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Sourdough Starter

March 29, 2018

 

I’m not sure how well you know me (some of you know me really well, some not at all!).

For those who don’t: I’m an Australian by choice, heart and the passport, but I have polish roots.

I was born and grew up in a small Polish town called Kamien Pomorski (good luck pronouncing that!), on a Baltic Sea, and lived there (or not far from that place) for the first 20 years of my life.

Needless to say, because I grew up on it, polish food is my comfort food. Pierogi with blueberries topped with thick cream, chicken soup with homemade noodles, hunter’s stew (bigos), borscht with a dollop of sour cream and slice of homemade sourdough rye bread…

Sourdough rye bread…Let’s stop right there.

Have you ever had homemade sourdough rye bread?? If not, you haven’t lived.

Let me repeat it again: you haven’t lived if you haven’t tried it! And because  I care about you we are going to change that. You are going to bake your own sourdough bread (don’t worry! It’s actually easy!).

Before I teach you how to make the bread (next week blog post) I need to teach you how to make a sourdough starter (because there is no a sourdough bread without a sourdough starter).

The fundamentals: what is a sourdough starter?

Sourdough starter (or levain) is a mixture of water and flour that has been converted into a leavening agent through the process of fermentation. By fermenting water and flour we are growing colonies of both wild yeast and bacteria called lactobacilli. Lactobacilli’s’ main job is to turn your levain into an acidic environment. This acidity contributes to the sour flavor of the bread and, more importantly, it controls what type of yeast species are invited into the starter.  Because of the acidity, only a few strains of yeast can survive in a sourdough culture. And that’s a good thing: the acidic environment prevents “bad bacteria” from taking hold.

I could go about sourdough for a couple of pages at least but in the interest of publishing this post before next year, I’m going to try and get to the point.

How to make your own sourdough starter: 

You need:

  • 1 cup of lukewarm  filtered water,
  • 2 tablespoons of organic molasses,
  • 1 cup of organic rye flour

How to:

  1. In a jar or a medium size bowl mix the filtered water with 2 tbsp of molasses.
  2. Add the flour and stir vigorously until everything is combined.
  3. Place the jar or bowl somewhere warm (temperature around 26-27 C or 70 – 80 F is ideal, but work with what you have) covered loosely with a muslin cloth or thin tea towel.
  4. Stir your starter vigourously as often as you remember, the more the better.
  5. After 2-3 days you should notice tiny bubbles bursting at the surface of the sourdough. That’s the sign of alive and healthy starter!
  6. Now (after you discover the tiny bubbles popping) you need to start feeding your starter: each day add about 1/2 cup of rye flour with some filtered water. The texture of the starter should be like a very, very thick smoothie, more liquid than solid. If it’s too runny, add more flour. If its too solid add more water. Again, remember to stir vigorously and frequently.
  7. Once the levain is established, the scent will transition from a sweet smell after feeding to a slightly more sour smell as the starter ripens and peaks. Sour smell is perfect, that’s what you want!

 

Next week we will use the starter to bake the bread!

 

* I use rye flour rather than wheat or other flours because it’s the best flour when it comes to fermentation, plus I adore the more intense flavour.

* Filtered water: it is absolutely essential that you use FILTERED water as the wild yeast is sensitive to chlorine, fluoride and other chemical found in tap water.

 

 

 

 

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