A little while back I set a sourdough starter running. The first ten days to two weeks you are just supposed to leave the mix of flour water and grapes to get on with doing its own thing although the urge to peek, tweet and blog about progress got the better of me. In the process I experienced the joys of seeing the starter come to life and also its unique and pungent smell!
So what happens? Well first of all you get rid of the grapes.
Remove them from the starter:
Tip away about 1/3 of the mixture (roughly 4-500ml):
Then top up with 250150ml of water and 150100g of flour. Mix it in and pop the lid back on.
Everyday, twice a day, you discard 200ml of the mix and add 150ml of water and 100g of flour. You do this for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. It gets a bit monotonous. Then you start to worry, when after a few days, nothing seems to be happening, there might be a few bubbles but not much, the smell is much less (which is nice, but also makes you wonder if all is on track). Each time you lift the lid the flour will have settled out and so you need to stir the mix to get a lovely wallpaper paste type consistency before you discard 200ml. Oh and if you are thinking this discarding is wasteful, well maybe, but do the maths and you’ll see that you’ll have gallons of the stuff if you just keep adding water and flour and not getting rid of any – which is fine if you are planning on starting a bakery but not if you’re simply hoping to make some tasty bread for home consumption.
After about a week of not much happening, and egged on by Dan at FoodUrchin (he’s about two months ahead of me in the sourdough game), I dared to taste the starter. WOW. Its sort of like sherbet fizz stuff – this is the progress we need. We are on track.
In the second week of feeding the starter got lots more active with a good thick yeasty top each time it was feeding time. This might have been temperature fluctuations as well as the starter getting going because week one of feeding was pretty cool and week two we had what, by UK standards for May, was almost a heat wave. At each feeding your stir the yeasty topping back in before discarding some.
At last, at the end of two weeks feeding, preceded by two weeks of waiting/peeking, there was a starter that looked good and active.
It was time to move to baking bread…….but that’s another story.