New Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter #3
April 4, 2011

After neglecting my previous two starters and very stupidly letting them mold, I've had to discard them and throw them out. I've just got another new starter going with the hope that documenting it will keep me more vigilant in my feeding and caring of the starter. 

For those unfamiliar with sourdough starters - this is how bread used to be made and how it should be made. Before commercial baker's yeast came about bakers used to cultivate their own yeast and create natural leaven (also called poolish -is made with a bit of baker's yeast but follows a similar process-, levain, etc.) to bake their breads with just a bit of flour and water. This is natural yeast. 

Every starter produces a different taste based on the different bacteria that's present both in the flour itself and the water, so a starter made with Dove's flour for instance will produce a different taste than a starter made with Allinson's flour even if they're raised in exactly the same manner. 

The starter you see in the photo above is a mix of Bacheldre Rye Flour (100g), Shipton Mill Strong White Flour (50g), and roughly the same amount (in grams) of warm water. The consistency is quite thick,. almost like a paste. I'm leaving it in the cupboard, as my room is a bit too cold to promote yeast growth (like any other fungus it needs heat and food to grow). 

In a few hours/days the starter will start to bubble and grow, at which point I'll discard a bit of it and feed it again with fresh water and flour every day (or more frequently, if I get the chance). With each feeding it will grow and shrink with the number of active yeast colonies responding to the fresh food. Once the starter shows a predictable feeding pattern, it should be strong enough to use. There's a great tutorial for starting your own here, though I'm using a slightly different method from my previous experience with the instructions in the Tartine Bread book.

I'm using an improvised measuring method instead of labeling the container itself, and if you'll squint a bit, you might notice that the starter is about 4cm high at the moment (10PM). Keep that in mind as I post pictures of updates midway throughout the process. 

Some people bake bread by putting a portion of their mature starter directly into the dough, while others use a small portion of the starter to create a younger leaven with which they make bread. I'll be experimenting with both methods.. my previous sourdough used a young leaven made with a small bit of the starter over 12 hours.