In human years, my starter culture has pushed steadily through its formative years, having enjoyed its first steps, words and growth spurts and battled through a volatile character-building adolescence. Here are just a few simple steps on how to create your very own one and start baking with it yourself.
White bread flour
(Jar of starter culture)
Steps to get started
- Find a medium sized jar (mason jars work excellently)
- Add 50g warm water & 50g flour (flour is 50% white, wholemeal)
- Leave on the side and cover with a cloth
- Check at 12 hour intervals to see if there are some bubbles forming and the volume’s risen, when there are you can give it your first feed. Mine took four days to rise sufficiently so you’ll need to be patient.
It’s better that you watch and react to how the culture is developing rather than paying attention to specific timeframes as you would with a normal recipe. The reason for this is that you could be in a much warmer and more humid atmosphere than I get in the meek and mild weather systems of the UK. You would then be working with a much more accelerated schedule.
Steps to feed
- Pour away any excess liquid that’s formed on top
- Add 1:1 water:flour (flour is 50% white, wholemeal)
- Mix until consistent throughout
And that’s it.
In terms of the required intervals for feeding it just depends whether you’re baking the next day or later in the month in the year. If I’m baking anything longer than at a three day interval then I’d whack it in the fridge.
The magic of the refrigerated starter culture is that the bacteria (lactobacillus) cultivates a slightly different type of acid at lower temperatures. This has a slightly different flavour and due to the longer fermentation period creates a more intense sourdough experience; the very same one that I pride the playerbakes brand on.
Personally, I’ve found wholemeal and white bread flour give me all the results that I need for my loaves. You can and could experiment with other flowers, but personally if I want it sourer, I simply increase the ratio of wholemeal flour to white bread flour.
Death and coming back from it
Your starter culture will wait for no one. If after a good long time off, whether on holiday or you’ve just had enough of baking anymore (something I could never understand), it looks like the bacteria you once relied on for beautiful, delicious loaves is done for and has done for the past six months. The beauty of having a living culture is that they are actually very resilient and can still be revived after some time. Try feeding it, be patient and you might just be able to bring it back.