New to baking? Or maybe making Sourdough bread for the first time?
We know the difficulties of maintaining a healthy sourdough starter so that’s why we wanted to share this How To Guide so you can bake fluffy delicious breads at home!
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A starter is a pre-ferment made from flour and water. So how does the fermentation process work?
Basically “wild yeast”, a naturally occurring bacteria in the air, helps to convert natural grain sugars and starches found in the flour into carbon dioxide. This will create those nice air pockets that make the dough to rise! These wild cultures also help to convert the gluten found in wheat into lactic acid which gives the sourdough that slight tangy taste that people love.
So once you let the flour and water sit for a few days, the fermentation process begins and you should see the starter bubble and grow! However, often times, people struggle with maintaining the culture and so the bread doesn’t rise or the taste is a bit off.
That’s why we wanted to share a simple guide to learn how you can maintain a healthy sourdough starter of your own!
Before we begin, here’s some information first to understand the fermentation process...
The sourdough will go through a cycle of rising, peaking and collapsing and it is very important to understand what each stage means. Your starter will go through these phases each day, but the timing will vary.
Using the sourdough starter at the point when it is rising is not the ideal as it hasn’t been fermented long enough yet.
Photo Credit: SBS
So when’s the ideal time to use your starter?
When the starter reaches its "peak", it will have expanded to double or more than its original size. This will mean that the starter has reached it's full fermentation! This peak stage will last for a few hours and it will have a slight sour-y, vinegary smell. Don’t be alarmed, this yeasty smell is perfectly normal and can be used.
Photo Credit: My Daily Sourdough Bread
Then comes the "collapsing" stage...
This is still good to use in the recipe! It is also a good time to re-feed your starter. At this stage, your starter will smell very acidic or even slightly alcoholic (ethanol smell), which indicates that the mother starter is hungry!
Photo Credit: The Perfect Loaf
When you receive our sourdough starter, it will most likely be at the stage of "collapsing", which means it should be fed.
The speed of fermentation is affected by these factors:
- Temperature: High temperature - faster fermentation, Colder temperature - slower fermentation
- The Amount of the Carryover: More mother starter - faster fermentation, Less mother starter - slower fermentation
- Types of Flour: Not all flours ferment at the same speed. Our Sprouted Spelt Flour tends to ferment faster than pure white bread flour. You can try with the flours you have on hand to see what the differences are.
How to Feed your Mother Starter
There are many ways to do this but here we'd like to share how we do it in our kitchen!
- Let your sourdough starter ferment until the "collapsing" stage
- Discard about half - you can use this in your bake or if you have no plans to bake, you can throw throw it in your compost bin. At this point, the sourdough starter might be somewhere around 20 - 40g left in the container.
- Feed the remaining half with about 50g flour and 50g of filtered water. The flour can be a blend of your favorite flours or just simply strong bread flour.
- After mixing well, loosely cover it with a lid and let it go through the cycle (as mentioned above) again. Note: The container, in which we deliver our starter in, is sealed tight to avoid any bugs from flying in.
How to Preserve your Mother Starter
You can keep your sourdough starter in the refrigerator for up to 10 days without feeding. Once you are ready to bake again, please follow the “feeding” steps above (in room temperature) before you start using your starter for baking again.
If you are going to wait longer than 10 days because of travelling etc., you can keep the starter in the freezer. Once you are ready to bake again, please defrost the starter in room temperature and begin the feeding process again. It might take 2 -3 times repeating this process until the starter becomes fully active again.
Hope this helps and gets you baking the best sourdough breads!
By the way, we have 3 types of sourdough starters available. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to answer any concerns you may have.