Sourdough Baking Essentials

Follow this step by step process of making sourdough while learning why it’s important for a starter and leaving process.

| January 2020


 A sourdough starter is a stable culture of natural yeasts and lactic bacteria working in symbiosis. The natural yeast in a culture produces carbon dioxide (C02) when it eats the sugars made from the broken down starch. The C02 then fills the dough with gas, making it light and sometimes holey, while the lactic bacteria contributes to the characteristic sour flavor.

I use the words starter and leaven to refer to a sourdough culture at different stages. I use a proportion of very mature culture, which I call the ‘starter’, to make the leaven. A mature starter smells heavily fermented, almost alcoholic, tastes citric and looks almost fizzy.

To make the leaven (the more mild culture) from this, I add flour and water. The leaven is used to make the dough, and is used at a much ‘younger’ stage, when it smells mild and tastes mildly lactic, like yogurt. 

You may consider it weird to be tasting this swamp-like porridge, but it’s the best way to get to know your culture. You’ll remember the taste when it is happy and when it is a little under the weather. 

Making a sourdough starter 

To begin with it is quite a lengthy procedure (6 or 7 days), but once you have a stable starter, you can make bread every day. The key to success is patience and belief. Don’t give up. If it takes 3 days to show signs of fermentation, that’s OK. 



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