All Things Bread No.3

Hello Friends of Sourdough!
Another day in lockdown and thanks to Sofie, Sah and Sourdough there wasn’t a moment I felt bored or useless 🙂 

All Things Bread 
I was on Bread Reddit (Breddit?) today and discovered a most unusual subreddit. By the way r/Sourdough is an incredible resource and I strongly recommend you check out their wiki on Starter Culture Resources

Zoom Debrief
Today’s zoom session was LIT! (in the parlance of our times) even if it was abruptly ended by the 40min limit. That session and the conversations I had with my fellow BreadHeads got me all charged up with excitement – I CAN’T WAIT for you all to get baking! But first! We need to be patient about getting our starters to mission ready status. It will take time and perseverance and patience and it will be totally worth it, I promise.

With each session we learn more about starters from each other. 

We discussed three ways to regulate your starter, or as Anmol eloquently put it, three ways to get your starter to either Accelerate or Brake!
1. Control what goes in : More whole grain flours will result in acceleration because they contain more wild yeast.
2. Control the temperature : Warmer temps = acceleration and cooler temps = Brakes on!
3. Control the “inoculation dose” : When you are doing a feed (Feeding is explained below) and you remove an amount of the old starter, the amount remaining is your “inoculation dose” meaning that this is the dose you will be inoculating your fresh 50/50 flour water mix with. So the higher this dose the faster your freshly fed starter will ferment. And the lower this dose, the longer it will take to rise / grow. You can inoculate with even as little as one tablespoon.

Starting Your Sourdough Starter 

Here is my Quick Guide to starting your sourdough starter. 

– Just mix equal parts water and flour, this is your 50/50 flour water mixture. Cover and keep at room temperature. Thats it! 

Do I need to be exact? How much am I using here? 
This doesn’t have to be an exact science. So if you have a weighing scale, I’d suggest you start with 300gm flour and 300gm water. But far easier to just use one coffee mug of flour and an equal amount of water.

What kinds of flour to use?
ANY wheat or rye flour – whole grain or refined, all purpose or bread flour…anything! Bread in mind that whole flours will contain more wild yeast than refined or plain or all purpose flours and so whole flours make more active starter cultures. 

What kind of container to use and how to cover it?
Glass / plastic / ceramic are best, steel is safe too but not copper / aluminium (sourdough starter is mildly acidic). Cover with a cloth or a non-airtight lid.

Where to place it?
ANYWHERE thats around room temperature – not too hot and not too cold! Dark or light makes no difference. Remember this is a live culture, so the warmer the place is the more activity you’ll get and vice versa.

End of Quick Guide

Answers to your Questions:

“My starter (whom I’ve named Bubloo) has a layer of liquid floating on top. Is Bubloo going to be ok?” Yup! That’s just a sign of very active fermentation. In that sense, it’s a good thing so don’t worry. Yes, I know it smells ‘not so nice’ and ideally we try to avoid getting to this stage, ie, we try and “feed” Bubloo before they get to the liquid layer stage. For now, all you have to do is “feed” Bubloo (I’ve explained Feeding below) 

“I’ve named mine Lord Bubblesworth The Third, and his lordship has yet to show any bubbles. Shall I ring St John Ambulance?
If it’s been less than 48 hours since you first created Lord Bubblesworth The Third, then wait. Remember that bubbles and the liquid layer we spoke about before are both signs of active fermentation. The bubbles will come first and then after some time (depending on how active your starter’s culture is) the liquid will form.
If it has been 48 hours, then it’s time to feed him…

I call mine Fred Farter the Bread Starter. How do I feed Fred? 
I’m so glad you asked!! 

Feeding your starter : Once its been 48 hours, OR your starter has doubled in volume OR you start to see liquid forming on top (whichever comes first) it’s time to Feed Fred!

Step one : Remove about half of Fred and discard (or add to your compost) 

Step two : Replace what you removed with fresh mixture of 50/50 flour & water.

Feeding is the process by which we introduce fresh food into our culture so as to encourage our yeast and ‘good’ bacteria (the friendlies) to keep growing and multiplying. It is also the process of eliminating or discouraging undesirable microbes. We discourage by feeding our friendly microbes well so that they are always the dominant strain in the culture.
We also discourage by not allowing that layer of liquid to form on top because that prevents oxygen from reaching our friendly microbes inside.

If you have a very active starter that is forming the liquid layer too fast then you must “Retard” your starter to regulate its progress. Slowing down an overactive starter can be done in a few ways such as :

1. Placing it in the fridge to slow down yeast activity or 2. Replacing whole wheat flour (more wild yeast) with refined / All Purpose flour (less wild yeast) or 3. When doing the Feeding, instead of discarding half, discard all but a tablespoon or so of the old starter and add that to a fresh container with a fresh 50/50 flour water mix.

Remember : If you see lots of bubbles, it’s a good sign of active fermentation.

“What should my starter, whose name is Clint Yeastwood, smell and taste like?”
it is Normal for Clint to smell quite a bit…”Off” those first few days when you are establishing his culture.

Once he has settled into a predictable pattern of rising and falling he should smell and taste as follows : 
When he has just been fed : Should be a hint of sour, nothing unpleasant, and the smell and taste of the flour you just used is dominant.
When he is at the peak of fermentation (the highest point reached in the container / jar) he should smell ‘yeasty’, fruity and somewhat ‘sour-milk like’. Should taste definitely sour / acidic.
When Clint Yeastwood has fallen after rising / just before feeding: As above except the aromas get more pungent and the sourness aspect increases markedly.

This section is a living document and needs your feedback! Please write to me here