Baking with sourdough starter
Sourdough starter is just wild yeast. As most bakers would use commercial yeast for baking, I use sourdough starter instead. Whether you bake professionally or at home, you will be familiar with commercial yeast usually sold in dried, powdered form. This yeast is saccharomyces cerevisiae, a strain of yeast, man-made in a laboratory to control the activity of yeast so as to produce a consistent result at all times.
The problem with this is that our bodies are missing out on the variety of bacteria and wild yeast that are made up of many different strains and not just one. This rich diversity cannot be replicated in a laboratory.
Many people use both sourdough starter and commercial yeast but all my bread recipes use ONLY sourdough starter. I also use starter in some of my cakes and anything at all that requires grains/flour [Please read “Why Sourdough?” to learn the health benefits of doing this].
To bake with sourdough starter, obviously you need to have some starter. Click here for guidance to make your own starter. If you don’t have the time or find it is too much trouble, you can buy a starter from those who have already established theirs. I will be giving out my starters FREE to those who sign up for bread-baking classes with me. Otherwise you can purchase the starter.
For loaves that are about 800 gm to 1 kg, use about 200 gm of dough starter. Dough starter is a starter that has one part water to two parts flour. It is more stable, stores longer between feedings and develops more fully in taste over time. As it is also stronger, you get a better rise in the bread.
Using the sourdough starter
Once you own a sourdough starter, you will need to maintain it with regular feedings. Click on the same link above on how to make a starter to learn how to maintain one. The starter should remain in your refrigerator when not in use. I would say a dough starter can keep comfortably for a month or month and a half without feeding in the fridge. Having said that it takes a lot to kill a starter[but that’s another article in itself 🙂 ]
There are techniques to knead a bread properly to get the best rise. I will teach this in my classes or you can watch video tutorials posted by others online.
For all the sourdough bread recipes I give you on my website, these are the key things you need to remember:
1. As this is a website for healthy food I never combine commercial yeast with wild yeast
2. All my flour is freshly milled as grains quickly lose their nutrition from the moment they are milled. The milling process is also very important. Commercial milling usually heat the flour destroying vital nutrients. They also remove the bran and germ which contain valuable nutrients because it gives the flour a longer shelf life. The flour you buy commercially that has been transported over days weeks and sitting on supermarket shelves has actually very little, if any, nutritional value.
3. You start every bread recipe by mixing the starter with the liquid and then add the flour. Just loosely mix without turning it into a dough yet. Leave it to sit for an hour before you add salt and then knead into a dough.
4. Dough should be allowed to prove for a minimum of 4 hours. Advanced bakers like to extend this period through what is called retardation or slow fermentation in a fridge overnight for longer hours to develop the complex flavors of the bread.
5. Contrary to popular belief, sourdough bread need not be sour at all. Only if you leave it to prove for a long time will you get this sour taste.
6. You can bake bread quite successfully in a conventional home oven but ensure you have a tray of water in the oven just above the bread to allow for steam and moisture while baking.