A while back ago , i bought Peter Reinhart’s bread book , it has how to step by step to grow seed for sourdough starter . I was always tempted to try it , but at the time i thought such it was such a hassle to make the seed culture aka starter .
What is actually seed culture anyway ? Well , it is a mix between flour and water and when you let it sit for a day in room temperature , ideally about 70-80 F , it will eventually grow into seed ( starter ) , where you will turn this mixture when it’s totally developed , into a mother starter , the boss or you can even name it , i named mine Ben & Jerry . This starter is basically a natural yeast to make your bread dough . You don’t depend on commercial yeast anymore if you choose to use starter in bread making .
So , years later i still wasn’t tempted to make the starter , though my journey with bread baking has been awesome , i’ve learned a lot , from someone who didn’t even know how to cook or bake , now i think i can say that i am a good bread baker . I don’t need a machine to help me making bread , in fact i don’t care for bread machine , how about standing mixer ? It’s always nice , but nowadays i always opt to use my own hand to knead my dough . There’s special feeling about the correct stickiness about the dough , where with the machine , you run a risk adding too much flour and therefore you end up with drier bread . But of course if the dough needed to be kneaded for 20 minutes i will be happily use the mixer to help me out . I am not that crazy .. LOL
Anyway let’s get back to starter for sourdough . I don’t know what got me into this , i am always up for trying something new , not that commercial yeast is bad , no not at all . They give me a good flavor bread , and i have no problem using it . But .. i wanted to take my bread baking to the next level , and that’s how i ended up here . So .. here we go .
Ironically , i did not follow Peter Reinhart’s recipe to grow the starter , i followed this www.wildyeastblog.com instruction for making starter . During the first day , i mix the water and rye flour and all purpose flour . 100 grams water ( about 80 F ) + 50 grams rye flour + 50 grams all purpose flour
This is how it looked like on 1st day , right after i mixed it . Didn’t look too good but hey what can you expect it’s only water and flour mixed . LOL
I let it sit for a day , I mixed them exactly at 6 am , the next morning i had no clue what i was getting myself into . 24 hours later I woke up , happily i saw the mixture has bubbles on top , as i opened the lid of my container …..well i almost died ! To put it mildly , unpleasant odor is such an understatement . When you woke up at 6 am , and excitedly rushing to check what’s going on , i personally didn’t expect to be welcomed by such a horrible , horrendous smell as soon as i opened the lid . It was so bad , the type that you can’t get out of your head , i mean it , literally it was stuck in my head , the smell almost like baby’s barf , or even worse . I don’t know how to explain this . Later on i found out the smell , is because i used Rye flour in the mixture , which is a strong flour . I am not sure if you only use all purpose or bread , if you’d end up with the same experience like me .
So here is 24 hours after the day 1 mixing ..
This is Day 2 in the morning before feeding
Patiently , i discarded 25 grams of the mixture , leaving 75 grams in the container , and mixed 25 grams of rye , 50 grams all purpose flour and 75 grams water , to feed the bacteria ( that is what i am trying to grow ) . TO my understanding , the bad smell was from the bad bacteria ( also the fact i used rye .. strong flour ) which eventually will be beaten by the good bacteria ( the good smelling .. alcohol smell .. ) I covered it back up and let it sit in warmer area . Speaking about warm area , my house indoor temp during winter is 68 F , we live in Texas btw , so it doesn’t get very cold here , i still put it in the oven with light on because we do like temperature cooler in the house . We don’t always turn the heater on too when it gets down to 30’s and 40’s at night . So we thought oven with light on was a good place for them to grow .
12 hours later … yes not 24 hours anymore but 12 hours , so 6 pm .
Day 2 evening feeding . This is how it looked like on day 2 before feeding , again took out half of it and throw it away ( if you had 150 grams , discard 75 grams ) , and feed it with equal water and equal mix of Rye and All purpose flour .
It does have bubbles , the smell was still bad , NOT as bad , but still bad .. LOL .. i started to think maybe i shouldn’t do this . The smell of baby barf from growing bacteria and having cinnamon candle on .. i was really hoping that we won’t have any company for the next few days LOL .. Still fed it , rye ,all purpose and water . Same procedure .
12 hours later , 6 am Day 3
The next morning , day 3 , this is how it looked like from the side , all tiny bubbles everywhere . Which is awesome !
From the top , there wasn’t much difference than the night before so i wasn’t sure but after seeing the side , i was feeling positive ..
And the smell was much much better , still not the greatest but much much tolerable !! I fed it again , this time only with white flour and water , i cut the water down a little bit . I still fed it 2 times per day , every 12 hours .
This is Day 5 , the smell was like yeast bread !! There’s no bad smell whatsoever , i had a smile on my face !! I was happy and i knew my seed is growing on the right track . I fed it again every 12 hours . At this time , they doubled in size within 8 hours or less .
Day 6 was this morning , and my seed is looking really good . Since Day 5 i was really thinking what a waste that you had to discard almost half of it , and just used the other half and feeding it . But there’s a good reason for it , because you want to feed the bacteria with enough food .. that’s why you have to discard half of it . And why you shouldn’t use the discard at this stage ? It’s because at this stage the seed is not established quite yet and so you might run the risk of hurting yourself . Basically like why shouldn’t you eat bad chicken even if you end up cooking it . So to be safe , just wait til the starter is established before using the discard for other things .
Anyway , i fed it .. it looks like it’s very active and has a good sweet alcohol smell .
You really do need patience with starter .. as with everything patience is a virtue ! You’re pretty much rewarded with a healthy happy starter after taking care of it for almost a week .
After feeding it this morning at 7 am , i took my son to school bus and i went running . I came home about 8.30 , and my seed has ALREADY doubled in size !! It’s not even 3 hours .. it’s basically 2 hours and they’re doubled already , so i thought GOOD , it’s time to create the levain , or as Peter Reinhart calls it Mother Starter .
( updated April 2020 , i only waited for a week for my starter to be mature .. later on i found out that it’s best to wait til the starter is 14 days old to be used in baking )
Since i have enough starter to experiment , i tried recipe from this lady on bread baking i belong to , hers using regular all purpose flour , i mixed little bit of the starter , with all purpose flour and water . Here’s hers
The second bowl , i used Peter Reinhart’s recipe for mother starter , using bread flour and water .
Now my job is waiting for these levain / mother starters to grow , double in size . Once it’s done doubling in size within 4-8 hours or more , i can use it or store it in the fridge up to 3 -5 days i believe . And according to Reinhart’s book , if i haven’t used it for 5 days i can always revive it .
These levain , or mother starters are supposed to be used in making the dough bread . Normally the recipe would say how much starter you need to make levain .
Now what do i do with the starter ? Ben & Jerry as i named them ?
Well Ben & Jerry are staying in the fridge , and just keeping hanging in there and feeding it weekly . At this point i could use the discard to make other things such as pancakes, waffles , cinnamon swirl bread , or crackers .
updated April 2020 , the first few months i fed my started pretty regular weekly or bi-weekly , as i bake less and less , i feed my starter less and less , sometimes it’s three weeks , i go on longer stretch to 3 months without feeding . You learn as your starter gets stronger ( older ) , they don’t need as much feedings like when they’re only a week old .