Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to make your own sourdough starter

I recently wrote an article in the Norwegain magazine Ren Mat (Clean Food) about sourdough and how you make your own sourdough starter. To those of my Norwegain readers there was a mistake done by the editor in the recipe. If you´ve read this article it needs 70 ml of water, not 7 dl. Using 7 dl. will make the starter into a starter soup! So now you know and in this post you will ofcours find the whole process with correct measurements. I hope this will inspire you to start baking with sourdough. It makes the baked goods more easily digestible and so much more exiting in taste.

Sourdough baking is food culture on its best terms. To bake with sourdought makes the baked goods more flavourful, nutritious and easier to digest. To bake in the traditional way with sourdoug is easy peasy, but requires something most people claim not to have enough of these days. Namely time. So why don´t reclaim time and make sourdough bread your next project? I guarantee you will never again look back when passing the bread section in the grocery store.  

Sourdough baking is in the wind. Here in Norway you find sourdough bread and sourdough buns in several well stocked groceries. Wether they are baked using the traditional method largely varies. Most breads are added sourdough culture to create flavour, some very few bakeries makes the bread in the old traditional way, by using the time required for the lacto-fermenting bacteria do their magic work, which is replaced in modern baking by the use of yeast and added wheat gluten. But bottom line is that there is a bit of sour-cheating happening.  

Historically we have baked and consumed bread very differently form how we do today. You find examples of sourdough baking all across the world in all cultures and on all contents. The grain problem of today is that most people eat grain products that are not treated in any way even resembling these old traditions.

Vi bake bread på modern hybridised grain strains that are farmed for their excellent baking properties, first and foremost. This means most baked goods are high on refined wheat flour, often with added gluten and high amounts of yeast. When baking with old traditional grain types, the baking properties won´t be as good in regards of the visual results. It is really hard to create fluffy light loaves using traditional sourdough. But you can create a bread with great taste that is way more heathy, nutritious and more easy to digest. 

If you let the sourdough work for a minimum of 8 hours a lot will happen to the grain. The gluten protein will get sectioned into smaller peptides and in this manner becomes pre-digested. In addition anti-nutrients like phytic acid will get neutralised. Anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors are natures defence. If we humans are to get nutritional value out of eating grains we have to trick the grains into letting their nutrients become readily available to us. Sourdough is the answer on how to do this, but it does as mentioned demand time, because the lacto-fermenting bacteria need a minimum of 8 hours, and happily as much as 48 hours to neutralise these harmful substances in the grain. Phytic acid has the property of binding minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron and thus keeps them from getting absorbed through our digestion. Grocery bread is thus a great recipe for mineral deficiency if your diet is based on these these of baked goods.

It is also good to know that yeast the way we know it today is a relatively modern invention and was commercialised as late as the 1870-s. This means that 150 years ago all bread was sourdough. What we know as bread today is everything but old cultural heritage as we are led to believe here in Norway at least. It is merely a bad replica with not much good to offer your health.  

Sourdough starter
To bake sourdough bread you need a sourdough starter that consists of natural yeast spores in the flour and lacto-fermenting bacteria. They work in synergy by transforming the carbohydrates in the grain to different organic acids, alcohol and carbon-dioxide. The bass gives rise to the bread and the alcohol evaporates when baked.

The specific bacteria and yeast in the sourdough starter must be preserved for further use and there are sourdough cultures that are several hundred years old in existence. Immigrants would bring their starters when they crossed great oceans and big planes. Literature tells how scandinavian immigrants in the states curled up around their jars of sourdough at night to keep it alive and potet during the coldest winter nights.

Sourdough bread has a lower GI
Living cultures has to be fed to be kept alive. The lacto-fermenting bacteria lives off of the starch in grains and transforms this into organic acids and other nutrients. A sourdough bread contains less starch and more protein than a grocery bread. In addition the minerals in the bread will be more easily absorbable because the anti nutrients and enzyme inhibitors are deactivated. The bread will thus have a lesser effect on your blood-sugar levels than grocery bread. The organic acids created in sourdough bread also makes the carbohydrates digest slower.

Here is how you make your own sourdough starter
It is quite easy to make a great sourdoug starter, mother or chef as it is also called. Here is one approach, and remember to use organic or biodynamic flour for best results:

* You will need: a bowl or jar, spoon and a kitchen towel to place over

Day 1
Mix: 100g wholegrain rye flour, 70 ml raisin water

You make raisin water by soaking a good handful of organic raisins in 2 dl cold water for 30 minutes. The raisins have lots of wild yeast spores on their shells and these will help speed the process of your starter. Your mixture should have a porridge like consistency, should it seem a bit dry simply add a bit more of the raisin water. This could happen as different grains absorb different amounts of fluid. 

Have the mixture in a glass jar with the lid placed loosely on top to let oxygen in. Leave the mixture on the kitchen counter 24 hours.

Day 2
Add: 100g fine spelt, 70 ml cold water (or a bit more should you need it to achieve the porridge like consistency)

Have the mixture over in a bowl (do not use steel, this will inhibit the grown of the lacto-fermenting bacteria). Leave the mixture covered on the kitchen counter 24 hours. 

Day 3
Add: 100g fine spelt, 70 ml cold water (or a bit more should you need it to achieve the porridge like consistency)

You will now see the dough double in size over the next 24 hours. Split the starter in two parts and toss one before you add more flour and water. 

Day 4
Add: 200g wholegrain rye flour if you wish to make wholegrain bread or 200g fine spelt flour if you want to bake fine lighter breads, 1,2 dl cold or room tempered water

When this mixture had bubbled up to double size your starter is ready! You now have a beautiful starter you can use to make sourdough bread or other baked sourdough goods.

Sourdough care

* you need a glass jar with lid, a wooden or plastic spoon

When baking with sourdough you have to make sure you always leave a bit of your starter on the side. This bit you will feed and nurture till next time you want to bake. Your starter needs some TLC once twice a week depending to stay alive and potent. Here is how: 

In a clean jar, have 2-6 tbs starter and mix in 1,5 dl wholegrain rye or spelt and 1 dl water. Mix with  a wooden or plastic spoon. Avoid the use of steel as lacto-fermenting bacteria does not thrive in contact with metal. Leave the mixture on the kitchen counter with the lid loosely placed on top till you see lovely bubbles and the mixture doubles in size. This can take two or this can take eight hours depending on the temperature in the room land potency of your starter. If you don't see any bubbles and the dough does not rise it is probably dead and you will have to start again. 

You can choose if you want to keep your starter on the kitchen counter or in the fridge in between baking. If you choose to keep it in room temperature it is important that you feed it every second day as described above.

Should you choose to keep it in the fridge, you must remember to feed it only once a week. The ideal time would then be the day before baking. Remember to take the starter over to a clean jar with lid every time you feed it. Many claim that the starter gets more potent when kept on the kitchen counter, in my experience it makes really good and potent breads when kept in the fridge also. You will self have to experience what works best for you. The intensity of the feeding cycle is thus dependent on how you choose to store your starter. Higher temperature equals more active yeast and bacteria, equals more frequent feeding to prevent it from becoming too sour. Feeding every second day is then optimal. If you keep it like this and do not bake often you will find you have to toss some of your starter every now and then. Or you can choose to keep this spare starter in the fridge and use in for instance waffles, pancakes and cakes.

If your sourdough starer to runny or you wish it to have a more sour flavour, reduce the amount of water you use when feeding and make a more solid starter.

Avoid closing the lid of the jar completely over the starter as the yeast needs oxygen to live and thrive, use for instance a mason jar without the rubber gasket and leave the lid loosely on top.

Living in the fridge is principally too cold for a starter but ideal should you go away for a few days or do not wish to bake that often. You can also freeze or dehydrate your starter to preserve it. The optimal storage temperature is somewhere between 12 and 16 degrees, but not everyone has this environment as an option in which case the kitchen counter and frequent feeding is the most optimal.


Translated by Veronika Bazika

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