how to make a sourdough starter. It's easy to make and use.
Make your own sourdough!
Making bread at home is incredibly rewarding. Nothing beats the aroma of a fresh loaf in the oven, and your family is sure to applaud any homemade bread making efforts.
Homemade bread is almost always going to taste great; but to make really outstanding bread, you need to take a few steps to slow the bread making process down a bit; and sourdough baking is a great way to do this.
Today's baking products are all designed with speed and convenience in mind. Bread improvers, fast acting yeast, etc. Unfortunately, while these products will get a loaf of bread ready for the oven in record time, they also tend to result in a fairly bland and one dimensional loaf.
Great bread has a chewy and dark crust, with a substantial inner sponge. Great bread has a complex flavor, that will change in the mouth as you chew it, and will linger long after you've finished eating the bread. It is very worth your time to slow down the process, and start making better bread.
You might have a great baker in your area that is producing these types of flavorful loaves, but 99% of all the bread sold, even the country loaves or baguettes sold by most bakeries, are really just an accelerated white bread recipe; and the result is a boring loaf of bread.
Make your own sourdough bread and be astonished at what truly great bread can be.
Bread making involves a biological reaction between the yeasts added and the sugars extracted from the wheat. There is a fermentation involved, and it is the byproducts of this fermentation that will give great bread its extraordinary flavor. These fermentation by-products take time to be created, so if you accelerate the rising time, you will not achieve a complex flavor profile. Sourdough breads do not use added yeasts, but instead have naturally occurring yeasts.
These yeasts will work much slower, and the result will be more flavorful bread. Sourdough bread also benefits from the addition of a significant quantity of sourdough starter, and because this starter can by weeks, month, or even years old, there will be a lot of interesting and delicious flavors added from this starter.
Sourdough bread, is of course, sour. Some people love the tart deep sour of a San Francisco sourdough, and some people don't. You can take some steps to control the sourness of your bread, but your bread will always have that characteristic sourdough tang!
Sourdough baking is of course, more difficult, than straight yeasted dough's; and your bread may not look perfect on your first attempt. Even these "failures" though, will taste better than the best of the quick and straight yeasted method. With time and practice, you will develop good techniques, and will start producing what will be a truly world class bread.
The first thing that you need to do though is make yourself a sourdough starter.
This is the starter that will live in your fridge, slowly bubbling away, ready for the next great batch of bread.
The instructions as followed are basically taken from the book "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" by Peter Rinehart, and I cannot speak highly enough about this book. If you are interested in taking your bread baking skills to the next level, you should buy this book.
Sourdough starter culture
This will take a few days, but is not at all difficult. It's quite amazing that with the repeated additions of only wheat and water, you will develop an active and living sourdough starter!
Mix together 1 cup of whole wheat or rye flour with ¾ cup of water. Make sure that all the dough is wet into a ball. It will be stiff, but don't worry about it. Keep in a clean container covered with plastic wrap at room temperature.
Mix together 1 cup bread flour with ½ cup of water. Add this mixture to the mixture from yesterday, and mix it all together. Yesterday's dough will likely be a little bit softer than it was, but there will not likely have occurred any rise. Cover with plastic wrap as before, and leave at room temperature.
Mix together 1 cup of bread flour with ½ cup of water. Take the dough from the day before, and discard half of it. Mix the new and old dough's together. It will be getting wetter, and there will probably be some rise by now. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature.
Repeat the procedure exactly as from Day 3. A few hours after you have mixed the dough's together, your starter should have doubled in size. It is now ready for use.
Take 1 cup of your active sourdough starter, and, mix with 3 ½ cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water. Mix together well and cover with plastic wrap. After about 6 hours, the dough should have doubled in size, and become quite bubbly. It is now ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe!
You can use this starter right away, or it can be held in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I keep it in a clean large covered Tupperware container in the fridge, and take it as needed.
The starter is a living thing, and as such it needs to be fed periodically or it will die. You should feed you culture every 3 days, and after every time you use it. To feed it, take away half of the culture, and mix in an equal amount of flour and water in about a 3/2 ratio.
You can much more than double it if you wish. Doubling the starter will make the sourest bread, and adding 4 or 6 times the amount of the starter while feeding the starter, will make a starter that will produce less sour bread.
Your sourdough starter will last indefinitely, as long as you remember to feed it regularly, and it will get better with age. There are some bakeries in SF that claim to be using a starter that is over 100 years old!
It sounds a little complicated, but there is really very little effort involved in making and maintaining a sourdough starter…and your bread will taste better than ever after you start baking delicious, flavorful, crusty, sourdough loaves!