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I started sourdough baking after the kind folks at Carl's Friends sent me starter flakes. I am very touched by the generosity of Carl's Friends especially to 'Carlos' whose guidance enabled me to bake sourdough bread successfully.

Shortly after that, I tried my hand at growing a local sourdough starter. The characteristics of the two starters were very different and it was fun to compare breads made with these two starters. Many books perpetuate the belief that the wild yeasts come from the air. Although this may not be discounted, it is more likely that the yeasts are abundantly present in the wheat itself just like yeasts are present on the skin of grapes that result in wine. Once cultivated properly, the wild yeasts and bacteria are sufficient to leaven bread without the addition of commercial yeast. I have never failed to leaven bread with the two cultures that I have.

Starting a culture

Starting a culture is surprisingly easy and while some authors describe the process in very complicated terms, the more practical have said that it is not rocket science. Having grown my own cultures successfully all the time, I have to agree with the latter. The key thing to remember is that yeasts and bacteria are living organisms and cannot survive at extreme temperatures or environments that are contaminated with chemicals. You may wonder what possible chemicals can come into contact with the culture that you are starting but the water from your faucet may be chlorinated to render it safe for drinking.

Natural yeasts are present in the wheat grains used to make flour. Any flour can therefore be used to create a starter. The easiest way to start a culture is to use organic wheat berries available at health food shops and they are inexpensive. I started my wheat berry culture by crushing or bruising the berries. This may expose the starch inside and provide food for the yeasts and bacteria. To avoid the chlorine problem, I used bottled drinking water. Within a day of soaking, you'd be able to see carbon dioxide bubbles in the water. This is a sign of yeast/bacteria activity. After 1 day, a spoonful of flour is thrown in and on the second day, the flour mixture may actually rise. On the third day, the mixture is mostly discarded and 2 oz of water is added into the container and whisked. 2 oz of flour is then stirred in and this process is continued for the next few days. If you find that the mixture can double in 6 hours, you know that it is ready to do its work.

Picture shows bubbly wheat berry culture on the second day. Yellow bits are the wheat berries. Everyday, the culture is discarded, leaving a teaspoon of it in the container. Fresh bottled water is added, whisked and fresh flour is added.

For more information in getting a sourdough culture and on sourdough baking, follow the links below.

Carl Griffith Sourdough Page

Sourdough FAQs

Sourdough Home - An Exploration of Sourdough





This site was last updated 12/21/06