Sourdough Bread Starter
Sourdough bread starters are quite
easy to make. They consist of two groups of micro-organisms:
- Bacteria: Lactobacilli and other
- Yeasts: Saccharomyces and other
The bacteria create lactic acid
and substances that provide flavour, while the yeasts create bubbles of carbon
dioxide to make the bread rise. It is not unusual for the consortium of
microflora in a sourdough starter to change depending upon the environment in
which it is use a
To make a sourdough starter you
need only four thing
- Container: Glass, Ceramic or
Wooden … A 250 ml jar with a plastic lid is suitable.
- Flour - Use either whole meal
spelt, rye or wheat flour. Make sure there are no raising agents in the flour. Rye is considered by
some to be superior in making a sourdough starter.
- Source of Bacteria and Yeasts - You
can use any or all of the following sources of microorganisms.
whey - Kefir whey is made by straining
milk that has been cultured with real Kefir grains through unbleached linen. If
you don't have Kefir you may try yogurt, though yogurt does not contain the
variety of microflora that real Kefir grains do.
- Rejuvelac - Rejuvelac is 2-5 day fermented
wheat grains. To make Rejuvelac add 1/2 cup of wheat grains purchased from a
health food store to 2 litres of water in a mason jar. Cover the jar with
muslin cloth to keep insects out. After 12 hours pour off the water and rinse.
Lay the jar on its side and sprout the grains until the rootlets are between
1-2 mm long. The grains will need rinsing every 6-12 hours, depending on the
weather. In hot weather they may dry out and in humid weather they may go off,
but your sense of smell should alert you to this. Once the rootlets are 1-2 mm
long fill the jar with water and leave to ferment for 1-4 days, depending upon
the temperature. The Rejuvelac is ready when it has become milky with a light
froth. It should taste slightly acidic with a not unpleasant yeasty flavour.
- Grapes or grape skins - Take 200 gm of good
quality grapes. Rinse off debris and squeeze out the juice through a hand
juicer. Mix the skins and pips with flour and water to make a starter.
Alternatively just crush a handful of grapes with a potato masher and mix the
juice and pulp with flour and water.
- Raisins, sultanas or currants - Raisins, currants and
sultanas will all provide a source of micro-organisms. Just add a tablespoon of
raisins to half a cup of flour and enough water to make a paste. Both raisins
and grape skins will produce a distinctive and highly active starter.
- Wild organisms - Mix 1 cup of
flour with enough water in a glass bowl to form a thin paste. Cover the bowl
with a piece of thin muslin and leave outside to trap organisms from the air.
Feed it 1/2 cup of flour everyday for 7 days. By the second or third day it
should form bubbles and give off a distinctive alcoholic yeasty smell.
- Probiotic culture - Genetically engineered enzymes in liquid which is suitable for making a sourdough starter. But be
aware that it contains the same fast acting yeast that is used to make
commercial bread and brew beer, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but unlike this yeast
when used by itself to make commercial bread the liquid will also
provide lactobacilli bacteria plus another yeast.
- Water - Use the best quality water
you can find, otherwise tap water will probably work okay.
Add 1/4 cup of flour to a jar and
mix in a source of microorganisms from one or more of the following:
tablespoon kefir whey,
- 1 tablespoon rejuvelac,
- 1 tablespoon grape skins or 6
- 10 raisins, or 1 tablespoon probiotic culture.
- Then add enough water to
make a thick paste. Gently screw on a plastic lid or cover the jar with a cloth
and leave on a bench top out of direct sunlight at about 28C.
- Once a day for a week feed the
culture with 2 teaspoons of flour and enough water to maintain a smooth paste.
The culture should begin its fermentation process within 1-3 days, recognisable
by the yeasty aroma, bubbles and alcoholic smell. If you have used grape skins
then after about four days strain out the grape skins and pips through a piece
- Each culture will have its own
- The grape starter may become quite
high in organic alcohols, while the rejuvelac may provide a source of highly
active yeasts. You may wish to experiment by mixing different types of starter
cultures together. The type of flour used will also support a distinctive
consortium of micro flora. Experiment with rye, spelt, wheat and so on. Store
the culture in the refrigerator when not in use.
Procedure # 2
- 3 cup Lukewarm water
- 1 cup sour milk, buttermilk, or active yogurt (1 tablespoon of
crushed raisins or 6 crushed grapes with skins added to milk to sour)
- 1 package activated dry yeast
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 5 cups unbleachd flour
- Pour the water and sour milk (buttermilk or yogurt) into a crock or a wide mouth gallon jar.
- Pour in the yeast and let it dissolve; stir.
- Add sugar and flour;
- Cover with cloth and set in a warm place to sour(2 to 3 days).
- When activity stops the mixture flattens out; an amber colored liquor
comes to the top (recognisable
by the yeasty aroma, bubbles and alcoholic smell)
- Mix it up
- It will look like
- Put it in a glass jar with a screw type lid; place in
Two days before use, remove the
culture from the fridge, discard some of it, then feed it with a quarter of cup
of flour and enough water to maintain the consistency and incubate at 25 C.
After 24 hours it should be ready to use.
The starter loses its activity and
does not make the bread rise as much as it used to. How to regenerate the
starter? If you do not use the sourdough starter for a few days then the level
of alcohol's will rise until they eventually kill of most off the
micro-organisms. Without yeasts your bread will not rise.
The solution is to mix 1 teaspoon
of starter with 1/2 of cup of flour and enough water to make a smooth paste.
Leave it for 4-5 hours or until the culture has doubled in size then
refrigerate the starter to slow down the fermentation process. The next time
you take the starter from the refrigerator it will be more active. Leave it for
6 - 8 hours to ferment then take one teaspoon and add it to 1/2 cup of flour
plus some water, leave to ferment for 4-5 hours then feed it another 1/2 cup of
flour. By feeding the starter increasingly larger quantities of flour at
regular intervals you increase the activity of the yeasts which should make
your bread rise better.
- 1 teaspoon = 5 ml / 5 gm.
- 1 tablespoon = 15 ml / 15 gm.
- 15 tablespoons = 1 cup / 225 ml.
- 1 cup = 8 fluid oz / 225 ml.
- 1 US gallon = 3.6 litres.
- 1 lb = 16 oz / 454 gm.
- Temperature 20C = 68F.
- Conversion from Fahrenheit to
Celsius: °C = (°F - 32) / 1.8.
- Conversion from Celsius to
Fahrenheit: °F = °C × 1.8 + 32
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