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Welcome: This blog is associated with my web site of the same name - Mum's Cookbook Site.


There is just so much information available online about making your own sourdough that it all becomes confusing after a while.  There is confusion about what defines sourdough and how to make a starter.  Now I'm not saying that some are right and others are wrong, but what I can do here is say what works for me.

Getting a sourdough starter up and running

Producing 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.
There's a couple of theories about how you end up with a sourdough starter.  One is that the flour and water is impregnated with yeast from the atmosphere.  Another is that the yeast is already in your flour and yet another is that you can introduce friendly yeasts by adding yoghurt or fruit (such as grapes) to the mix.  As I don't have a pristine laboratory to test these theories, I can't say which theory is correct.  All I can say is that I eventually produced a viable starter using yoghurt and later on, pineapple juice added to the basic flour and water mix.  It was very much, a trial and error exercise.
I've taken my inspiration from many sites and mention a couple here:
Sourdough Baker
Sourdough Companion - Beginner's Blog

Dehydrating sourdough to store or share

Once 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.