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My sourdough starter

I’d like to introduce you to someone who helps me out a lot with my breadmaking – he is a bit shy and doesn’t like having his photo taken. But he is quite bubbly and zesty, and is definitely good at growing! I have named him Fitzwilliam and he is my sourdough starter.

To make sourdough, instead of mixing yeast into the dough while you are making it, you create your own yeast culture by growing and maturing a starter dough of flour and water, which, when left long enough under the right conditions, forms an almost unkillable sourdough starter. Once you have your starter, you then make a sponge (by adding more flour and water to the starter), let that rise overnight, and then go ahead and make your bread like usual.

To make my starter, I generally followed the instructions provided by Just Cook It, appropriately entitled Sourdough for Dummies. Here’s a quick summary of what I did each day:

Day 1: Mix together 50g of bread flour and 50ml of water in a jar. Just Cook It says to ‘pour’ it into a jar but mine was fairly thick and goopy. Leave it out overnight.

Day 2: Remove half the mixture, discard, and add in 25g flour and 25ml water, and a bit of salt. Continue for days 3-5. Leave it in the fridge (this won’t affect the yeast production but will inhibit bacteria growth).

Day 6: Repeat as above but I chose to leave it out overnight to help the fermentation process.

Day 7: Tip the starter into a mixing bowl, and add 180g flour and 120g water, and some salt. Mix together, and cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight in a warm place.

Day 8: You now have your sourdough sponge. Put some of it back in your jar, add equal amounts of flour and water to continue your starter (this only needs feeding every few days now, not every day as before). Use the sourdough sponge to make your sourdough loaf.

Here are some current photos of Fitzwilliam (as at 18 March 2010). He is in his third week of life, and at this stage has had some rye flour added to him as well. As you can see he is quite bubbly, zesty, and he gives off a beery, fermented smell. When he’s mixed with flour and water to create the sponge, he smells like sourdough bread!

He is getting a bit large at this stage, so after I make the sourdough sponge this weekend I will probably use most of him up and not add as much flour and water to keep him going.

I use Fitzwilliam weekly to make our bread for the week. He has been used as the starter/basis for the following types of bread:

This photo of the olive sourdough was taken at a friend’s house during an epic cheese- and breadmaking day. The olive bread is mine but the one underneath was made by my friend. Over time I hope to experiment with Fitzwilliam and make as many forms of delicious sourdough as he will let me!

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