Since my post on sourdough bread vs. yeasted bread, I have gotten more questions regarding sourdough. While I am certainly not an sourdough expert and learning along with everyone else, I do have some great resources from which I wanted to share. For anyone out there who is an sourdough expert, I value your comments and/or corrections! 🙂
The most common question is about sourdough starters, how to make them, what not to put in them, and what they are anyway! I will be taking a lot of this information from the book, Classic Sourdoughs, by Ed Wood. I have found this book useful in getting good information about sourdough, and I am excited to try some of his recipes.
What is a sourdough starter?
A sourdough starter is basically flour and water left out that accumulates wild yeast from the air as well as beneficial bacteria. . This starter is “fed” flour and water as that wild yeast continues to grow until is has enough wild yeast power to rise a loaf of bread This wild yeast produces the rise, the beneficial bacteria, the flavor. For more on the difference between wild yeast and commercial yeast, read this post.
Can I add a bit of commercial yeast to my starter?
“….you should never use baker’s yeast either in your sourdough culture or in the recipe of your sourdough bread. The addition of baker’s yeast to a culture may overwhelm the wild yeast and destroy the culture. In addition, you risk the introduction of bacteriophage, or virus, to which the commercial cells are immune, but that may kill wild yeast. Plus if you leaven your dough with baker’s yeast, the open texture characteristic of sourdough may disappear. “Ed Wood
Can I use milk products in my starter?
First, milk often contains antibiotics or trace amounts of disinfectants which will kill good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. This could wreck havoc in your starter. I have read that if that milk has any type of bad bacteria in it, it can start breeding in your starter. Also bad news! So keep that in mind if you consider doing it. Though I do know that in the past they would add scrapes of biscuits and such into their starter to keep it going! But they may have had purer sources of food, then.
Why do different sourdough starters taste differently?
Because wild yeast are different in different areas of the world, sourdough starters can widely vary in how they taste and rise.
Should I put honey in my starter?
The reason some put honey in their starter is so give the yeast something more to eat off of. The problem with this, according to Sally Fallon, is that it encourages yeast instead of lactic-acid producing bacteria which would give you an alcoholic fermentation (not what you are looking for).
What if I don’t want to make my own?
I have the New England starter from Fermented Treasures, and I really like it. They have several other starters as well. Ed Wood also has many, many starters from around the world for sell, here. If you plan on making sourdough products often, I definitely think that these products are worth the money. It insures that you have a viable starter, and gives you a taste of history when you think that some of these starters were started so long ago!
How do I make my own?
Now there are hundreds of different recipes for making sourdough starters. I bought one of my starters, and the other was started by a friend. I don’t like to put recipes on my site that I have not tested, so I am not going to put one on now. (I have considered starting one and taking pictures of the process, but haven’t decided whether I really need three starters!) But I do have a few tips when looking at different recipes. My inclination would be to do a recipe that doesn’t require a lot of special ingredients. Flour and water recipes are what mine are made off, and that’s probably what I would look for as well. Nourishing Traditions has a recipe you could try and there are some great recipes in sourdough books. Look for one that doesn’t have yeast, milk, honey or other additions to the recipe.
This post is part of Kitchen tip Tuesday!