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Have you ever wondered what makes bread rise? If you’ve made bread before, you’ll know it’s the yeast you’ve added to the dough that makes it rise. But to make an authentic sourdough loaf, you’ll need to create your own yeast by way of a natural fermentation process. Wild fermentation involves the culture and growth of naturally occurring fungi or yeasts that live in the air around us. Sourdough starter is the thing which begins and feeds the fermentation process in dough - the starter is what’s going to make your bread rise and give it its own unique sourdough taste and flavour.
This recipe uses three different types of flour to make the starter but really, you can use any flour to achieve the same result. The use of these flours help accelerate the fermentation process because they maintain high levels of naturally occurring bacterial spores and yeasts as they are not as processed as white flour.
To get the recipe for the River Cottage Sourdough, click here!... Read more.
In a bowl combine the flours.
Add enough water to give it the consistency of a thick batter and whisk well.
Once it’s been mixed cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to ferment in a warm spot; a bench next to a sunlit window or near the oven would be fine. You should see tiny bubbles on the mix after the first day – this will indicate the beginning of the fermentation process.
Every day, over the next 7 days, remove and discard half the starter and keep adding half a cup of flour and enough water to retain its thick consistency. After 7 days (though it may take up to 10 depending on the flour you are using and the conditions in which you keep your starter), you should have a mix that smells sweet and yeasty. You are ready to start making your bread.
To make your bread, you will only need a ladle full or so of the starter, so you’ll need to find a place to keep it, and remember to keep feeding it by removing half the dough and adding extra flour water (as described above). If you are keeping your starter out of the fridge you will need to do this ever day or so. If you decide to keep it in the fridge, you can get away with feeding it once a week as the cold conditions keep the flora in the starter dormant.
Treat your sourdough starter right and feed it properly, and you can have good bread for years to come.
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