A Sourdough Adventure: Making a Starter

A few weeks ago, just when Summer was making it's departure and the weather was beginning to turn, I made an Autumn bucket list, and list of ideas for things I wanted to do to make the most of the season before winter rolled around. 

One of the items on the list was to finally make a sourdough starter. I've wanted to for a long while - I love sourdough and because the starter is full of natural yeast and good bacteria, it's bread with benefits! It's always seemed a bit of a faff tough, and the sort of things that I'd end up forgetting about and finding had died at the back of the fridge! However,  when we were at The Good Life Experience back in September, we watched a talk by Tom Herbert on sourdough bagels, and he made it sound really simple! We bought a book about it while we were at the festival, and the week after I bought some really lovely organic rye flour to start it off! Tom suggested that rye flour is the best type of flour for your starter as it contains the most microbes, and should therefore produce the most active starter. This flour from Maple Farm in Kelsale (just up the road from us) is the exact one used at The Pump Street Bakery, so my starter will certainly be in good company if nothing else! 

So, six weeks after buying the flour, this morning felt like the right day to start things off!

I always enjoyed science at school (maybe thats why I enjoy baking so much) and this definitely felt more science experiment than recipe. According to the book we bought, the starter is made in tiny quantities, as then you don't have to throw lots away when you want to 'refresh' it - after the initial four day feeding process it should then sit happily in the fridge until we want to make a loaf, at which point we can use most of it in the dough, saving a little back to start the process again and not have to throw half of it away which seems to be the case with a lot of methods.

I carefully weighed out the flour and sat a jug of mineral water (best for the microbes!) in a cup of boiling water, baby-bottle-style) to heat it to the exact yeast growing temperature - the digital sugar thermometer even came into play!

When it reached the perfect temperature, I mixed it together with a (clean) finger, as apparently the bacteria on our hands can trigger the fermentation process then put the jar in the airing cupboard next to the water tank to await tomorrows feed. I then realised I hadn't named it (Don't worry- I know this is insane) and as the little pot of magic will hopefully keep going for many years, it really needed a name! 

I went with Herbert, after the man who inspired me to give it a go at last, and Herbert is now cosied up in the airing cupboard awaiting some more flour and water tomorrow! 

I haven't read the entire book yet, but the rest looks great! D found me asleep still holding it a couple of night ago when he came up to bed! There are recipes for various different loaves, the spelt and walnut looks amazing, as does the ciabatta, and the crumpets! Theres also a handy guide for when to refresh, knead and prove your dough depending on what time of day you need your bread to be ready.

Fingers crossed Herbert starts growing nicely in his little jar - I haven't had a crumpet for years!!

No comments