Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My 1st Sourdough Starter

It is going to be a long post as I want to record the whole process of making a sourdough starter – my 1st sourdough starter.

Feel free to jump directly to Day 9 where after having completed the process I am finally making the starter that will live in my fridge for the next 100 years (but still don’t know if it will work) or just go the next post where you can see how my 1st sourdough loaves looked like.

A few months ago I started to be interested in making my own sourdough starter. It began after reading Grégoire Michaud "the sourdough supremacy" in which he wrote: “all started with water and raisins”. I was intrigued.
Then I read other bloggers’ recipes of sourdough starter and compared 2 recipes both using pineapple juice. The first one, published by NY Times was adapted from “Artisan Breads Every Day”  by Peter Reinhart.
The second was from Pinch My Salt (another adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s).

Last week I finally decided to try to make a sourdough starter with pineapple juice and flour as per Pinch my Salt’s instructions (they seem to me easy to follow). Here is how I proceeded: 

Day 1:  
In a mixing bowl I put 1 cup of whole meal flour with ¾ cup of unsweetened pineapple juice (at room temperature) and stirred it until the flour had absorbed the juice.

whole meal flour mixed with pineapple juice

Then I transferred the dough into a glass jar, covered it with a paper towel and attached a ribbon (I could not find any rubber band!) around the jar to mark the level (so I could check the progress of the sourdough as it was rising).
As per the instructions I let it aside for 24 hours at room temperature (the kitchen temperature was ~26 Cº).

mixture in a glass jar (let to sit at room temperature)
Day 2: To my disappointment there was no visible sign of change. No growth at all! Therefore I did not take any picture. But I continued to follow the procedure as instructed for Day 2.
I transferred the dough into a mixing bowl, added ½ cup of juice + 1 cup of unbleached bread flour and stir well all ingredients together. Then I transferred the dough back into the glass jar, covered it and let it sit for another 24 hours.

Day 2: after adding more pineapple juice and flour

Day 3: The dough had risen by 2-3cms. Hurray! Its consistency was thick and rubbery and filled with air bubbles.  It had a slight pineapple smell.

dough has risen!

Sticky texture - lightly scented

As per the instructions I discarded ½ of the dough and fed the remaining with 1 cup of bread flour + ½ cup water (tap water at room temperature ~ 26 C°) and then let it sit at room temperature for another 24 hours.

mixing dough with water and flour

pink ribbon marking the level

Day 4: The instructions said: “The mixture should have doubled in size. Repeat Day 3 procedure. Otherwise let it sit for another 12 to 24 hours.”
The mixture not having grown much (a mere 1.5 cm) I let it sit for another 24hours. 
Day 5: Normally, we should start to feed it twice daily.
The starter had only risen by 2cms (it should have doubled in size!). However I decided to repeat day 3’s step.
Day 6: When I woke up I was disappointed (again). The dough had not changed. I waited until late afternoon to repeat day 3’s step.
Day 7: Although not much growth, I fed it twice daily, morning and evening. According to the recipe the starter is ready to use (bake with) only if it has been active (= always doubled in size between feedings).  I was starting to be impatient. I checked other recipes on Internet and found John D. Lee's. Surprisingly his starter does not need to be fed twice daily. 
Day 8: I fed it in the morning and late afternoon and as there was not much growth I decided to pretend that my starter was ready and proceeded with John D. Lee’s Day 4’s step.  I took 1 cup of the dough and mixed it with 3 ½ cups of bread flour + 2 cups water and covered it with a plastic film.
before final step (John D. Lee's day 4)
I let it sit at room temperature overnight and the following morning put it in the fridge. I left it until mid-afternoon (almost 24hours).

Day 9: Here is how my pre-starter looked like before reserving part of it to make the starter that I am supposed to be able to keep for 100 years!


1 used 1 cup to make my starter (a)
I reserved 1 cup of the pre-starter as it was. I will call it starter (b)  

Starter (a): I used 1 cup of the above dough and fed it with 2 cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water.  I stored the starter in the fridge (in a closed glass jar). [Note: I put more flour and water than what I should have as I thought the dough was too stiff].

starter (a)

starter (b)

Feeding: Take away ½ of the starter and mix the remaining ½ with equal amount of flour and water.  

Some bakers recommend a 3/2 ratio. Others feed the starter every 3 days, others once a week [some even have no problem with feeding it once every 8 weeks]. Some advise to feed it 2-3 days (each day) before using it, as well as after every time you use it.
Some bakers recommend stirring the starter 2-3 times a day.

After further reading I know that it is best to use tap water that has been set out for 24 hours (I did not wait that long). An inappropriate amount (ratio) of starter, flour and water is also important to get an active starter, as well as a cool (~ 20ºC) temperature (my kitchen was ~26-28ºC).

It takes time to take care of a sourdough starter although it is not complicated.  With time and practice I hope I will be able to know how to keep my starter alive (for the next 100 years! I am repeating myself…I know but it seems so funny to keep it for that long) and make delicious bread.

But before I am going to "show" you how my 1st sourdough bread looked like. Please read "My 1st sourdough bread w/pumpkin and chia seeds" . 

Thank you for taking time to read this long post.

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