Rachel de Thample explains how to make your own sourdough starter
In our February issue we have a feature on ‘wake-up bakes’, that is loaves, cakes, crumpets and baguettes that can be started on a Saturday evening and left overnight to give you fresh bread for Sunday breakfast. The sourdough recipes require what’s called a starter, and you can learn how to make one here. You can find all of the full recipes starting on p38 of the February issue. Take your marks, get set, start your starters!
Simple sourdough starter
Simply mix 100g strong white bread flour with 100g filtered or mineral water (measure it on a digital scale for best results). Loosely cover with a cloth. Set at room temperature in a dark place and leave to ferment for 1 day. If the starter has yet to produce lots of little bubbles across the top, indicating that it is active, add an additional 100g strong white bread flour and 100g filtered or mineral water. Mix well and continue this exercise each day, topping up the starter, until it’s risen slightly and has a good number of little bubbles formed at the top. Once you have your starter activated, you can make sourdough loaves, crumpets and more… If your starter is getting off to a slow start, try adding a piece of dried fruit such as a dried apricot or prune to the mix, a 5cm piece of rhubarb and/or 1 tbsp natural yogurt or kefir, to help feed it.
Dark rye sourdough starter
Rye flour is more absorbent than white flour, so you use slightly more water to get a rye starter going.
Day 1: Add 50ml filtered or mineral water to 2 tbsp rye flour. Stir to make a smooth paste. Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature (about 20C) away from direct sunlight for 24 hours.
Days 2–4: Repeat the process above. By Day 4 you should start to see some bubbles.
Day 5: Stir in 100g rye flour and 200ml filtered or mineral water.
Day 6: By now your rye sourdough starter or leaven should be active and have developed a fruity smell. Double the quantity of batter using 100g rye flour and 200ml filtered or mineral water.
Day 7: Your starter is ready to make your first batch of bread. Store the starter in the fridge for up to 1 month between bakes. Before making a loaf of bread, take the starter out 12 hours before and feed it with 100g flour and 200ml filter or mineral water to reactive it.