Make your own sourdough culture
Choose a container to get your starter going. We suggest a large mason jar or something similar that you can keep covered with muslin or a stocking.
Mix 1 parts water to 1 part flour (50g flour to 50g water or ½ cup of flour to ½ cup of water). Choose wheat, rye or spelt flour without added seeds or malt, or mix the three together. Rye gives the sourest flavour. Once it’s mixed, cover and secure with a rubber band or string.
Sourdough starters need a warm environment so keep your mother somewhere cosy, between 20°C and 30°C. Give it a stir after 12 hours.
After another 12 hours, feed your mother another 1:1 mix of water and flour. Give it a stir and leave it for another 12 hours. Follow the feed/stir/feed/stir routine for the next four days. You can tip out some of your mother when the volume gets too great.
You should see changes after the first day as the wild yeasts in your neighbourhood colonise your starter and the mix starts to ferment. After 2 days, the mix will be bubbling and rising. The starter won’t smell particularly lovely at this stage. By the fifth day, it should have calmed down and be smelling fresh and sharp.
And that’s it – simple. Your starter will keep in the fridge and can be bulked up to the amount required for breadmaking by mixing it into a 2:1 water and flour mix. Weigh off what you need for the recipe and put the rest back in your fridge.
Here are a few pointers for using your culture and keeping it healthy:
- A culture likes to be used and fed. Even if you’re not planning to make bread, get the starter out every few days and feed it.
- If your culture is a bit lifeless, throw out 4/5’s and feed it with 2 parts water to 1 part flour. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours.
- A stiffer culture will generally be sourer than a liquid one. You can control the sourness by varying the proportion of flour to water in the culture.
- Wet cultures take longer to prove.
- The warmth of wherever it is you are proving your dough has a big effect on how long the dough takes to rise.
- Keep salt out of your culture until you make a final dough.
- Refrigerating a sourdough mother lets the natural enzymes in the flour make the dough more digestible, release nutrients and add more flavour to the bread.