Sourdough Starter Basics

What is a sourdough stater?

Simply put a sourdough starter is a live culture made from flour and water at its basic form.

Once combined the flour and water mix will begin to ferment, cultivating naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria and wild yeasts that naturally live in the flour, in the air and everywhere around you.

Often, in the beginning, as in our case, we can add a sourdough starter mix to the flour and water. The sourdough starter mix contains colonies of beneficial probiotic lactic acid bacteria and wild yeasts that help your sourdough activate and ferment quickly and must importantly provide you sourdough starter with a boost of gut-friendly bacteria.

A small portion of the active sourdough starter is then used as a natural leavening agent, which makes your bread dough rise without having the need to use commercial yeast.

As a result your bread is healthier and tastier compared to supermarket loaves. The naturally occurring acids and long fermentation help to break down the gluten, making it more digestible and easy for the body to absorb.

Sourdough bread is also known for its characteristic tangy flavor, chewy texture and crisp, crackly crust.

Once you prepare your sourdough starter by mixing the flour, water and the sourdough starter mix, you need to feed it fairly regular in order to keep the cultures in it alive.

You must do this in order to maintain its fermentation and strength for maximum rising power.

How to feed your sourdough starter

There are many theories on how to feed your starter but basically it comes down to adding the same amount of flour and water to the starter as the starter itself.

For example, if you have 150 g starter, then you would add 150 g flour and 150 ml water.

Since our starter is pretty forgiving and resilient, you can generally feed it with half its volume.

So, as a rule of thumb, each time you want to feed the starter, just double its weight with 50% flour and 50% water. For example, if your starter weighs 150 g you would feed it with 75 g flour and 75 ml water so that your total starter is now 300 g.

Which means that the next time you will either have to give it more flour and water, or discard some starter before feeding it. But please don’t be wasteful, save the discard and use it, just search online for what to do with that leftover sourdough starter, you’ll get hundreds of ideas.

See here for detailed feeding instructions.

When is the sourdough starter ready to be used?

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

With our starter this usually happens very quickly, about 1-2 hours after its very first feeding.

It’s always a good idea to feed your starter for at least a couple of days so it ferments well and develops it’s raising power, flavors, and structure all of which consecutively contribute to making a superior sourdough bread.

However, you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to or you are in a hurry. As soon as your starter is bubbly and has a pleasant tangy sweet smell, like that of fermented fruits, it’s good to go.

If you’re still unsure whether your starter is ready, you can use the float test — take a pea-sized amount of the starter and drop it slowly into a glass of water. If it floats then it’s ready to use. If it sinks, your need some more time and maybe another feed. The science behind is that the natural occurring yeasts in the starter produce CO2 that gets trapped in tiny bubbles in the starter and thanks to those air bubbles it can float in water. If there is no bubbles, that means yeast is not ready yet and your dough will likely not rise.

How to use it?

The recipe you follow should tell you how much starter to use. You just added it straight to your dough with the rest of the ingredients, i.e. flour, water, salt, etc.

Here’s an easy to follow recipe for sourdough bread.

How to store it?

Your active sourdough starter is a living thing – there are billions of lactic acid cultures and yeasts colonies in it.

So you need to feed it regularly otherwise they will eventually die out.

The good news is that our starter is very resilient and forgiving and it’s not going to die if you forget to feed it (or at least not before a long time). To avoid this from happening, just follow these simple guidelines.

If you are planning to bake often, keep your starter at room temperature in a cabinet and feed it at least once every 1-2 days.

If you are not planning on baking any time soon and you would like to keep your starter alive, put it in the fridge and feed it once every 1-2 weeks. Once you are ready to make bread, take it out of the fridge, feed it, wait for it to get bubbly and get that nice fermented aroma before you use it.

If it so happens that you don’t want to keep it alive but only needed for baking a few times now and then some time eventually in the future, use the entire starter up and then simple start a new one from scratch. Our sourdough starter mix makes this absolutely easy to do anytime you need it.

 

 

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