Sunday, 9 May 2010

Happy first birthday to my sourdough starter

Last year, when Wikus bought me my breadmaker, I decided to experiment with creating sourdough starter instead of using commercial yeast. Yeast occurs naturally in grains and fruit, but the concentrations are far too low for breadmaking. In the days before commercial yeast, bakers would therefore maintain yeast cultures created just from flour and water. Because the cultures are made from naturally occurring yeast strains, sourdough starters are less efficient and require longer rising times. However, they also lend the finished bread a better, more complex yeasty flavour with a subtle lactic tang. For this reason, sourdough bread is now a fashionable (and expensive) product. But it's also easy to make at home.

To create your own sourdough starter, you'll need a kilner jar. Mix half a cup of flour with half a cup of water in the jar and leave at room temperature, uncovered, for 24 hours. Add another quarter cup each of flour and water, stir, and cover with the lid. Repeat daily for two to three weeks. You'll need to tip half the mixture away at various stages otherwise you'll have way too much. Over time, the yeast culture will begin to develop and strengthen, and by the end, your concoction will be strong enough to make bread. After that, you can keep the starter in the fridge and just feed it every time you use some to make bread.

I used organic rye flour to kick mine off, switching to wheat after a couple of months. At the beginning, you're best using mineral water rather than tap water, because the chlorine risks killing the yeast. Once your starter is established, you can switch to tap.

I'll devote a subsequent post to using the starter to make bread.

No comments:

Post a Comment