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Artisan Bread Sourdough Starters

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Sourdough or sourdough bread is a bread made by the fermentation of dough using wild lactobacillaceae and yeast. Lactic acid from fermentation imparts a sour taste and improves keeping qualities.

In the Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology, Michael Gaenzle writes: "One of the oldest sourdough breads dates from 3700 BCE and was excavated in Switzerland, but the origin of sourdough fermentation likely relates to the origin of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent and Egypt several thousand years earlier", which was confirmed a few years later by archeological evidence. "Bread production relied on the use of sourdough as a leavening agent for most of human history; the use of baker's yeast as a leavening agent dates back less than 150 years.

Sourdough remained the usual form of leavening down into the European Middle Ages[5] until being replaced by barm from the beer brewing process, and after 1871 by purpose-cultured yeast.

Bread made from 100% rye flour, popular in the northern half of Europe, is usually leavened with sourdough. Baker's yeast is not useful as a leavening agent for rye bread, as rye does not contain enough gluten.

Today's thread will introduce you to the process of making your first "natural" sourdough starter, without using any yeast. The beauty of this is that you will be taught how to keep this starter LIVE, for all your future bread making.

Sourdough Starter 101

Before you begin, you’ll need a sourdough starter.

Simply put: a sourdough starter is a live culture made from flour and water.

Once combined the mixture will begin to ferment, cultivating the naturally occurring wild yeasts and bacteria present within the mixture. A small portion of this culture is used make your bread dough rise.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Your starter must be kept alive with regular feedings of flour and water to maintain its strength for maximum rising power.

How to Feed your Sourdough Starter

Every baker has their own method, and with practice you’ll eventually develop your own routine.

Here’s my method: I pour off some of the culture (about half) and then feed what’s left in the jar with equal weights of flour and water. I whisk well with a fork until it’s lump-free. Then, I let it rest at room temperature or in a warm spot (75-80º F/ 24-26º C is ideal) until it becomes bubbly and active.

PS: I use this the jar for my sourdough starter and I LOVE it.

When is my Starter Ready To use?

Your stater is ready to use when it becomes bubbly and doubles in size.

This can take anywhere from 2-12 hours or more depending on temperature (the warmer the better) and the condition of your starter. Be patient!

Float Test: If you’re still unsure whether it’s ready to use drop a small amount, about 1 tsp, into a glass of water. Do this when the starter is a peak height before it collapses. If it floats to the top it’s ready to use. If it sinks, your starter should be fed again.

Where to Obtain a Sourdough Starter

All sourdough starters are different.

They can be made from scratch, purchased or if you’re lucky, someone will share a portion of their starter with you.

Starters range from thick to thin in texture and can be made with a variety of flours. I use two different starters; one is taken from the first batch of bread made in the manner to follow. The other is a little more complicated. It requires the use of grapes, here is a short tutorial video on the process.

How To Use A Starter

After you’ve fed your starter and it’s bubbly and active, pour the amount you need out of the jar to weigh or measure for your recipe. That’s it.

Then, don’t forget to feed what’s left in the jar with more flour and water to keep the process going.

Any leftover sourdough starter can be used to make sourdough discard recipes, even my homemade sourdough pasta.

Storage Options

If you only bake a few times a month, keep your starter in the fridge and feed it once a week. If you’re an avid baker, store your starter at room temperature and feed it at least once a day.

I have included a PDF on some advanced techniques to keep you motivated in your bread making journey, enjoy!

Download PDF • 1.17MB

Cheers, and have a great weekend!

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