Yesterday we started a journey in our house, by welcoming a new ‘living’ addition – a sourdough starter!
I’ve been wanting to start or create a sourdough starter for a while now, after watching River Cottage a couple of years back and being fascinated by keeping a living, yeasty gloop in the airing cupboard. We’ve, or really Ian has been making our own homemade bread and rolls for about a year, after vowing that we wouldn’t buy ‘plastic white, sterile’ bread. He makes it all by hand and not a bread making machine in sight. The other night, I was catching up on new posts and saw that Recipe Junkie was planning on starting a starter for New Year and asking if anyone else was; cue me to Ian ‘Shall we start a sourdough?’, Ian ‘Why not’, and with that our little sourdough starter was born.
It’s quite a simple ‘recipe’ really. Mix some flour and water in a large container (it needs to be large as starters tend to have a life of their own), leave it for a while and voilà, you have the perfect yeasty concoction for making your bread with. Actually, it’s a little more involved than that…
The aim of a sourdough starter is to create a natural or wild yeast that you can use rather than shop-brought dried yeast. So long as your starter is happy and fed, it will keep going and last for, well… years. Apparently, the oldest sourdough is 122 years old. Bread made with natural yeast has a different taste to your regular ‘plastic white’, the fermentation and lactic acid that builds up in the starter gives a slightly sour taste. (That’s your lot for the science bit)
There’s lots of different methods out there in the big blog world for starting your starter – looking through posts the HFW one is quite popular and so is Peter Reinhardt’s, which uses pineapple juice to start off the fermentation (there is a science-y reason for this, so rather than try to explain, you’re best to read Peter’s post). However, for our first foray into sourdough, I decided to stick with and follow Sally at Recipe Junkie’s instructions; that way I can sort of compare the progress of ours to hers. So here we go…
We decided to create our starter with wholemeal bread flour. Ian’s Mum had given us a gift of Women’s Institute flours (she’s Secretary of our local WI) and we thought we’d put it to good use; we’ve also some Allinson’s in the cupboard as well. Typically, we use our locally milled flour from Shipton Mill, but the other flours needed using up. If it fails, we shall go with the Shipton.
Following Recipe Junkie’s instructions step one was to add 50g of wholemeal bread flour into our jar and then 50ml of lukewarm water. Cover the starter with a clean tea-towel and put it to one side, somewhere at room temperature and where you will not forget about it. Over the next 10 days, we’re going to nurture our starter and add another 50g of flour and 50ml of water every day.
What happens after that…. I’m waiting for Recipe Junkie to let us know. In the meantime, if you fancy joining in with the sourdough starter, comment below and let me know. I’ll keep the blog updated as we go, and also on my Twitter page @happy_food
And on a final note, my followers on Twitter have told me that their starters all have names that reflect their personality (the sourdough starter’s, that is). As I’m not sure what the personality of mine will be yet, I’ve decided he (as it feels like it should be male), is called Alex, as he is living in my Alessi jar.