Sourdough starter – Day 4

I finished the last of the flour I was using for the starter before the feed on Day 3. So I started a new packet. Even though I opened another packet of the same brand and type of flour, it was incredible the impact using different flour had on the developing starter (and even on my existing starter which I used and fed with the new flour!). It didn’t rise as much as I anticipated, and the smell was also different (but within the realms of the expected). This is something to be aware of when establishing or maintaining a sourdough starter: changing flour can impact the microbial in the starter and change its characteristics quite noticeably.

Ingredients

100g plain flour (I use organic flour)

100g water (tepid)

Method

Weigh ingredients and place in the glass container with the starter from yesterday. Mix with a fork until all lumps are gone.

Observations

Look: Before feeding, the starter had not quite doubled in size since the last feed. Larger bubbles were present throughout the mix and the top looked frothy.

After feeding, it had a smooth appearance.

Feel: The starter was again runny at feeding time. If you needed to, it would be easy to pour the near-liquid into another container at this stage.

Some starters, at this point in their maturity, get a webby texture and are quite elastic in consistency. I have only had this happen when I’ve left a starter in warm conditions without feeding it for two to three days. But if yours does develop a webby texture, it is nothing to worry about. Just feed it as usual.

After feeding, the consistency of the starter was still that of a runny paste.

Smell: The starter had developed a sour apple smell. Not a ‘bad’ smell, just unexpected. When I fed the new flour to my mature starter, it also developed the same smell. This suggests that even though I was using the same brand and type of flour, it was a different batch with different yeasts, and so led to a change in the microbial composition of my starter. Again, nothing to worry about so long as the starter doesn’t develop colourful growths or begin to smell ‘bad’.

Taste: The starter had a sharp, not-quite-vinegary taste with undertones of baked bread.

Sourdough starters – Day 1

I’ll keep is simple and just run through the recipe. I’m happy to answer questions if you have them.

Ingredients

100g plain flour (I use organic flour)

100g water (tepid)

Method

  1. Weigh ingredients and place in a glass container. Make sure the water is tepid. If it is too hot you will cook the yeasts in the flour and have to start again.
  2. Mix ingredients with a fork until all lumps are gone.
  3. Cover the container (either with a lid or cling wrap) and place somewhere warm, not hot. I’ve hear of some people putting theirs on top of the fridge. I put mine on top of a cabinet in the living room.
Sourdough starter ingredients
Day 1. Sourdough starter ingredients

Observations

Look: At this point the mix will be slightly runny. If it isn’t, it means the flour was on the dry side. Don’t worry, it will still work fine. The first starter I made was quite dry and more cohesive than the starter in the photos. This changed as I fed it.

Feel: Depending on how wet your mix is, the starter will feel like a smooth paste to a slightly sticky paste.

Smell: It will smell like home-made clag.

Day 0
Day 1. Sourdough starter after mixing
IMG_20181017_114810
Day 1. Sourdough starter during mixing

Sourdough starters – basic information

I’ve been asked by a few people how to begin a sourdough starter. While I’m not an expert, and I’ve only had my starter for the last few months, it is working well for me (you can check this out on my Facebook site).

One thing you should know before embarking on a sourdough journey is that it requires commitment. Mostly at the start. However, once your starter matures you can take a more relaxed attitude to caring for it. Yes, I do mean caring for it. A starter is a living community that, like all living things, requires food and water for it to thrive. It is a microcosm that has moods and will react differently depending on how warm it is, the quality of food you give it and a host of other factors.

The microbes (wild yeast and bacteria) that make the starter the starter come from the flour and water used, from the local environment through the air, on the utensils and containers you use and off your hands. I prefer organic flour for my starter so it has the most variety in microbes it can.

Not all microbes are good, but you’ll know if your starter has some of these ‘bad bugs’ – it will turn different colours from orange to green to pink, red or black and smell really bad. If any of this happens to your starter THROW IT OUT AND START AGAIN.

But that’s enough blather. On to the recipe.

Basic idea behind making a starter

In a nutshell (see below for the detailed method), to make a sourdough starter you add equal weights (note, NOT volume) of plain flour and water together every day for five days. For me, I use 100g each of flour and water. By the end of the five days, my starter comprises 500g each of flour and water.

Some people recommend making the starter in the proportion of 1:1:1 each of starter, flour and water. So you don’t end up with kilos of starter by the end of it you discard part of your starter each day. I haven’t tried this method – I can’t bring myself to throw any of the starter away. That said, worms love discarded starter so if you do try this method, your compost will thank you.

For the purpose of this blog I’ll begin a new starter and run you through the ingredients, method and some observations on the process so you know what to expect. Don’t be surprised if your starter looks or smells different to mine, these will be affected by the source, age and moisture content of the flour, the type of flour you use, how warm it is and the yeasts and bacteria in your environment. But so long as it doesn’t smell off or become anything other than a creamy-colour, it should be okay.

What you will need to make a sourdough starter: flour (I use organic plain wheat flour), water and a glass container that either has a lid or can be easily covered by cling wrap – straight-sided is best so you can easily see how much your starter has risen.

There are lots of websites that go into more detail on sourdough starters and recipes. I recommend you have a look at them and work out what method is best for you.

NOTES:

  1. Ingredients are measured by WEIGHT not volume, including liquid ingredients
  2. Water: I’m lucky enough to be on tank water so I can use it straight from the tap. If you are on mains, reticulated water you will have to either boil it and let it cool down or let it sit for 24-48 hours to remove the chlorine from the water. Chlorine is used to disinfect mains drinking water so using it for your starter will kill off any of the desired microbes in the flour. Alternatively, you could purchase spring/filtered water to use.
  3. Container: For ease of seeing how your starter is growing, I suggest a glass, straight-sided container. A healthy, mature starter will double in size after being fed due to the gas produced by the growing yeasts before deflating. You will need to make sure your container is large enough to cope with the daily expansion of the starter. I use a 7-cup container with a tight, but not air tight, lid. This lets the starter breathe without letting it dry out.

Over the next five days I’ll run you through making a starter, what you need to do and what it looks, feels and tastes like.