Sourdough Starter – Part 1

by Josée

To make sourdough bread you need a chef. I’m not talking about a professional cook, but one of those would be nice too. The chef is a fully active sourdough starter (the mother culture) that you use to make your sourdough bread. A healthy starter is filled with wild yeast and lactic-acid producing bacteria and will smell fruity, yeasty, sour and a bit like alcohol. The chef can last a long time if it’s being fed on a regular basis. I feed mine once a week and keep it at the back of fridge. It’s almost a year old and going strong.

To make a chef you need three things: flour, water and time.  Flour contains natural yeast. With time and consistent feeding (by adding more flour and water) the natural yeast in the flour will multiply and become active. This is the theory…

Until last week I had never made my own sourdough starter. I received my chef from the lady who taught the sourdough course. I wanted to find out just how easy is was to make a sourdough starter from scratch so I tried to make my own starter this week.

First, I checked online and was bombarded by sourdough starter recipes. In the end I opted to do a starter with a 1:1 ratio of flour and water.

Here is what I did:

Day 1: I added 50g water and 50g all purpose flour to a mason jar, mixed it and covered the jar with a lid.

Day 2: 24 hours later bubbles were present in the mixture. I added another 50 g water and 50g flour, mixed it well, and scrapped down the sides. At this point my starter was rising and getting nice and bubbly.

Day 3: Fail! The mixture wasn’t rising and smelled foul. I threw it away.

I did this process twice and threw away two starters before checking online to find out why my starter was smelling bad on the third day. I came across these insightful articles: The Pineapple Juice Solution Part 1 and Part 2. Here is a summary of both articles.

Basically, my starter was taken over by some not so nice bacteria. Had I persevered the yeast would have eventually become active and beat out the bacteria. So, I’m going to try the pineapple juice method described in the links above. The thought is that adding pineapple juice to the starter for the first few days it lowers the pH enough to inhibit the nasty bacteria from taking over and allow the yeast to become active.

I will post more my experience with this technique in part 2.

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Josée March 31, 2012 - 7:27 pm

That's strange Chelsea… your comments are showing up in my email but not on my blog. Perhaps its a blogger glitch?

Chelsea Rae April 1, 2012 - 4:16 pm

That is very strange indeed… I was starting to think you were trying to tell me something. 😉


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