FAQ Sourdough

Updated: Nov 23


WHAT IS IT?


Sourdough is a natural fermented leavening agent made of only two ingredients: flour and water. During the process of fermentation good lactobacilli bacteria and wild yeast start to develop in the dough, giving it its typical “sour” smell and taste. Optical, you can see that the sourdough is active by observing its texture: a good active dough should be rising and produce nice bubbles.

Depending on the temperature where the fermentation of starters and doughs occurs, bacteria and yeast produce lactic and acetic acids in different amounts. These acids are responsible for the flavor of the bread you are going to bake. If it ferments at low temperatures, it could taste more vinegary (development of more acetic acids), at higher temperatures more mild.

Temperature is a very important factor, if you want to bake with sourdough. Sourdough should ferment ideally between 24 degree Celsius and 28 degree Celsius, but the range is much wider than that – generally about between 15 degree Celsius and 35 degree Celsius and implies longer or shorter fermentation times.

Sourdough is very easy to make and keep (it lasts literally forever, if fed regularly) and has been used for millennia all over the world. Last, sourdough is good for your health because it is a source of minerals and vitamins.


Wheat sourdough
Wholemeal wheat sourdough. Photo: M. Sartori/ATZ Welzow

HOW DO I GET THE STARTER STARTED?


You can easily make sourdough starter yourself by mixing flour and water. The most common flour used are wheat or rye, but you can use also different cereals such as spelt or barley. The type of the flour can also vary from wholemeal to all-purpose flour, just depending on what you prefer or find on the market in your area. Water should be between room-temperature and lukewarm. Temperature is a relevant factor in the making of a good sourdough, so you have to pay attention not to undercool or overcook the starter while making or feeding it.

In order to make the first starter you have to basically mix the same amount of water and flour and let it ferment for a couple of days at room temperature until it starts to “get up”. During this time you will have to “feed it” regularly by adding water and flour. This is because during the fermentation the bacteria and yeasts will “eat” and use the nutrients in the dough and need more to keep the process going. If you feed them regularly, you will get a nice starter within days, depending on the temperature and the grade of activity of the bacteria it could take about 5 to 8 days to get it started.

Once your starter is ready, you can bake right away or you can put it in the refrigerator and take it out just before you want to bake. In order to keep your starter fit, you will have to feed it regularly with water and flour.

A young starter should be fed about once a week, older ones are more stable and can be fed at longer intervals (about every 10 days). Keep in mind that if you want to bake you will have to feed your starter first in order to activate the microorganisms.


Wheat sourdough
Wholemeal wheat sourdough. Photo: M. Sartori/ATZ Welzow


DIY SOURDOUGH STARTER


What do you need:

- 2 jam jars with lid (rather high than wide, because the sourdough needs to “climb”)

- 1 spoon

- rubber bands (to keep track if the dough rises)

- Scale or measuring cups

- 250 g flour (depending on the flour type that you decide to use, your dough may have a different texture from the video)

- 250 g water


Process:

1. Mix in one jar 20 g water with 20 g flour and let it rest at room temperature (lid should just be placed on but without closing hermetically) for 12 hours

2. Add 20 g water and 20 g flour and let it rest at room temperature (lid should just be placed on but without closing hermetically) for another 12 hours

3. Add again 20 g water and 20 g flour and let it rest at room temperature (lid should just be placed on but without closing hermetically) for another 12 hours

4. Take 20 g of starter and put it in the second jar, add 20 g water and 20 g flour and let it rest at room temperature (lid should just be placed on but without closing hermetically) for another 12 hours. Discard the dough from the first jar and make sure that the jar will be cleaned thoroughly with hot water

5. Repeat point 4. Every 12 hours until the sourdough doubles its volume within 5 to 6 hours from the feeding.

6. After about 5 to 8 days it should be done!!




Bad things that can happen that aren´t actually bad:

- The sourdough smells bad. You will probably have to get used to the smell of the dough. Generally, the dough is good unless it molds or turns black

- There is a darker liquid on top of my dough. It is not a bad sign. Probably the dough is too "wet" or that it hasnt´t been stirred homogenously so that excessing water is starting to collect just on top of the dough. You can just discard the liquid and go on with the feding / baking.

- It starts very well but “collapses” on the third or fourth day. It´s very common. The microorganisms are fighting and trying to establish within your dough. Give them time and keep feeding them regularly every 12 hours.


AND NOW WHAT? What can I do with my sourdough starter?


Sourdough is really an allrounder! The starter can be used in almost all recipes that require the use of a leavening agent and beyond that. The most common use is to bake bread out of it. You can also use it to bake pizza and focaccias but also for sweet recipes such as cakes, cookies, pancakes or croissants.

If you fed your starter but don´t feel like baking, you can use the discards to make fluffy scrambled eggs or adding it to the filling of a vegetable quiche.

The good thing of sourdough is that it is a Zero Waste all-natural product. For all of you who have a composter, you can add your sourdough starter to the composting pile. The living microorganism contained in the dough will positively contribute to the rotting process.


So what are you waiting for? Start your sourdough now!


If you want to share your sourdough journey and connect with the "Year On The Field" community on the social media, please use the hashtag #yearonthefield




Maddalena Sartori

ATZ Welzow

sartori@atz-welzow.de