Creating Sourdough from Scratch

Sourdough bread begins with a starter which is sometimes called a mother. It is made from a flour and water mixture that is curated to absorb natural yeasts and ferment. An active starter is used instead of dried or fresh yeast in sourdough baking.


How to Make a Starter Mother

Begin with a clean jar or container, add one cup of warm water and a cup of wholemeal flour and stir until smooth. Wholemeal flours milled from rye, spelt or wheat grains are ideal for making a starter. Cover with a lid and store at room temperature, about 20-24 degrees centigrade. On top of the fridge also works well.


Feeding the Sourdough Starter

The starter will need to be fed at least every 24 hours, possibly more often in very warm temperatures. Do this by discarding half the mixture and adding half a cup of warm water and half a cup of rye, spelt or wholemeal wheat flour. Re-cover the starter after each feeding and put back into its warm place.

With regular feeds the fermentation process converts the starch in the flour to sugar and the sugar feeds the natural yeasts. Regular flour and water feeds and storage at room temperature are essential to prevent the starter from becoming acidic and dying.

Within 3-4 days, the starter will be actively bubbly. There will be a distinctive, but not unpleasant, sour smell, sort of like a brewery. That means the yeast is working. This process may happen a little sooner, or it may take up to a week. In any case, when it bubbles and smells like this, the starter is ready to use.


Storing the Starter

If you do not use the starter every day, add a flour and water feed, cover and freeze it or put the starter in a cold part of the fridge. When next required, the starter will take 12- 24 hours before it is ready to use for breadmaking. The starter will probably need at least another feed of flour and water to return to its active, bubbly consistency.


Using Starter to Make a Ferment

When some active starter is mixed with some or all of the breadmaking flour and water it is known as the ferment. The ferment is usually given a resting period before proceeding with breadmaking.


Stretching and Folding Sourdough

Like kneading, lifting up and stretching the dough and folding it back down on itself before rotating the bowl and repeating the action helps to develop elasticity of the natural gluten strands in the bread dough.