Sourdough starter

Getting started with sourdough baking requires a Starter and getting the starter… ‘started’ can be the hardest part of the whole exercise. Once you have a healthy starter you can settle into a maintenance scheme that fits with your requirements. First things first, it’s time to start the starter.

What is a sourdough Starter?

A sourdough starter is a yeast that has been fed some carbohydrates in the form of bread flour or some other carbohydrate source. The sourdough starter is an active yeast that is sustained by a regular feeding of flour and water. It is very low in calories and can be stored for a long time. Sourdough starter can be used as a starter for breads, rolls, muffins, and other baked goods.

There’s two ways to start

  • Traditional start – (deep breath). Fair warning: purists will claim this is the only proper way to make a sourdough starter but be ready. This process will take a few weeks and kilos of flour.
    • Pros
      • This will create a yeast culture that is unique to your kitchen. I guess that makes it natural?
    • Cons
      • It can take multiple weeks to get a healthy culture this way, there’s also very little indication that you’re making progress along the way so it’s possible that could make a flawed culture and not know… this process requires plenty of patience and faith.
      • At least once a day you’ll cycle through another 100grams of flour so over the weeks this process will take you’ll also need plenty of flour.
      • Waste – you end up throwing away most of the flour you add to the starter. This continues to be true once it’s established but it’s exaggerated in the opening weeks.
  • Shortcut start – Purists will say this is cheating. Do you really have to prove anything to anyone? This is a great shortcut that lets you get to making great bread the next day.
    • Pros
      • You get to start baking bread much sooner than the traditional start.
    • Cons
      • Some will say this is a shortcut – it’s up to you whether that’s really a con. Over the weeks and months that you feed and use your starter, it will arguably take on any latent characteristics of your kitchen anyway.