the mixture. Now weighs 400g.
Smells like- Fruity and floury, things are starting… Go on, take another smell to make sure.
Looks like- It’s puffed up a little, it looks a little stringy when you stir through the feed. That tiny black speck in the middle is a bubble.
Day Four– Third feed. Adding 200g of white flour and 200mls water. Now weighs 800g.
Smells like- a bit fruity, a bit yeasty, a bit…?
Looks like- more bubbles, with a few white streaks with the change of the flour.
Day Five– Fourth feed. First I need to divide the starter, (otherwise it will be too big- this just goes in the compost). Take it back down to 100g of starter and add- 50g white flour and 50mls water. Now weighs 200g. (This is repeating Day Two)
Smells like- A bit fruity, a bit yeasty, nothing unpleasant at all.
Looks like- Bubbles. Lots of action going on now.
Day Six– Fifth feed. Repeating Day Three. 100g of flour and 100mls water, now weighs 400g.
Smells like- fruity/yeasty kind of action.
Looks like- bubbles, a whole lot of them.
Day Seven– Changes. The smell of the starter becomes slightly more acidic smelling. As long as there are plenty of bubbles happening, you can decide whether you want to keep feeding it and bake with the discarded amount of starter or store it in the fridge, (this is now your mother.) At this stage your starter is a little vulnerable as it’s still new, but the older and more feeds it has, the stronger it will be.
By storing the mother in the fridge you slow down the fermentation process. (I store mine in the fridge, feeding and baking with it twice a week.) Before you want to make up a dough, you will need to refresh your starter at least 3 times within 36 hours, (eg. 7am, 7pm, 7am.) Longer, if you have left it for any length of period.
If you are interested in going further with sourdough, below are some links of interest with other peoples methods, troubleshooting, and tips on how to maintain a starter below. There can be a lot of information to take in, but it’s a versatile beast that works in many mysterious ways for many different people.
So grab a cup of tea, have a read, get ready to your hands dirty and most importantly happy baking.
Helpful baking sites…