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Friday, 28 November 2008

Sourdough Starter - alternative to buying yeast

I've been making bread now for over a year without having to buy yeast. According to Milehimama, it costs about 9 cents for two loaves. I usually make three loaves a week so over a year that would cost about $7. In England, the same quantity of yeast would cost me 17p for two loaves which would work out at around £13.

Instead of buying yeast, I use sourdough starter which makes use of naturally occurring yeasts.

It is very simple to make: Place a cup each of wholemeal flour and water in a large bowl (or jug), stir, cover with a tea towel and leave to stand overnight. Each day for around a week, add equal amounts of flour and water, stir, cover and leave overnight again. (I think my book suggested one or two cups a day but I only did half cups as I didn't want too much starter.) After a while it will start to get frothy and smell a little "beery". It will hopefully look something like this:

After a week to ten days, if your starter has become frothy then it is ready to use.

To make a 2lb loaf, I use two cups of starter, half a cup of water, a pinch of salt and around 1lb flour. I mix the first three ingredients together before adding flour. I keep adding flour until the dough seems about right. How much flour you need will depend on your starter so if you need a lot of flour and your loaf is too big for the pan, reduce (or even cut out) the additional water. If you find your loaf is on the small side then add extra water. After putting into tins and leaving to rise overnight, I bake the bread at GM4 for 1 to 1 1/4 hours before turning out to cool.

Once you have used your sourdough starter, you no longer need to keep it at room temperature. (You can if you want but if so, you must remember to stir it every day otherwise it will go mouldy.) I usually transfer it into a new container and top it up with 1-2 cups each of flour and water before putting it in the fridge. Either on the morning of the day I want to use it or the night before I get it out and add more flour and water to help bet it going again and to ensure there is enough of it for the next use. You may be able to use it straight out of the fridge but I find I get leaden loaves if I do this. I keep my starter in a jug with a plate over the top. This allows it to "breathe" and also enables me to see exactly how much of it I have.


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