Once you’ve got your starter made, keeping it going requires just a weekly feed of flour and water. I use the same flour as in my bread recipe, others say you can use a cheap flour but I’d rather use all the same as it’s still forming a significant part of the overall recipe and I don’t want an inferior taste.
Every week I make a batch of 3 x loaves, which requires 500g of starter. I bring out the starter to get ot to room temperature on a Thursday morning, then add 125g of water and another 125g of white flour, 250g in total. I repeat this Friday morning. Then Friday evening I’m ready to start mixing. The 500g I’ve added to my starter will be thoroughly mixed and by Friday evening it will be bubbling visibly. This tells me that it’s fresh and ok to use. If it’s flat and there’s not much activity, then I’d do a 3rd feed Friday night and push the bread making to Saturday morning. But, by doing this weekly and because I’m keeping the same routine, I can be confident that the starter will work. The only time I’d know i need to give it longer is if we’ve been away, but even a 2 week gap the starter gets going quite quickly following a feed. Keep the starter in the fridge when you’re not feeding it, otherwise it’s going to spoil.
How to make a starter from scratch
This should take about a week from start to a live starter. Begin by getting a large pickling jar or something similar in size and add 100g of both water and flour. Add a spoon of live yoghurt, for example a Greek natural yoghurt. Don’t be putting anything like fat free, you want it as natural as possible. Leave it 24 hours.
Greek yoghurt tends to naturally have the following live bacteria within:
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii
- Lactobacillus johnsonii
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
These will naturally occur in sourdough starters, and is good for the gut. In fact fermented food is important to have in our diets. More on that in a later post.
Day 2. Feed 2. Add 50g of flour and water, equal measures as before. Do nothing. Leave this on the counter in the kitchen but out of the sun, otherwise you could kill the bacteria you’re trying to nurture by over heating in sunlight. You might start to see some bubbles, don’t worry if not.
Day 3 feed x 3, feed 50g water and flour. Stir with spoon to make sure it’s all mixed in. Leave again. Throughout the week you should be using the same flour all the time as the bacteria differs from strong white, spelt or wholemeal or rye. Keep everything the same. If the recipe you’re making is rye bread, then you’ll probably be making a rye starter using rye flour.
Day 4, 5 and 6, repeat as before. Now I would draw off some of this a make a single loaf of 500g using about 150g of starter. Your starter should be quite active now. Once it’s going you can put it back into the fridge. I find it useful to get into a baking routine but if not, then you need to plan ahead and bring it out of the fridge the day before you want to bake. I always prove my loaves overnight in the fridge to enhance the flavours. So based on this I need to be preparing 48 hours in advance.
As making sourdough is as old as mankind itself I like to think of cavemen having few of our home comforts, including tight fitting jars or cling film and they must have made something edible for us to all get where we are today. So, we that thought in mind, this shouldn’t be feared, just go for it. Probably the main mistake people make is not giving it enough time.
I’ve prepared some photos to show a brand new starter from day 1 to day 8. Then if you follow the same steps as I outlined above, then you should get the same results. That’s the theory!