I’ve been fascinated with wild-yeast starters since I began baking bread last year, but never found instructions for making my own that seemed to fit me. Because I mill my own flour from organic wheat berries (not the cheapest way to get flour), I didn’t like the thought of using so much flour that I’d have to essentially throw away. Making food from scratch has made me a lot more aware of food waste and I avoid it as much as possible. Then I came across the method in Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. I’m absolutely loving this book — Reinhart’s teaching style is focused on providing information and techniques rather and he’s not dogmatic about his recipes. He gives the tools and reasons behind his instruction, allowing the baker to adapt the recipe to fit their life.
His procedure for making a sourdough starter from scratch is the clearest I’ve seen so far, and used a more manageable amount of flour to get going. A video walkthrough from Breadtopia on making your own sourdough starter using this procedure (called the Pineapple Juice Technique) also helped fill in some of the gaps.
Seed Culture and Mother Starter from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day
1:30 p.m.: Seed Culture Phase 1. Grind 211 gm hard red wheat on medium-fine grind setting. Mix 28.5 gm of the flour with 56.5 gm of unsweetened pineapple juice in a large, clean plastic yogurt container. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Store remaining flour in a baggie for next mix.
5:30 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds with a small whisk. Replace plastic wrap.
9:00 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds.
7:00 a.m.: Stir for 10 seconds. Heat oven for a few seconds and place container inside.
1:45 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds. Store on counter.
[1:30 p.m. marks first 24 hours]
9:00 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds.
8:00 a.m.: Stir for 10 seconds.
2:00 p.m.: Marks 48 hours since the seed culture was created. Move to Seed Culture Phase 2. Add 28.5 gm flour and 28.5 gm unsweetened pineapple juice to the Phase 1 culture. Stir to combine.
10:30 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds. Switch from plastic wrap to paper towel held in place with rubber band.
7:00 a.m.: Stir for 10 seconds.
2:00 p.m..: Stir for 10 seconds.
10:00 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds.
6:00 a.m.: Stir for 10 seconds.
3:00 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds. It’s starting to get more active, thicker and foamy inside (not frothy or bubbly on top).
10:00 p.m.: Stir for 10 seconds. Big bubbles, thicker, getting dry.
7:00 a.m.: Stir for 10 seconds. Overall it’s thick and foamy, not bubbly on top.
9:45 a.m.: Marks about 67 hours since began Seed Culture Phase 2. Move to Seed Culture Phase 3. Add 56.5 gm flour and 28.5 gm filtered water to Phase 2 culture. Move to Pyrex measuring cup and cover with plastic.
6:50 p.m.: Move to Seed Culture Phase 4. Add 85 gm flour and 28.5 gm filtered water to 113 gm of Phase 3 culture. Add additional 2 tbls of water so that a soft dough could be formed (it was very firm and dry without the extra water). Place remainder of Phase 3 culture in the refrigerator in a loosely covered jar.
6:20 a.m.: Marks 12 hours since began Seed Culture Phase 5. Make Mother Starter. Combine 340 gm hard white wheat flour with 255 gm filtered water and 113 gm Phase 4 culture and knead into a ball. Place in lightly oiled 2-liter plastic Cambro container and set lid on top without closing completely. Store remaining 118 gm of culture in a jar in the refrigerator (for up to 3 days). Total weight of Mother Starter: 686 gm.
2:00 p.m.: Marks 7 1/2 hours since began the Mother Starter. Dough is doubled. Knead for a few seconds, form ball, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Check in 1 1/2 hours to vent.
3:30 p.m.: Open lid to vent and replace, leaving a bit of the lid unclosed. Use within 5 days. Keep at least 113 gm of the starter after baking in order to rebuild.
I’m still feeling euphoric about the fact that I created a leavener right in my own kitchen! The starter has the sour smell, and it’s quite firm and dense. It’s much different from dough made with commercial yeast, which I wasn’t expecting. The dough for the first loaf is fermenting in the refrigerator now, and tomorrow I’ll be able to bake it and post an update.
UPDATE: First sourdough loaf
I’m not exactly sure how the next several days with it will go — there will be a lot left over (this first loaf only required 2 tablespoons of the starter) and I’m hazy on the whole feeding process. But I figure I’ll feel it out the way I did when I started the seed culture and it’ll probably make more sense as time passes.