Sourdough bread has exploded in popularity in recent years, with many seeing it is a healthier or more digestible option to other varieties of bread. Sourdough differs significantly from so-called regular bread in that it uses biological leavening rather than a cultivated bakers yeast. The process involves a naturally occurring bacteria called Lactobacilli which ferments with yeast. The bacteria produces lactic acid which is what gives sourdough bread the sour taste that gives it its name.
Sourdough relies on producing a starter. Starters are made by mixing flour and water, which is left to ferment which is responsible for producing the leavening effect and building more flavour to the finished bread. Flour contains natural yeasts and bacterial spores, and when it comes into contact with water the enzyme amylase breaks down the starches into sugars glucose and maltose which is metabolized by the naturally occuring yeast. Under the right conditions, with time, temperature and refreshment the mixture will produce a stable culture. If the gluten is developed sufficiently this will cause the final dough to rise. The bacteria ferment starches that cannot be metabolised by the yeast, and the remaining leftovers produce carbon dioxide gas, which leavens the dough. Sourdough does take longer to rise than regular bread, as the yeast in sourdough is less vigorous.
It is important to maintain your sourdough starter, which is done over time by feeding the dough with flour and water. It is done by maintaining the correct ratio of the flour to water, which is associated with greater microbial stability in the finished sourdough.
Sourdough Starter Ingredients
- 250g Strong bread flour
- 250ml Tepid water
Sourdough Starter Recipe
- Producing this sourdough starter will take around 5 days, as you need to build the fermentation and continue feeding it throughout this process. It can be done with different flours but you will need to experiment with the levels of water needed to be used to produce the best results.
- On the first day, take 50g of the flour and put it into a bowl with 50ml of tepid water. Make sure to mix so that all of the flour is incorporated and then leave semi-uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours.
- In the following 4 days, repeat the process by mixing another 50g of flour and 50ml of water, mixing thoroughly and then mixing that daily mixture into the original mixture so by the end of the 5th day you should have a single bowl containing one mix made up of the previous 5 days mixes.
- By this time you should see bubbles forming, and you should find the mixture smells like yoghurt.
- When ready to use, keep in the fridge and 24 hours before you want to use it add 100g of flour and 100ml of water, leave it at room temperature and allow it to activate. You can tell that the starter is ready to use, the sourdough starter will float in warm water.
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Looking to make a sourdough starter from scratch? Our pastry chefs have created a step-by-step recipe that is easy to follow and simple to make.