Make a sourdough starter
Sourdough is a living culture of natural yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria (Lactic Acid) found in flour. It is created by fermentation of wheat flour when mixed with water or unsweetened pineapple juice. Since it is a living thing, it needs to be fed at regular intervals, and it will grow. Stable sourdough cultures can live for decades. A sourdough culture provides a natural yeast source for leavening bread and has been used for centuries.
Sourdough based bread is considered much healthier than commercial bread, which uses a different kind of yeast.
Why so healthy?
Lactobacillus is the same beneficial bacteria found in those healthy yogourts and in sourdough, it acts as a catalyst to make all those healthy nutrients in whole wheat flour easier and more potent for your body to use. Like those healthy yogourts, Lactobacillus helps feed the good bacteria in your digestive system.
Phytates bind together the nutrients within the flour. The slower and longer rising time required by sourdough breaks these down. This frees the nutrients to be more readily absorbed by the digestive tract.
Glucose (sugar) is a bad thing. Natural yeasts eat glucose and the fermentation processes within the starter use up most of the glucose. Sourdough doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels and is much lower on the glycemic index than any other bread.
Gluten proteins are also broken down into amino acids during the longer rise/fermentation times.
Sourdough bread is much less likely to go stale. Its higher acidity resists the growth of mold, and it retains much more of the moisture over time.
Creating a sourdough starter
Creating a sourdough starter is easy, but it does take a little bit of time to make a stable culture that can be used for breadmaking. The method below uses unsweetened pineapple juice from a can of pineapple chunks purchased at the local grocery store. The pineapple juice jumpstarts the fermentation process and formation of the culture. The culture is started in a bowl to make stirring and adding easier. Once the culture is stable, it should be kept in a glass jar with ample room to grow. Purified water can be bought, or you can use tap water by leaving it to sit on the counter for an hour or two to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
At the initial stages of creating your starter, it should be mixed multiple times a day, and the edges scraped down using a wooden spoon.
On day one in a small bowl, mix one cup of whole wheat flour with 3/4 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice. It would help if you marked the level of the starter in some way to track its growth. Cover and set on a counter at room temperature.
Day two sees you add one cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of unsweetened pineapple juice. Leave out at room temperature.
On day three, you are going to discard half of your mixture. Then add one cup of flour (can be white or whole wheat at this point) and 1/2 cup of purified water. Cover and leave at room temperature.
On day four, your starter should have doubled in size, if not leave for another 12-24 hours. If it has doubled discard half of the starter like on day three and add another 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of purified water.
Day five repeat the discarding half, adding another 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup purified water, once in the morning and once in the evening approximately 12 hours apart.
If on day six, your starter is doubling between feedings every 12 hours, then your starter is ready to bake with. You can refrigerate your starter now reducing feedings to once a week.
My finished product after ten days and a couple bakings:
Maintenance feedings are discarding half of the starter and adding 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of purified water. Maintenance feedings at room temperatures are a daily thing. If you are not planning on using the starter, take it from the refrigerator in the morning, feed it and put it back in the fridge in the evening. Any liquid that forms on the top of the starter is natural and can be discarded or stirred back into the starter.
To prepare to bake it requires a feeding or two where it is doubling or tripling 8-12 hours. Once you have enough starter and extra to feed/store for next time you are good to go. You should retain at least 1/2 cup of starter and feed it and then refrigerate for the next baking time.
Note: For proper feeding and usage of sourdough, I highly recommend using a scale instead of measuring cups. This will allow an exact one to one ratio of food/water when feeding. Flour volumes/weights vary enough to cause problems.
The longer-lived the sourdough is, the better the taste and healthier it is. Don’t forget to name your starter; it is a living thing which technically makes it a pet.
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