Ease yourself into Bread Making by making your own sourdough starter!
As with jam making, these bread tutorials are meant to get you making different kinds of bread reliably, and in a way that can fit into your life. It’s all about practising and understanding how and when to make bread so that you have a constant supply, and how to read the dough (and finished breads) to see where you might need to adjust things for your specific needs, environment and habits. I’ve chosen these breads because they are what we use the most, but, as Kat Goldin says, ‘the best bread is the one you actually bake’, so your mileage may vary and our breads may not actually be the breads you end up making – but I’m hoping that the practice of making them regularly will get you thinking about how bread fits into your life, and what kinds you’ll enjoy making.
There is a lot of mystery when it comes to sourdoughs, and making sourdough bread has become a fashion thing. Every starter recipe you look up seems slightly different, so I’m sharing what is working for us, and a few thoughts on what to do if it doesn’t work. As ever, please feel free to message or ask questions in the comments below.
We keep our sourdough in flip-top kilner jars on the kitchen counter. Our kitchen is draughty, and where they normally sit it’s about 18C. If your kitchen is warmer or colder your starter will behave differently – warmer will make it livelier, and colder quieter. We feed it the day before we bake, and because we bake regularly this sustains our starters well. I say ‘starters’, plural, because we have a white and a wholemeal one. We use the wholemeal one more regularly and the white one about once a week – when not in use they sit on the counter until we feed them again, and they seem happy with this and always respond well to being fed.
Once a day add 100g bread flour and 100g lukewarm water to your jar. Mix with a spoon, close the lid, and leave to do its thing. Do this for several days – 5-7, depending on the size of your jar – and by the end of that period your starter should be nice and bubbly. It’ll be ready to bake with then, so if you’d like to start baking bread with us next week then now is an excellent time to set up your starter. It is up to you whether you use white or wholemeal flour, but the bread we’ll be making next uses white, so it might be an idea to use that for your starter, too. Each loaf of that will take 350g of flour, so a 1kg pack should just about do your starter and the first loaf.
If your starter is not showing any signs of bubbling I’d suggest trying out two things: 1. move it to a warmer location; 2. leave the lid open for a day. Possibly while say in a bowl in case it gets carried away and explodes all over your counter!