What is a Sourdough starter and how do you make one ?
This is the question we are going to answer in this blog. A Sourdough starter is a simple mix of Flour & Water that is left to ferment over a period of days or even weeks, so making one of these is a labour of love. In fact this Sourdough starter will almost become part of the family and it is traditional to even give them a name.
If you are a baker then you will already know the importance of being able to make one of these. So let me just say that if you are interested in making any type of artisan bread including bread rolls, buns and of course sourdough then you need to know how to make a sourdough starter.
Day 1 : In the Beginning
You start this process of by adding flour into a jar, some sort of jar like a 1 litre glass storage jar or a Mason Jar with a lid will do the job nicely. You can use any type of flour for this, white bread flour, plain flour or wholewheat four. Add to this some tepid water and mix it together so that all of the flour is mixed into a paste.
Cover the jar loosely with the lid or a cloth and leave it to do its magic for 24 hrs.
The mix should be the consistency of porridge :
- 120 grams of Flour
- 120 millilitres of water
You should notice some activity with in the first 4 to 12 hours, remember that this sourdough starter likes a temperature of around 75 f or 21 - 23 c.
Once this has been made you need to look after your starter, a bit like a pet, only all it needs is feeding. How often you feed it depends on when it is hungry.
In this blog I have adopted a 24 hr feeding but you might find that you need to feed this more often, especially if it is warm. Feeding can be required every 8 - 12 hours. If you notice that the starter has stopped fermenting and there are no more bubbles forming you will need to feed it.
So what do we mean by Feeding :
In order for this to work you need to feed the starter, how often depends on where you store it. If you are an avid baker and bake daily you want to keep your starter at room temperature and feed it every 12 to 24 hours or if like me you only bake once in a while then you can keep it in the refrigerator and feed once a week.
To start off I suggest that you leave it at room temperature and feed it every 12 to 24 hours.
Day 2 : Feed Me
You should notice a few bubbles have started to form in the mix, but don’t panic if they haven’t as this could take another day. If they have then that is a great sign that your starter is alive
( It’s ALIVE I Tell you )
We can now give our starter its first feeding. To do this you will need to remove about ½ of the starter from the jar. You could keep this to start another jar if you wanted to make this in bulk but most people just throw this away.
Then it is a simple case of adding another 120 g of flour & 120 ml of warm water to the jar and mixing it all back in together. Cover this again and leave for another 24 hrs.
Day 3: About Half Way There
So as you might have guessed by now this is basically going to be a repeat of Day 2, only you may notice a brown fluid has formed either in the middle of the starter or more often on the top. Don’t panic, this is normal and is called ‘Hooch’ and it is a good sign that it is feeding time.
You can leave the Hooch in the mix for the first time but remove it on Day 3 or 4 when you feed the starter. You might also notice a pretty foul smell coming from the starter, a smell that can only be compared to a boys changing room in your local rugby club or old gym socks. This is also nothing to be concerned about and is a good sign that your starter is very much alive and working.
So again remove half of the starter and replace it with 120 g of flour & 120 ml of warm water.
If you get a Hooch forming often then you need to feed the starter a few hours after this has developed and the bubbles have stopped forming. Drain the hooch off and feed your starter again.
Day 4 :
By now you should have seen some growth in the size of the starter and it should be producing lots of bubbles and lots of smell as the yeast is fermenting.
Feed the starter in the same way you have been doing for the past few days.
Keep with it, this smell won’t last for ever :
On Day 5 , 6 and 7
Your starter should have doubled in size by now and may even have risen out of the top of the jar, this is fine and when the starter falls back it is time to feed again. You should notice a pattern forming where the starter is very active then falls dormant.
It is this dormant period when it needs feeding, so feed again as you have done for the past few days.
You should also notice that it smells a whole lot better as well.
Day 7 : A new Starter Begins
Your starter should now be the consistency of dough and a bit Squashy & Squidgy.
Transfer the starter into a clean jar and give your creation a name.
How to Know When The Starter is Ready to Use :
- It has doubled in size
- There are plenty of bubbles
- It smells pleasant and not of old gym socks and boys locker room.
- The starter should be spongy to the touch
Storage of Your Starter :
I keep my starter in the refrigerator as I don’t do that much baking and this makes it easier to care for as you only need to feed it once a week. If you bake more often then you might want to keep it at room temperature, but you will need to feed it more often.
How to use the Starter :
The best rule to using this starter is to only use after you have fed it and it is bubbling this means it is active and ready to use. Just take out the amount you want for the recipe, but don’t forget to feed the remaining starter with the amount you took out so that the process of fermentation can continue.
If the temperature is to cold
If you find that the sourdough starter has stopped working then the temperature could be to cold in your house. There are a few things you can do.
- Wrap the starter in a towel.
- Sit it in a holding oven with just the light on.
- Stand it next to a heat source like a slow cooker.
If the Starter stops working
If the starter stopps fermenting it may need feeding more often.
You should feed the starter when it has stopped producing bubbles, this might be every 24 hours or it could be as often as every 12 hours.