First thing First!
We need a starter
Ok my past culinary obsession was bread. I was indeed a bread head (amateur bread baker). I used to make baguettes, ciabatta, buns, loaves, bread, rolls, brioche etc etc. I loved it immensely BUT I stopped for a while because I packed on 10 lbs during my journey through culinary bliss. There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread. I also taught my neighbors some bread baking basics to get phenomenal artisan quality breads in your own kitchen!!
Lets make a seed culture. A starter from scratch using no yeast at all. We are going to cultivate our own yeast. It is best to use rye flour for this but all I have is bread flour because the grocery stores here suck!! I can't find basic staples of good flours in southern orange county. I guess no one really does hard-core bread baking here?? I miss my Giant Eagle Market District in Upper St Clair!!! So since I'm stuck with boring regular bread flour that is what I am going to use.
Why rye flour you ask?
- it gives your bread more complex flavors
- it is easier for the wild yeast spores to develop in rye flour
Ingredients and Supplies:
- rye flour (whole wheat or bread flour)
- pineapple juice
- spring water (room temperature)
- sealable container
We are going to take a 1/2 cup of our flour and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of our pineapple juice and mix together till you get a super thick consistency like this:
Place lid on and keep at room temperature for 8 hours.
The first day we are going to feed our starter 3 times.
Alright lets talk about why pineapple juice?? There is a certain type of undesirable strain of bacteria called leuconostoc bacteria and this hinders many starters. Up to 40% of starters can have this bad bacteria and the pineapple juice used in the morning of the first and second day of cultivating your starter will help with this problem. Also we are going to aerate our starter 3 times today by feeding it and stirring it ;)
Eight hours later open the lid to your starter and I expect that you will see no change YET.
So take a spoon eyeball your mixture and scoop out half of the thick dough and discard it.
Then take your measuring cup and add another 1/2 cup of flour and this time add 1/3-1/2 cup of water. Give this a good stir.
This is called "feeding your starter" Basically what is happening is the good bacteria that is in our starter is eating all the sugars in our flour and we need to give it more food (flour to eat). I will also let you know that it is not the wild yeasts that make sour dough bread taste "sour" it is actually the acids produced by the bacteria that is in our dough that makes it taste sour. The acid lowers the ph of our bread to produce more complex yummy flavors! Cool huh?
Alright we want to see science in action here so I put a little sticky tab or piece of masking tape whatever you may have and mark where your starter is. We will be able to keep track of how much it rises once the natural yeast starts making our starter active.
Look at what is happening already after 4 hours of feeding "our pet"
Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!! It's Alive!!!
No real change here though. There wont be enough fermentation to notice till day 3 (that's my guess;)
Before bedtime repeat "the feeding process" (discard half of the mixture add another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water. Stir well and put lid back on)
It looks the same as last night only a few bubbles, mixture has not risen yet.
We are going to repeat "the feeding process" but this time use your pineapple juice instead of water. Remember we are using this juice to kill the bad bacteria that sometimes consumes new starters. This is our last insurance day with the pineapple juice. From here on out it will be only water and flour for "our pet"
So when you are in your Kitchen today open the lid to the starter and give it a good stir. Do this at least 3 times.
Before retiring for the day we will refreshen this starter a second time.
Wow look what a little bit of stirring produced and multiplied for us!! I took this picture before I feed my starter for the last time that night.
Notice are starter is starting to become a lot more active
Our pet is growing :)
Repeat the feeding process for your starter with the flour and water in the morning. Stir your starter a couple times throughout the day but we will only be feeding it this one time today. Here is what it looked like in the morning.
Ok so the starter needs to be very active and double in bulk before we move on to making a sponge out of this.
As you can see I am not quite there.
I think the last time I was eyeballing the culture I dumped out more than half and it slowed my progress :( But no worries I am going to give myself an extra day of feeding it in the morning and stirring it throughout the day. Don't be put off by the odor it will brighten up and start to smell yeasty, bready :)
Ok I got it raging now! Check this out:
Ok so now this is very active and as long as your starter has doubled in bulk and you have lots of bubbles we are ready to turn this into a sponge to make bread!
Take a new container twice as large as your last and add your seed culture to this container. Now you can easily take 1/4 cup of this mixture to share with a friend if you'd like. Sort of like the friendship bread idea :)
To this we will add 3 cups of flour and about 2 cups of water. Hold back on all the water at first. Stir in just enough water to make a very wet sticky dough. Make sure your seed culture is mixed in well and that all your flour is hydrated.
This is the consistency we are looking for a very wet sticky dough.
Leave at room temperature for about 6 hours.
Ok after 6 hours it will probably have risen like mine. Now we put this in the fridge till tomorrow! Tomorrow our journey from seed culture to an actual loaf of bread will be done!!
This concludes the starter tutorial. This sponge we made will be active and good while stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If you don't use it by then you have to refresh your sponge. You need to at least double your sponge to refresh it. You may discard some or give some away. Don't worry you can make a huge batch of dough and bake loaves of bread, no one in your family will complain!
Follow my recipe for the sourdough bread.