|Healthy sourdough starter|
So when I decided I had to really start from scratch. I have no nearby bakers that could hand me down a portion of an established starter so it was all from scratch for me. Now I am an IT Business Analyst by trade with a great passion for cooking, especial bread baking ... so true to my nature, I dug deep into the processes involved and tried to separate the facts from the urban legends ... of which, incidentally, there are thousands.
We will talk legends later ... for now we need to conceive our own starter. It is tradition to name these things and it is also tradition to give it a female name ... now that is here in South Africa ... in your part of the world it might not be like that. On day three I caved in and named mine ... but I gave it a male name ... Kerneels ... my reasoning was that men have much less complicated traits and personalities.
You will need ....
1. A scale, an electronic one.
2. A glass jar of at least 2 liter capacity.
3. A rubber band that can get around your jar.
4. Flour ... if you have good quality Whole wheat flour it will be better.
5. Water at room temperature or at body temperature.
6. Raw honey or raw molasses. Nothing that has been pasteurized.
|The initial past|
Weigh 80gr of Flour and add exactly 80gr of water. This is extremely important and you need to maintain this exact 50:50 ratio throughout with your feeding program as well.
Mix the water and flour well, the better you mix the better for your starter. It might look a bit stiff to you but do not be tempted to add water.
Drop the paste in the jar, place a saucer or plate on top and walk away.
Nature will now take over. After a few hours, depending on the temperature around the jar, you will notice that the lump is beginning to fall flat and spread out in the jar. Smile and wave at it ... things are happening.
|Beginning to look like a starter|
Feeding your starter. Measure out the same amount of flour, you must now switch to your normal bread flour. I use stone ground unbleached. If you cannot get stone ground, at least use unbleached if at all possible.
Again, whip that paste well and drop it into the jar. Now mix the jar content as well as you can. By doing it, you ensure the fresh food is distributed well and you improve the general health of that starter.
Blow it a kiss and walk away. You can do nothing more.
By now you might get a feint sour smell if you lift the saucer from the jar, you may even begin to see a few bubbles forming on the surface.
Today you increase the food to 100gr flour and 100gr water.
Same story, mix the paste well and then mix it well into the jar. By now your starter in the jar should be fairly loose, almost resembling the consistency of condensed milk or a smooth custard.
You may as well get into the spirit of things and name the starter.
Slip the rubber band over the jar and set it at the surface of the starter ... wish him or her well and walk away.
|Healthy but no serious bubbles|
Now you might have picked up a whiff from the starter as you entered the kitchen. Today is a big day ... up to now that starter may look a bit insipid and not very inspiring. That is ok and it is normal.
Weigh out 120gr of flour and 120 gram of water and drop a tablespoon of molasses or honey into the mix.
Mix the paste well and then mix it into your starter. The molasses will change the color slightly. By now your starter should be very smooth, silky and shiny.
Adjust the rubber band and now you should get a good rise in the jar ... it could easily go double in volume or more. It is also a good thing to make the jar stand in dish, I used a 20cm cake pan. If that starter has taken well, it could easily boil over and you don't want that bubbly starter all over your worktop or bench.
You may kiss the jar now as you depart and whisper something nice to him or her.
|Well matured starter|
If you have good weather, today could be the day that your kitchen is filled with aroma of your starter and it could look very bubbly after that steroid injection.
Make up a 140gr feeding and mix it in well with your starter. Set the rubber band and waive to him or her. Today that starter needs to double up, at least, and if the weather is good and you followed the process, it should. You should note action within an hour.
And that is all there is to it. In about 90 minutes you should have a jar that is full of bubbles and the smell of the starter should be clear.
Now I am going to talk about managing your starter for baking in general. First of all, I don't want a jar with starter floating around in my fridge. Chances are you may forget about it and end up with a very sad looking starter in jar, with a nasty liquid floating on top. I personally have a big issue with cleanliness in my fridge and kitchen and will not harbor such a potential bomb in my fridge.
|My working jar|
For me, a container that can take around 1 liter is big enough for my production starter. So I suggest you take out 100gr of your starter and drop it in your "working" jar. Set that now aside.
Next take a muffin pan, the big one that holds six muffins. A silicone one is much easier to work with but I have used a metal one. Fill each hollow up to around 75% with the starter. Freeze this now. If you have any starter left, put in a jar for a friend or bake with it ... or send it down the drain.
Now you have 6 frozen cakes and the 100gr in your working jar.
|Ready for freezing|
The bubbly one will just outperform the other one in your dough for the first 30 minutes or so.
I leave the leftover in the working jar and give it a really small feeding every second day. 30gr of water and 30gr of flour.
|It can become messy. Be prepared|
When your frozen cake stock goes down, just make up bigger batch and build it over 2 or 3 feedings, boost with some molasses and freeze some stock again. With frozen cakes in stock, you never need to run out of starter or end up with a mess in your fridge.
I hope you found some value in this article. I know that many purists will have different opinions and many will weave all sorts of mystical magic around the creation of a starter. Many will talk about highly sensitive berries or fruits or vegetables to use for your starter but that is all exactly what it is ... opinions. My story is based on practical experience and stripped down to the basic facts. Does not matter what you use for the startup, the eventual starter that goes in your dough will have very little if any of that original taste. In the end the only thing that really survive and thrive in that starter is the natural yeast.
You will read stories of exotic origins of a starter or mind blowing age and hereditary lines. The real truth is that after 5 or so feedings that San Francisco starter is your starter. With the bacteria from the feeding you gave it. As for the so-called pre-Ice Age or Columbus strain ... well I take that with a bag of salt because as explained above, after 5 feedings that "bloodline" is basically gone. But hey, as with many crafts, the purists will do what is needed to envelope it in as much mystery and folklore as possible.
In my next story I will talk about the use of the starter in baking.
Enjoy your baking and cooking till I write another story.
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