Sourdough bread baking is essentially yeast-free baking. I should say commercially manufactured yeast since the sourdough starter has wild yeast in it. Did I just write “Wild yeast”? Yes, wild yeast is present in grains, in the air, on your skin kefir grains.
To have a sourdough starter, you don’t have to buy one. It is tempting to buy an old starter online — there are sites selling 100-year old starter! But making your own is easier and just as good. I like the idea of being able to pass my starter on to friends and family — making my own tradition, as it were. My starter only lacks 97 years and it will be a hundred.
To make a sourdough starter here’s what you need: a ceramic bowl, a towel, flour, water and patience.
That’s it. Done.
Here’s the fine print: Take the ceramic bowl (the little Lactobacilli don’t like metal at all) and add a cup of flour. Make sure it is unbleached flour. And by flour I mean regular (white) wheat flour. I like to use a mixture of unbleached flour and rye flour. The majority of the mix is wheat flour with maybe a fourth of it being rye. Then add a cup of warm water. Mix it together, cover it with a towel and let it sit for two days on the counter. At the end of the two days, peek a look. It should be bubbly and smell a little sour. Add a quarter cup of flour and a quarter cup of warm water and stir it up.
Do this every day for a week. At the end of the week you should have a starter that can rise bread. In other words, you have captured and tamed some wild yeast! If you leave your starter out, you will need to feed it every day. It will grow, so use just the quarter cup measuring cup and each week, you’ll probably have to toss some of the starter. This perfectly normal — unless you bake everyday you will not be able to use all the starter that you are producing.