Sourdough Breadmaking Part 1 – The Starter

There are many good reasons to bake your own bread, if not only for the wonderful aroma that fills your kitchen when you do! I am also finding more and more that wheat based bread is very hard to digest and sits heavily on my stomach causing uncomfortable bloating, so I have decided to have a good at baking some of my own sourdough bread. In my next series of blog posts I will share with you how I get on at each stage, starting with Part 1 – The Starter.

Sourdough bread is made with wild yeast, or a starter and this is where the process begins. Before you do anything you need to get this going as it will take about a week to become active enough to bake with. After it is ready you will need to keep feeding and looking after it, almost like a pet (I will name mine Charlie!). The process sounds long winded but it is worth it, even just for the satisfaction that you have taken one more step towards your self sufficiency goals – one being never having to buy bread from the supermarket again!

How to make a sourdough starter

  1. Find a large earthenware or plastic container with a lid, large enough to allow for frothing and building up the volume of your starter.
  2. Mix equal parts of flour (wholemeal, rye or spelt) with water to make a paste/thick batter (see Fig 1). Whisk well to help incorporate lots of air and leave in the container for 24 hours.
  3. After this time the yeast spores in the air should have reacted with your starter and it will begin to ferment – you will see bubbles on the surface (see Fig 2). This could happen sooner or later depending on the flour used, how well you whisked it etc.
  4. When the bubbles appear you will need to give you starter it’s first feeding. This is done by whisking in another 150 g of flour and 250 ml warm water.
  5. After another 24 hours your starter will start to smell more ‘yeasty’, this is good! It will need another feed, this time by emptying half of the starter into a plastic bag and discarding. Then whisking in another 150 g of flour and 250 ml cold water this time.
  6. Continue in this way for about a week, emptying half every 24 hours and replacing and then your starter should be ready to bake with!

In part 2, I will detail the next steps required to make sourdough bread – the sponge.

Sourdough Starter first stage

Fig 1 - Sourdough Starter first stage

Sourdough starter fermenting

Fig 2 - Sourdough starter fermenting

3 thoughts on “Sourdough Breadmaking Part 1 – The Starter

  1. Catching wild yeas must be ‘in the air’ so the saying goes ;) We started making sour dough just recently as well. About 2.5 weeks ago our little starter was born and as I type I’m waiting for loaves number 3 and 4 to finish their second rise. The first ones were not as tall as I would have liked. I think I got a little impatient waiting for them to rise the second time. They tasted yummy though and we are excited about the nutritional value we are adding to our diet! Not to mention anything we can do at home and not depend on industry to provide for us is right up our alley. Are you using fresh ground wheat?

    • Hi CeAnne

      Thanks for your comments! Glad to hear you are making sourdough too. Yes it can be a bit hit and miss with the perfect rise but I’ve found before that when kneading the dough, getting as much air in as possible helps. Oh, and a good starter! ;) It is a much longer process too, but so worth it in the end. Glad you agree with me about anything we can do at home not to rely on industry too!

      I am using strong wholemeal bread flour for the starter – then might try using spelt flour for the loaves so again, it is less heavy on the stomach. How about you?

      Rachel

      • So far we are just using a hard winter wheat which we were using for our yeasted breads. I’ve heard that soft white yields a lighter loaf but I haven’t tired it. I have some rye on order so we might give that spin or maybe some oat after I get the hard wheat working a bit better. I’m trying a different recipe tonight so we will see how it goes.

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