27 June 2013

Sourdough starter

I've been vaguely aware of a growing fashion for sourdough bread. For a while I've been considering my reliance on commercial yeast for our bread and having a sourdough starter instead seemed to make sense, sustainability-wise. But having to create a starter and spend a few days nurturing it is one of those tasks that you can only commit to if you've got the right conditions: firstly, the temperature needs to be right (winter doesn't seem ideal for development of yeast) and secondly, you need to be present to feed the starter regularly.

With summer finally arriving this week and no out-of-the-house stays in my immediate future, I decided that now was the time to take the plunge. There seem to be a number of ways of making the starter. As I've already got a live yoghurt supply, I decided to go with this version from chef Patrick Ryan, which takes yoghurt and milk as its starting point.

I used a large-ish plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Here's the milk/yoghurt mixture  (5 tablespoons yoghurt and ¾ cup of milk) after one day at room temperature.

And after adding the cup of flour at day two it looked more like a regular dough mix:

On day three, the dough is left to its own devices. On the morning of day four, a thinnish skin had formed on the starter:

...and underneath it, you can see that bubbles were beginning to form. I added another 1⅓ cups of flour, ⅓ cup of water and 3 tablespoons of milk.

This morning was day five and the starter looked much more alive:

There were quite a few bubbles in the mixture, once I'd stirred it:

At this point the recipe says "Remove half of the starter and discard." What? I've just spent five days making the stuff. I am not about to start throwing it away. So I put the discarded half in the freezer, instead.

I added another cup of flour and half a cup of water this morning and seven hours later, it's looking quite rampantly bubbly. So much so, that I can see why discarding some was a good idea. At this rate my container will soon be full. Maybe my kitchen, too...

Tomorrow, it should be ready to turn into my first attempt at sourdough bread. Looking forward to it. This really is slow food. Slow but satisfying!

UPDATE: The starter was looking so active that I decided to go ahead and make the bread in the evening. It came out well (and tasted great!).

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