Some people say a true sourdough starter, such as this one, is made simply by exposing flour and water to the microorganisms in the air and in the flour, either outside or inside the house. Others say you must acidify the starter with juice or vinegar to encourage the sour-loving yeast. And yet others say you can start with commercial yeast and let it sour by leaving it out a few days. The one thing everyone agrees on is that a sourdough culture takes time.
Sourdough takes a very important place in the hearts and minds of Germans. Rye bread in Germany and Austria is made with sourdough, as well as some mixed-flour breads ("Mischbrote"). Sourdough breads do not go stale as fast as non-soured breads and some people think that they are better for the digestion. Particularly rye flour benefits from a low pH which inhibits enzymes that tend to make the bread gummy. To make German bread at home, you will want to try your hand with a sourdough starter.
- 2 cups all-purpose white flour or whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups unchlorinated water (let water sit for 24 hours or use bottled water)
- Mix 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water in a 2-quart bowl, stirring well to incorporate air. Cover with a layer of cheesecloth to keep the bugs out and place in a spot of your choosing, either inside or outside. Stir twice a day. When bubbles form in 2 or 3 days, start feeding your new culture.
- Add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup unchlorinated water and stir. Add a little more water, if necessary, to have the same consistency you started with.
- Repeat feeding twice a day for several successive days. You may want to divide or throw away part of the culture. Keep at least 2 cups and feed with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.
- The starter is active when 1 to 2 inches of foam develop on the top within 12 hours of feeding. You may then refrigerate it.
- If the starter begins to have any off-odors or mold growing on top, you will have to throw it out and start over.
Feeding a Culture
- If you use part of the culture, feed it by adding 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup water to the leftover culture. Let it sit 1 hour at room temperature, then refrigerate.
- If you do not use the culture, you should still feed it. If the culture is unrefrigerated, you must feed it once a day.
- If the culture is refrigerated, feed it once a week. If you neglect it for several weeks, the culture might die.