Recipe by Ron Mauldin
Easy Sourdough Starter (Sourdough Bread Culture) To be sure, I am not a sourdough purist. I like the sour flavor of sourdough bread, but also like the fluffiness and yeasty aroma of traditional yeast bread… further, I don’t like to piddle around all day making traditional sourdough bread. To those ends, I have developed shortcuts to quick and flavorful sourdough bread that has the lightness of traditional yeast bread. The first shortcut is to take away the time-consuming lunacy surrounding the culture of sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is simply a culture medium (ie flour and water), yeast and bacteria. The yeast is the component that makes bread rise and the alcohol it produces gives it a yeasty flavor. The bacteria (ie Lactobacillus) eat the sugars made by the yeast and provides the desired sour taste. Fortunately, while the byproducts of this symbiotic yeast and bacteria culture give sourdoughs the great taste, they also keep bad things like mold from growing in the culture. This is simply a case of nature at its best. Yeast. There are hundreds of types of yeast… from wild yeast that just floats in the air, to beer and wine yeast, to the rapid-rise yeast that can be easily bought at your local market. They will all produce the alcohol that flavors the bread. Store-bought yeast simply gives off more carbon dioxide and makes the bread rise faster. In my starter, like to encourage a mixture of various yeasts by first adding various whole grains, next by leaving the culture open to the air and finally by adding commercial rapid-rise yeast. Bacteria is everywhere, but I like to introduce “good” bacteria to my starter so as to keep the “bad” bacteria out. To do this you will see that I open a pro-biotic capsule that has an array of the good bacteria. Another way to do this is by adding active cultured yogurt. Feeding… Throw half away? Many sourdough starter recipes tell you to throw out half of your new starter before feeding it each day… this is plum silly. Besides, I just detest the idea of throwing away good food. Instead, you will see that I start out with a small amount of medium and gradually increase the feeding until there is enough to start using it. Hooch. When you leave the starter out or in the fridge for a few days, alcohol forms on top. This hooch gives the bread the best flavor, so just stir it into the mix. Consistency. Starters can range from thick enough to be spooned to runny. I prefer a thick starter that is still pourable… this usually is results from a 1:2/3 flour to water ratio. But keep in mind… the longer your starter sits, the more hooch, the more hooch, the thinner the starter… so you will need to adjust the consistency by controlling the amount of water you add. Containers. I use two quart pickle jars and rotate my starter each week into a clean jar. This keeps mold from forming on the sides of the jar. If you make a lot of bread, you will need a larger container. Keep in mind that the starter can triple in size… so your container needs to be more than three times as large as the amount of starter you keep on hand. Not Rocket Science… sourdough starter is just yeast, bacteria, and medium. So don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Using various types of flour or meal will introduce different wild yeasts… you could even add fruit peels which have yeast. With a minimal amount of effort you will be able to culture a sourdough starter that is uniquely yours.
- 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1⁄3 cup water (warm, First time you will need to add a bit more water.)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon fast rise yeast (bread machine yeast)
Directions See How It's Made
- To start your culture, mix 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of warm water, a half teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast, and an opened pro-biotic capsule until smooth. (You can get pro-biotics capsules at any health food store near the vitamin section. Alternatively, you could add some active culture yogurt.)
- Loosely cover the jar with the lid… (this keeps the bugs out and allows the wild yeast to enter). (It is VERY important to not put the lid on tightly since great pressure would build and cause the jar to explode.).
- Stir regularly. When the mixture has sponged up, stir down. Starter can be used after the sponge has risen and fallen three times (one or two days). Best taste is after the Hooch has formed and this will be in 3 to 5 days.
- Additional Starter. If you need more starter, then after a day or so… add flour/water in the ratio of ½ cup of flour to 1/3 cup of water.
- Take some, leave some. When you are ready to bake, pour out what you need and replace it in the ratio of 1/2 cup of flour to 1/3 cup of water.
- When you don’t need it for a few days, store in the fridge. Feed it once a week. (At some point, you may need to throw some away if you are not making a lot of bread.) If you are going to be on vacation, freeze it.
- When you need starter again… take it out a day or so early, feed it… and it will be ready to use on your baking day.