Lately, I’ve been involved in various discussions about how to set up a sourdough starter. Now it may just be that I’m lazy but most of the starter recipes I’ve come across seem to be a bit of a faff. Nigel Slater, using a recipe from Dan Lepard, covered his kitchen in a mix of yoghurt, currants and lord knows what else. Paul Hollywood’s starter uses grapes (or, apparently, in one version, apples).
I know they include these items because they carry natural yeasts to help get the starter going but a) I’m lazy, and b) I am disinclined to believe the average peasant kitchen was filled with such things. Which is why I like the recipe I’m about to give you.
It’s from Enjoli Liston and was published in The Independent on 16/4/2009. It’s very simple and straightforward. I lost my first starter created from this after a year, thanks to an incident involving some mould, but the second one has been going happily for four years. It sits quietly on the bench in a kilner jar until I wake it up; it takes a couple of days to wake up but after that, with regular dividing/feeding, it is quite lively, and responds well to being built up, ready for baking.
It needs a warm room, somewhere between 20C and 30C (or summer).
Clean a large glass jar and spoon with boiling water (I just run things through the dishwasher).
Add 50 ml water (I use filtered water as our water is really hard), 35g white flour, 15g rye flour to jar, stir and leave for 24 hours.
Cover if you like, but I left the lid ajar (and indeed do so when I’m reactivating the starter).
Days Two and Three
Add same quantities of flour and water
Throw away most of the mixture, leaving about a tablespoon of starter in the jar. Add 100ml of water, 70g white flour, 30g rye flour, stir and leave for 24 hours.
The starter should have increased in volume by about a third, and bubbles will be evident. Repeat steps for Day Four.
Repeat steps for Day Four daily. When mixture doubles in volume, has surface froth and plenty of bubbles after being left for the 24-hour period, it is ready to use for baking.
When I reactivate the starter I tend to throw half away, add the usual quantities of flour and water to get it going, and then in the next couple of days double the quantities to bulk up the starter ready for baking. I’m not a scientific sourdough baker but it seems to work.
Top tips: use rye flour as part of the mix. It really does make a difference. Use a wooden or plastic spoon