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Creating a personalized wild sourdough starter

February 13, 2013

 

I've spent the last few years learning how to make a variety of breads at home, and one of my proudest achievements was successfully creating my very own sourdough starter for making bread. 

I decided to go old-school with the sourdough technique, very old-school in fact, without using any purchased or processed yeasts. A flour and water slurry mixture grabs naturally-occurring wild yeasts out of the air as they float by, thus creating a personalized from-scratch sourdough.

There's certainly some trial and error to this Laura Ingalls-worthy method, but if all goes well, this multi-day technique ends with your very own locally-produced sourdough made from the natural yeasts that float around your own home and area of the country, which give your breads a flavour that you can claim full credit for. I've been working with the same sourdough 'mother' for over a year and a half now, and have been delighted with the results of the bread I make with it.

A tip as you started -  using whole grain flour (especially freshly milled) will increase your chances of creating a successful, live sourdough, as this kind of flour usually has more wild yeasts present on the grain of each wheat kernel. You can transition this into a white flour starter over time by only adding white flour and dough scraps, or add more wheat flour and scraps for a whole wheat starter.

If you want to go completely old-school, The Wild Yeast Blog has a great step-by-step of the flour & water method here.

If you want to ensure success on the first or second try (it may take more than one batch to get things up and bubbling, don't get discouraged), this method using the addition of pineapple juice from The Fresh Loaf is a great way to go. The step-by-step method takes you through the entire process all the way to your first loaf of sourdough bread. After you've created your sourdough starter, it rests in the fridge between uses and feedings - your breads and pancakes will thank you with added flavour and texture.

Interestingly - if you're gluten-free if doesn't mean you can't have your own wild sourdough starter too. The Art of Gluten-Free Baking has a very interesting technique described here. Please let me know how it works out if any of you GF foodies give it a go!

Here's an eight minute mini-documentary on the history and science behind naturally-leavening sourdough to get you inspired:

 

 

 

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So daring! Bread always looks intimidating right?

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