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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Managing Your Sourdough Starter

if you read our previous post on How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter, this post is to help you further down the road to success. if you haven't read it, why not? click the link above to get with the program!

so now, we'd like to lend you some tips on managing (feeding), expanding and storing your sourdough starter for lengths of time. unlike in the bakery, you probably aren't baking bread everyday, maybe not even once a week! there's ways around it. when we close for winter we have to keep our sourdough alive, and since no one wants to be feeding sourdough everyday for their day off. we store it for a couple weeks and feed it to keep it alive. depending on the length of storage you'll end up with different flavours and acid strengths that build up in your sourdough starter. so to 'revive' your starter to normal activity you'll need to adjust the feedings to make mellow any extra acid flavour.
hopefully this information doesn't confuse everyone! thats not the goal, if you have any questions about feeding your sourdough by all means ask! its a simple process once you've got to grips with it, all your doing is taking some starter away and replacing it with fresh flour and water. really, that's it.

How does sourdough bread rise?:

sourdough breads rise from gases that are emitted from the active yeasts present in sourdough. when we knead bread its to create a gluten protein network to help the bread stretch and hold in these gases, making the dough rise. its a really amazing process, and without wheat flour this couldn't happen, so love your wheat!

Feeding your sourdough starter:

sourdough yeasts that are colonizing your starter need to be fed regularly. a feeding is just additions of flour and water. the natural sugars present in the flour are what the yeast eats, and water just lubricates the whole process. in the bakery we keep a starter thats 100% hydration, half water and half flour, classed as a 'liquid levain'. below is a basic formula for feeding your home sourdough starter.

to feed your starter you first need to decide how much starter you need for your recipe. its probably not more than a tabelspoon or two, so really you can safely start with around 100g starter to this add: half its weight in flour (50g) and half water (another 50g). stir and let sit and bubble. you'll now have 200g of starter. use the starter that's left over for baking your bread, or if you aren't baking then discard the leftovers.

Expanding your sourdough starter

say you need to make a lot more bread than usual and need more sourdough. you'll need to increase the amount of starter you are keeping. to do this, you can double the amount of starter above by feeding your mature starter above (you know its mature when the starter has risen completely (around 8-12 hours) and started to sink slightly, it should smell pleasantly strong) so 200g of starter, fed with 100g flour and another 100g water. stir and let mature (8-12 hours), you'll now have 400g  sourdough starter.

For weekly bread baking:

after feeding your starter in the usual way. instead of storing at room temperature, place it in your fridge. this will keep your starter at a much more dormant activity.

to revive your starter for baking, give it two feedings 12 hours apart. then use it to make your bread starter for bread as your recipe recomends.

this method can be repeated weekly, if you don't intend on baking bread that week. just bring the starter out of the fridge and feed, then pop it back into the fridge for the next week.

For holiday storage:

you can store your sourdough starter for a whole month! yeah no feeding needed.  this requires a firmer mix, stored in the fridge (as above). after the month has elapsed you'll have a very acidic starter on your hands, with an alcoholic aroma. using this starter for bread will take a few extra feedings.

to store your starter take 100g of sourdough starter and mix with 100g flour and 50g water, and mix. you're trying to make a pretty firm dough. so if its still quite wet add more flour, knead the dough and leave in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

to revive your holiday starter for baking, you'll need to start with less starter since its so strong.

to do this, use: 25g starter to 100g flour and 100g water. mix and let rise overnight. then feed  as usual 3 more times at 12 hour intervals. your starter should be ready for action! use for bread or feed once more and store for later use.

once again hopefully this info helps you on your way to baking sourdough breads. there are many many recipes out there on the web. we'll be posting
one to try out in the next coming weeks, so watch this space!



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