I’m relatively late to jump on the sourdough bread bandwagon—the UK seemed to be under the spell of sourdough as soon as lockdown began. But as they say, better late than never, so here I am, obsessed with baking my own sourdough bread.
But before making your own sourdough bread, you’ll have to make a starter. A sourdough starter is the beginning of a whole sourdough adventure! There are so many recipes you will be able to make, so much to learn, by having your own sourdough starter. Some people buy their starters online—I know someone who got theirs from California, and their bread is absolutely divine—but you don’t need to go all out with your sourdough starter. Honestly, the only things you need is some filtered water and flour, a jar and a piece of cheesecloth. That’s it.
A sourdough starter is a living culture, so it’s important to keep it alive. Some people give their starters names, like they would name their companion animal, and I’m no different. I called my starter “Bubbles”, because it’s so bubbly. During lockdown I joined a Facebook group where I’ve seen the most funny names pass by, like “Yeastface McYeast”, “Lagertha”, and even “Boris”.
If you want to read more about the origins of sourdough, I suggest you visit this website. Basically, a traditional sourdough starter is made out of a complex blend of bacteria and yeast.
For this recipe I’m using basic white bread flour, because I’ve found that’s the easiest flour to maintain a sourdough starter. I’ve tried spelt and wholemeal flower as well, but you’ll have to monitor those closely in order to make the perfect sourdough starter. For starters I would definitely recommend feeding your sourdough starter with white flour, at least until you’ve got the hang of it.
Making a sourdough starter can take seven to nine days, so it’s important to be patient. Don’t start working on a sourdough starter if you know you’re going to be busy, cause it won’t survive without your attention. The first couple of days you might not notice any difference in appearance, but trust me: there’s definitely something happening in there! Try and smell your starter—eventually it will have a sour, fermented smell. The smell kind of reminds me of the smell of beer!
– White flour
– Filtered water
– 1 litre jar
1. Start with 50 g white flour and 50 g filtered water. Mix well.
2. Store your sourdough starter room temperature, with no direct light. Use a cheesecloth to cover, or if you don’t have one you can put the lid loosely on the jar. Don’t screw it on tight—the gasses will want to escape and you could end up with a broken jar because of the pressure building up.
3. After 24 hours, you can add the next feeding: again, 50 g white flour, 50 g filtered water.
4. Keep repeating step 3 for seven to nine days. Your starter will slowly transform: you’ll notice bubbles, a light sour smell, and it might rise a bit.
5. If you want to start baking with your sourdough starter, do the floating test to make sure it’s ready: fill a glass of water and drop a spoonful of sourdough starter in it. If it floats, you’re ready to bake!