If you want to be eating the best tasting bread, get your starter sorted! A sourdough bread starter captures wild yeast which turn a mix of water and flour into a living entity. Once you have made it, treat it like a pet and feed it daily and you will have a start for life!
Making a starter for bread is easy. I will give you two ways here the first is totally from scratch and the second is for those who maybe are making simple bread with yeast all ready which easily jump starts the process. When you have your start this replaces bought yeast and also gives a better tasting loaf. This post is just on making the starter and I will follow up with baking a sourdough loaf.
Sourdough starter from scratch.
You need a large jar or similar container for your starter. We are going to add more to it and it is also going to become alive and froth so a good guide is the container should be at least 4 times the volume of your initial batter.
Stage one is about capturing wild yeast. Grab a bowl and a whisk (no whisk? two forks held together will make do) add equal amounts of flour and water (1 cup of each I would suggest). We want to really whisk these two together well. The aim is getting air, and therefore yeast. into the mix. Just keep whisking and turning it over for about 10 mins. This is really the hardest part!! If you have a cake mixer you can use that too.
Next, transfer the mix to your container and put the lid on. My preferred is glass for the simple reason I like to see it come alive and grow. Now just wait for it to awaken. Yeast is most active when it is nice and warm. Ours just sits on the kitchen counter. Watch for it to start to have bubbles. How long this takes depends on many things. it can be anywhere between a couple of hours to a couple of days. When it has started fermenting you will be able to smell it, a combination of yeast bread, vinegar, cheesy, sour milky smell. That's all good.
Feed it. Each day you will discard half the mix and replace it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. Stir in well each day. it will be ready to use anywhere between 3 and 7 days. To know when it is ready it will have a strong smell when the top is removed, be very bubble and of pushed itself up the sides of the container. You can now start making bread with it.
Maintain your starter by continuing with the feeding process daily. If you are making bread daily keep the starter handy and feed everyday. If you are doing a weekly bake, keep it in the fridge and feed weekly.
Yeast bread jump start. Our starter was ready to use in a day. We were making bread with yeast and decided we wanted to go to a starter. On our last loaf of bread we took a chunk of the dough, after fermentation and added that to our first flour and water mix. This meant that our starter does come from a commercial yeast beginning and has wild yeast mixed in. It also means our starter was ready to be used for making bread the next day. If you have something else yeast you are fermenting at home you can use this instead of the water to also jump start such as kvas.