I am splitting my sourdough basics posts into three - making the starter, maintaining the starter and baking the bread. Below is how I made my starter. I followed Brydie's brilliant post How to Make a Sourdough Starter at City Hippy Farm Girl. In these posts, as a novice, I am including some basic information that might help me if I ever need to create a new starter.
What I used:
- A tall jug with a lid and a strip of masking tape down the side to mark daily growth. See-through is good to see the chance in texture. I think mine holds about 1 litre.
- Rye flour and plain white (wheat) flour.
- A long silicone spatula to stir and scrap down the sides. (I found this easier than a spoon especially as it had a longer handle)
- Electronic scales
- Water - preferable bottled, filtered or boiled in the kettle and cooled. I actually used tap water for most of my starter.
- The starter is a brew of flour, water, yeast and friendly bacteria. The yeast feeds on the sugars in the flour, producing carbon dioxide which makes the bread rise and acid which gives the sour taste. The bacteria gives most of the flavour.
- The starter should be fed at about the same time each day. Find a time when you are usually home with some spare time. I did mine at about 4pm each day.
- Make sure that you use clean containers and implements.
- It is useful to mark off each day to get a good feel for how much the starter grows each day.
- Leave starter at room temperature with lid on while starting it. The lid should not be too tight because the gases need a little space to escape. A plastic lid can pop off but screw on should be left slightly loose.
- Rye flour is useful in starting the starter because it has additional sugars that help get the starter growing.
- A lot of recipes ask for a starter that is 100% hydration. This means that there is equal amounts of water and flour. (I am confused about whether this means equal weight or equal weight of flour to volume of water.)
- There is no one right way. The starter is a living being and needs nurturing. (This is why people often name them. Mine is sometimes called Drusilla.)
I found it really useful looking at others' photos of the development of their sourdough starter so I am sharing mine. I got a bit confused about photographing and marking the level on the jug each day because it was different before and after each feed. If I ever do this again I will do an update! For now this is what I recorded on the fly.
Weigh your container and write it down somewhere. I forgot to do this until much later. (Mine weighed 85g.)
Mixed 50g rye flour and 50ml water. (I found it hard to measure small amounts in a measuring container and used tablespoons and teaspoons but since then I have been finding it even easier to weight water as well as flour so I would probably use 50ml water if doing again.) My starter was very stodgy and weighed 90g.
Mixed in 50g rye flour and 50ml water. It looked much drier than Brydie's photos. It weighed 200g.
Mixed in 100g white wheat flour and 100ml water. Mine was still looking too dry so I added a spoonful or two of water to loosen it up. This made it easier to stir. The photo was taken after I refreshed or fed the starter (ie added flour and dough). It was starting to smell a bit fruity, had risen quite a bit and was quite stringy to stir. It weighed 435g.
Mixed in 200g white flour and 200ml water. I finally remembered to photograph before feeding the starter. It was starting to look bubbly and smelled quite strong and fruity. In fact I found the smell overwhelming. (I found it hard to judge as I had never smelled a sourdough starter before.) E said I had made things that smelled far worse! By now the gluten strings were really developing and it was too hard to stir with a spoon because it had grown so much (a spatula would have been better). It weighed 800g.
By now it was quite bubbly and had grown. I forgot to weigh before discarding (also referred to as the 'toss off'. Don't google this without including 'sourdough' in the search or you will find some rather adult meanings to the term!)
The starter had lost some of its bubbliness after the toss off the previous day. Nor did it rise much. Fed the starter add 100g white flour, 100ml water. (Marked Day 7 on the jug in the bottom photo.) Smelled less strong but still fruity. Weighed 412g.
The starter had risen quite a bit and was rather bubbly. (See level marked Day 8 on jug in bottom photo.) According to Brydie by now it was likely to be a mature starter ready to use. Other people have said it might take up to 2 weeks to get your starter going. I thought the bubbles were looking good it was time to think about maintenance and bake a loaf of bread.
Useful links on making a sourdough starter:
- How to Make a Sourdough Starter at City Hippy Farm Girl
- Beginners Blog: Making a Starter from Scratch - sourdough.com
- Creating and maintaining your own sourdough starter - Emma Buehler in Backwood Home Magazine
- Raising a starter - Wild Yeast
- Gluten Free Sourdough Starter - Whole New Mom