The secrets of sourdough - ingredients for sourdough starter-VicNorth-Life Seeker

The Secrets of the Sourdough Starter

There’s nothing quite like a loaf of freshly baked bread. The physical work, mixing and kneading, the waiting, the joy of the steaming crust and the warm aromas that burst forth from the oven at the end of the bake that leave you reaching for the (Welsh, salted) butter.

Baking with sourdough starter, using the natural yeasts captured from the air, brings an extra dimension to that delight. A longer process, may be, certainly a more fulfilling loaf at the end of it.

During the bread baking workshops I run, the conversation inevitably turns to creating a sourdough starter, how to nurture it and how to bake with it. The starter I use in my own bakes at home was generously passed on to me by Master Baker Tom Herbert of Hobbs House bakery. It has a 60+ year vintage – definitely an honour to continue this tradition!

Using time honoured processes of feeding and storing, the starter continues to serve me well, but as any sourdough aficionado may tell you, there is always a fear at the back of my mind that I might have to start from scratch.

Although there is often an anxiety around sourdough starters, the process of creating new, yeasty life, and maintaining it, is quite simple. As with any new born, feeding and sleeping are key elements of the process. Initially, you’ll need to attend to your starter every day for 5 days, after which you can take a more relaxed approach.

Recipe for Start-up Sourdough


250g Rye flour

Bottled water (chlorinated tap water can destroy the precious bacteria you are aiming to cultivate.)

You will also need

– a couple of clean plastic containers with loose fitting lids – as sourdough comes to life, pressure can build up, so a muslin, beaded mesh traditionally used for yogurt making would be ideal – capture the  airbourne wild yeasts whilst protecting the starter from ‘alien objects’ that might drop in and cause contamination!

– 5 days to nurture your baby sourdough through its first steps.

Day One: Mix 50g rye flour with 50g water in a clean container.  Leave at room temperature for 24 hours – ideally around 20C and out of direct sunlight.

Day Two: You should start to see bubbles forming around the base of the starter and an increase in volume. Transfer the starter to a clean container and add 25g water and 25g flour. Give it a good mix and leave for another 24 hours. Wash out the original container ready for the next day.

Day three: Dispose of two thirds of the starter (you can always use it to make more starters to give away to friends) and weigh the remaining out into a clean container. Make a note of the weight of the starter, add the same weight of flour and bottled water and give it a good mix. Leave for another 24 hours.

Day Four: You should see lots of activity – the starter should be doubled in volume, with bubbles and honey comb texture all through the mix. Time for a final feed as your starter is now established. Weigh the starter into a clean container, just as before, and add the same weight of flour and of water and give a good mix.

Leave your starter at room temperature and you will be good to bake within 12 hours.

Guest Author – Vicky North:

Vicky North runs the Vic North Café and cookery workshops from her premises on Market Street in the heart of Newport. Whether you’re looking for a delicious breakfast, an intimate supper packed with fresh local ingredients, or the skills and knowledge to take your own baking and cooking to the next level, why not swing by and pay her a visit. And if you can’t make it in person, you can find Vicky online too.

Take a look at Vic North’s cookery workshops in the Life Seeker calendar.


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