OBTAINING A STARTER
If you are new to sourdough it is recommended that you obtain a proven culture and work with it for a while before attempting to make up your own starter. Here is why:
If you obtain a proven culture, then the starter can help teach you
about the behaviors and characteristics of starters. You will be rewarded
with good bread much earlier in the process than by working with your own
home-grown starter. While it's lots of fun to "catch wild yeast and lactobacilli"
and make up your own starter, you will likely have more fun and less uncertainty
and frustration doing so when you know a little more about working with
Many local bakeries are run by friendly bakers who will share some of their starter.
Mail-order sources (information below).
Some of these are commercial and charge for the starters. There are also some individuals who, for the price of a SASE, will send you some of their dried starter.
Natural foods or gourmet kitchen stores - sometimes they carry packets
of dried starter.
That said, there may come a time, either now or later, when you want to start up your own starter. There are several procedures below outlining methods for starting up new starters. It is a simple procedure to start up a new starter but it will take you about one to two weeks to get a starter stabile enough and mature enough to be ready for baking. (Some instructions say that a starter can be used after 3 or 5 days. Try it if you wish but you will have much better results if you give the starter more time). A good starter should give you good bread to begin with and will continue to improve over time. In my experience it takes six to eight weeks of regular working and baking with a new starter for its flavor to develop well.
Rye Flour Starter
White Flour Starter
Potato Flake Starter
Lastly, I have noticed that many, many sourdough starter recipes that
you will see (on this site, on other sites and in recipe books, including
sourdough recipe books) call for starting the starter with commercial bakers'
yeast. It is my opinion that you do yourself no favors by using yeast to
start up a starter. Here is why: a successful starter is a symbiotic relationship
between so-called "wild" yeast and lactobacilli. Together they create an
acid environment that protects whichever strains become dominant in your
culture, warding off intruding microorganisms. Commercial bakers' yeast
cannot survive in such an environment and does not assist you in attracting
the organisms you need to build a good starter. However, until they completely
die off they compete for food with the microorganisms that you DO want
in your starter, thereby delaying the maturing of a starter into a strong,
healthy state. I know that many, many famous and expert cookbook authors
recommend starting starters with commercial baker's yeast - however it
is not necessary and, in my opinion, results in an inferior starter.
READY FOR MORE INFORMATION?
Now that you have gotten your starter up and going, it is time to explore more sourdough information!
See Starter Maintenance if your starter is ailing or you need more information on maintaining your starter, .
See Sourdough Recipes for some recipes and tips on finding other great sourdough recipes.
See Sourdough Definitions for help
in understanding some sourdough technical terms.
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