The weather has been very bad here in Germany. We have had rain almost every day for over a month now and I have not been in the garden much because of it. I have been baking a lot of bread lately to keep busy. I have started making my own sourdough cultures for leavening bread naturally with wild yeast. Flour naturally contains traces of wild yeasts. To cultivate those yeasts and have them activate so they can be used to naturally raise bread dough they must be given water, warmth, air and time. It is very easy to make your own sourdough starter at home but the process is somewhat tedious. It’s just flour (organic wheat or rye flours work best) and water (mineral water or well water, not chlorinated water) mixed together and left to ferment. The mixture must be “fed” every 12 hours or so and it takes time to develop a culture (at least a week or two) into a starter that will be strong enough to raise a loaf of bread and give it the complexity of flavor that is so characteristic of a sourdough loaf.
I was inspired by this post on the blog food for my family and I found a decent bread recipe here on the blog Wild Yeast. You can also find tips for maintaining a sourdough starter here. It is a lot of fun and a little like a science experiment once the mixture starts to grow and double in size every 12 hours. I’ve tried different feeding methods but so far I have found that once my mixture was started and growing it responded well to a 1:2:2 ratio of starter to water to flour measured by weight. I have read and have found by trying both weight and volume measurements to perpetuate my starters, that measuring by weight is much more accurate and yields more consistent results. So I recommend a kitchen scale for this project although you can get by with the use of measuring cups. I made a loaf the other day that did not rise much at all and was very sour. So today I used more starter in the same recipe (believe it or not, this will in theory make the loaf taste less sour since a starter will yield more flavor the more time it has to work in the dough and the less starter you use the longer it will take to raise your bread the desired amount so it will have more time to produce a more sour loaf!) and to my surprise I had a wonderful artisan style bread with only mild sourdough overtones. So give it a try if you want an ancient approach to bread making that will yield a loaf of bread worthy of your local, fancy specialty bakery and one that’s really only flour, water and a little bit of starter.