A thought occurred to me the other day about how keeping the sourdough starter is a litmus test to review the ‘(wo)man in the mirror’.
When too overwhelmed with daily life & don’t have the space in your mind to mind the starter? It will let you know by becoming sluggish & lacklustre. When the tiny extra work of feeding it is regarded as a burden? Without doubt it will separate. It is clearly no longer a joyous celebration of life, and admit it, your enthusiasm for creativity probably deserves a good kick up the backside. When that cumbersome jar taking up space at the back of your fridge is staring back at you with absent hope whenever you open the fridge door? It is a symbol telling you to get back in to the slow and steady rhythm of life. It’s time to get back in to control. Now…, if your life is idilic enough to bake a loaf from scratch every-single-weekend, you will never have this problem because it will always be refreshed and happily active. If that’s you, wow-za mamma, aren’t you in a good place in life. I’m genuinely pea-green with envy.
Because y’see, I’m not a frequent a baker. I’m also a very forgetful person and my life is hectic. I keep my relationship with my starter at casual affair status. – Ha! Who knew I was the commitment-phobe type? Lol.
Consequently, you’ll find me forever trying to ‘revive’ the creature back to life by doing the emergency maintenance do-over. Good thing that the rye starter is surprisingly resilient despite a month+ of no feeding yet rise back to life after the emergency op. (Apparently that’s because whole grains contain more nutrients and sourdough-friendly microorganisms than plain flour.)
Yet, despite the fact that I will forget to feed it as often as I should, I do love keeping the starter. I think that to be able to play God to the microcosm of yeast and bacteria is a (kitchen) wonder to behold. Plus its mind boggling to think that you’re engaging in the same technique used by the ancient people of Egypt 5000 years ago. That is pretty awesome.
So I try again and again. So many ‘revivals’ I have done, I lost count. Commend me please though, for I try to be a good girl that I want to be. I so want to subscribe to the blissful idylics, and brag “Oh yahhh, I’ve had my starter for like 50 years and it’s still going. It’s jolly well easy peasy.”
Ah, so anyways, give the following recipe a go. It really does create a robust and resilient starter, even for a person like me. LOL. It doesn’t seem to never completely die. In case you are the forgetful type like me, I will also include the steps on how to revive it! (Very simple.)
And also give it a name. You’ll want to, I promise. The tan coloured living gunk is so dependant on you, it’s so… well, cute in a way! t xx PS: I am on my second gen. I named my two Monica and Erica, in that order. (Monica went down the drains when I couldn’t look after it anymore during cancer treatment.) Do you know your pop songs I wonder? I’ll give 210 fictitious points to anyone who’ve guessed which song these names came from. Hint, there are eight more names in that song. – Long live Erica!! 🙂 🙂
RECIPE FOR A TRADITIONAL RYE STARTER
A 100% hydration starter (same amount of water to flour).
A bag of rye flour, mineral water and a week’s patience.
- DAY 1: Get yourself a large container.
My preference is a 1 litre transparent glass mason jar so that I can see the bubbling action. It’s wide-mouthed so it’s easier to stir and take out. – It may seem big now but as you can see in the last picture, the tiny amount of starter grows to atleast 5 times by the end!
- Using a kitchen scale, pour 100ml room temperature mineral water and 100g of rye flour in to your jar.
Be precise with the measurement by using the electronic kitchen scale. i.e.: don’t use cups to measure. Also, don’t use tap water. It’s treated with chlorine and it can inhibit the growth of the yeast in the stater.
- Mix it with a spatula or any tool that is not metal.
Sour acids in the dough reacts badly with metal, and discolour and/ or give off-taste. Plus the metal might react with the organisms and kill them off. Horror scenario…! – My personal recommendation is using one wooden chopstick, simply because it’s super-thin and has less surface for the sticky dough to cling on to, hence less wastage. Some say use your finger to stir because it has wild yeast & bacteria on it too, but nah, I dunno…, maybe it’s just me but I don’t like the idea of finger bacteria growing day-in day-out in my dough thanks…!
- Leave this on the kitchen counter, *loosely* covered with a clean kitchen towel.
It’s important to let it breath. Let it have a circulation of air to harness the wild yeast spores and bacteria in the air, because that’s the stuff to help it ferment and leaven.
Find a warm part of the kitchen to place the container. The starter actively grows at room temperature of around 20 degrees centigrade.
- DAY 2 TO 5: Stir daily.
During this time, natural yeast from the air, as well as on the flour are trapped. They begin to feed on the flour (aka food for them) to create a yeasty colony.
- DAY 6: Leave 75g of starter and discard the rest. Then mix in 150ml of water and 150g rye flour. (a 1:2:2 ratio.) Cover the jar loosely and rest in room temperature.
By this point, the starter is ravenous for food. By discarding some of it, you will have less ‘hungry mouths’ to feed/ nourish with the new flour and water. – Plus, the starter can become really sour, so reducing it reduces the sourness!
- DAY 7: The starter is ready to use!
If you followed my recipe, you should have 375g of starter! A typical sourdough bread recipe can call for up to 300g of starter, so even considering how we ought to leave a quarter behind, this should be plenty to start.
There are two ways to store this; Either keep it out at room temperature, or keep it in the refrigerator. In both instances, cover it but not airtight. Feed it the 1:1:1 ratio of starter, water, flour, twice a day if out in room temperature, or once a week if refrigerated. We’d want a manageable size starter that is not too large that it uses lots of flour to feed, so take a small amount like 40g of starter, discard the rest, then mix in 40g of water and 40g of flour (any amount is okay). And then when you want to use it to bake bread, take it out of the fridge (if it was in), feed it several times with equal amounts of water and flour until the amount you need + a quarter to keep behind.
I store my starter in a clip-top glass jar like the one in the picture MINUS the rubber ring, which seems to do the trick.
TO REVIVE IT AFTER BEING FORGOTTEN IN THE FRIDGE:
1. Take it out of the fridge.
2. Throw away most of it, but leave a small amount like 40g.
Tip: Smell it. If it smells okay, keep it. If it smells off like a vomit, throw away. – If it has separated, just stir the liquid back in. – If there is mould…, either throw the whole thing away, or take your chances by scraping off the mould like it never occurred.
3. Feed it the 1:2:2 ratio of starter, water, flour, twice a day in room temperature. 3a. Cross your fingers.
4. After several days it should be back to its active self.
Tip: Keep discarding some away as you go along, otherwise you’d be using up a lot of flour to feed it.
5. Put back in fridge. And remember to feed it weekly! 🙂
(Above pic: This is what it looks like on the fourth day. The flour-y texture has turned to a ‘goo’, and you can see tiny air bubbles.)
(Above pic: And this is the final product! Big bubbles!! The amount has quadrupled compared to Day 1! Hooray! – Now you can go on to baking sourdough bread!)
(Above pic: This is the Scandinavian rye bread I made with this starter!)