Getting a sourdough starter up and runningProducing an active starter might not be as easy as some people lead you to believe.I struggled for weeks and eventually bought a starter - after it arrived, my own came good too so now I have two. Here's what I found:
- Work with small quantities of flour and water because you will be discarding a lot of your mixes as you go along
- Measure by weight, not by volume - I made the mistake of adding flour and water by volume in my first effort because I misread instructions. It don't work this way folks...
- Air needs to get to your starter but not the creepy crawlies. Cover loosely.
- Don't give up - this process takes time. Some recipes suggest a week or two, but it could take a number of weeks for you to establish a reliable starter.
I've taken my inspiration from many sites and mention a couple here:
Sourdough Companion - Beginner's Blog
Dehydrating sourdough to store or shareOnce you have a successful starter, it is a good idea to dry some as a back-up. You may also want to share some of your starter with others and the simplest way to distribute the starter through the post is in a dried form which doesn't need to be refrigerated and isn't volatile.
You can easily dehydrate a small portion of your sourdough starter. Smear a thin layer of ripe starter onto a sheet of baking paper and let it sit a day or two on a cooling rack until it dries. The cooling rack allows air to circulate and dry the starter more quickly and you'll notice the paper curling as the starter dries. Once it is completely dry, peel the starter from the paper and break it into small flakes. Store the flakes in a zip lock bag or a screw top jar in the pantry, fridge or freezer.
To reconstitute, put about a tablespoon of flakes into a glass jar that will hold about 500ml. Stir in a tablespoon of lukewarm water and form a paste. Gradually mix in 100gm lukewarm water, and 100gm of bread flour - the mix will have the consistency of pancake batter. Cover the jar loosely with it's lid or a piece of muslin and put in a warm spot, no warmer than 30C. After about 12 hours, you should have some activity with an increase in volume and bubbles on the surface. If there's nothing after 36 hours, then the dehydration wasn't successful.
You can start dividing and feeding your successful starter every 6 to 12 hours until your mixture doubles after feeding and you have a starter ready for baking.