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Monday, March 15, 2010

Sourdough Culture - or - How to Grow Your Own Yeastie Beasties

Good morning,

I've been making sourdough bread for more years than I can remember.  I have always made my own culture and once kept the same culture going for years.  The death of a refrigerator ended that batch, but it wasn't hard to start a new one. 

Sourdough culture is so very easy to make as long as you can be consistent and patient.  The consistency is being sure to add to it each day and the patience is being able to wait to use it.  If you master both of those, you'll have some terrific bread.

These images were taken over a period of five days.

Here is what you'll need:
A container. It can be plastic or crockery, but not metal. I like this 2 qt. Roseville jar. 

A plate to cover the jar. Don't cover the jar tightly. Gasses from the sourdough have to be able to escape.

1 cup flour, 1 cup water

Nothing else! Some "recipes" for sourdough include all kinds of "stuff." To make real sourdough, all you need is flour and water, just like the pioneer days in the US and all the ages everywhere else before that.
Mix it up. Lumpy is just fine.

Cover it, but don't seal it tight. Set it on your kitchen counter.  

Day 2 - Bubbles! The yeastie beasties are at work! Mix often. A table knife works well to scrape the sides of the jar. Add a half cup water and half cup flour. Some directions tell you to throw away half of your batch before adding to it each day.
More bubbles! It's all going very well.

Stir often during the day.  
Day 3. Lots of bubbles! Wow! We're on a roll. It still smells sweet. Perhaps we'll get the sourdough smell by tomorrow. 
Add another half cup water and half cup flour. Mix it up.
By evening there are a lot more bubbles.  Mix it up!
Day 4: We now have a layer of clear liquid on the top. Just stir it in.
Add another half cup of flour and half cup of water.  Mix it up!
It all smells like sour dough now!

Day 5: It's ready! Lots of bubbles, and it smells and looks right. 

And, here it is the evening of Day 5.  It looks right and smells wonderful. 
If you don't use your sourdough every day, keep it in the refrigerator in a tightly covered jar.  Take it out every few days and feed it some flour and water to keep those beasties alive.  If you use your sourdough every day, you can leave it out on the counter, but be sure to remember to feed and water it daily.  I make it one of the routine things I do in the kitchen every morning and it's easy to remember to take good care of those beasties that make such great bread. 
You can purchase sourdough culture, but only you can make a culture that will have the yeast from the air where you live.  Each part of the world has it's own "flavor" of sourdough that occurs because of the differences in the yeast in the air.  

Questions?  Please ask!  Just click that comment link below.

Tomorrow I'll make sourdough bread!  Stop back tomorrow for the recipe and pictures. 

Very best,

Classic Sourdoughs: A Home Baker's Handbook

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