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Frequently asked questions about Sourdough Starter Cultures

Frequently asked questions about Sourdough Starter Cultures


What is a Sourdough starter?

A sourdough starter is an active colony of wild yeast and good bacteria cultivated by combining flour and water and allowing it to ferment. By feeding it continually and keeping it in happy conditions (more on that below) you will have a reliable “natural yeast” culture that can be used to leaven (raise) breads and pastries of all kinds.

Why is Sourdough bread good for me?

Sourdough bread contains higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than other breads. It also contains lower levels of phytate and therefore allows your body to absorb the nutrients it contains more easily than those in regular bread.

Many people report that sourdough bread has a better aroma, flavor, and texture than bread made using baker’s yeast. All things considered, you may want to give sourdough bread a try.

You can make sourdough bread from virtually any type of flour. For the most benefits, choose a sourdough bread made from whole grains over one made from refined grains whenever possible.

How is it shipped to me?

Your starter is sent via Royal Mail large letter – fits through a normal letterbox. It’s in a reinforced cardboard case, and inside a food grade poly bag.

We also send instructions of how to grow and maintain your starter, along with some recipes to get you on your sourdough making journey.

Can I freeze my sourdough starter?

You can and we always suggest making a backup starter to keep in the freezer. Sourdough freezes very well and revives quickly once defrosted.

I haven’t fed my starter for ages. How do I bring it back to life?

If your sourdough starter sits in the refrigerator for too long between feedings, it will develop a thick layer of liquid on top, and will be sluggish (not produce many bubbles).

If this happens, stir the liquid back into the starter and discard all but 113g (about 1/2 cup). Feed with 113g (1/2 cup) water and 113g (1 scant cup) flour. If the starter is still alive, it will begin to bubble after a few hours. Once this happens, measure out 113g and feed once again with 113g each water and flour. If the starter becomes bubbly and expanded within 12 hours, it’s ready for one final feeding before use, or to be put back in the refrigerator for storage.

What equipment do I need to make sourdough at home?

You don’t need allot – but here is a list of the essential equipment that you need to make sourdough at home.

  • A fridge if you want to bake retarded loaves.
  • A pot with a lid – not a glass jar and definitely not one that is airtight for your starter.  Preferably 2 as it makes cleaning easier as you can soak one jar and refresh into the other.
  • Scales.
  • Wooden spoon – or use your hands.
  • Tea towels  – essential. I use a wet one on the dough to stop a skin from forming during autolyse and bulking
  • A large bowl – you could mix on the table – but it is messy.
  • A dough scraper – is essential.
  • A balloon whisk to get hit in (optional).
  • A lame.
  • 2 x 1kg lined bannetons OR a length of 40cm of couche (or heavy-duty cotton tea towels well dusted with flour in colanders if you need to keep costs down).
  • A La Cloche Baking Dome or a Dutch oven to keep in the steam and bake evenly.
  • A rack to put the bread on to cool  – or it will get a soggy bottom.
  • A breadboard.
  • A bread knife. Trust me you want a robust knife.
  • A bread bag or pillowcase to store your bread in.
My sourdough is watery! What should I do?

We recommend a 50/50 hydration method for our sourdough starters using pain flour. This equates to a very thin, liquid starter that does not rise much in the jar.

A rising starter will often spill out of the jar making a mess of its surroundings.

Long term the 50/50 hydration method makes starter maintenance much simpler.

How do I store my sourdough culture?

If you’re not baking every week and don’t want to feed your starter every day, you can keep it in the fridge. It is best to feed your sourdough every week. Even if you feed it and then return it back to the fridge without using it. If you forget to feed the sourdough in the fridge, don’t panic.

The low temperature of the fridge will make your starter inactive, generally up to 6 months.

Can I feed my sourdough starter a different type of flour?

Technically, you can use any type of flour with our sourdough starters. However, we have what are known as heirloom varieties of sourdough.

This means that for generations they have only ever been fed with a specific type of flour. When you introduce a new type of flour, you also introduce different types of naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria specific to that type of flour.

This changes the original profile of the original sourdough and that process can never be undone

Why are some sourdoughs more sour?

The flavour of your bread is more dependent on your bread recipe than the flavour of your starter. Simply put, the longer your bread rises (up to a point), the richer its flavour will be.

And, the temperature at which your loaf rises makes a difference. The wild yeast in sourdough produces both acetic and lactic acids as it consumes the starch and sugars in bread dough. When the dough is refrigerated, the yeast tends to produce more acetic acid than lactic acid. Since acetic acid is quite sour (think vinegar), bread dough that rises in the refrigerator overnight will tend to produce a more sour loaf than dough that rises for several hours at room temperature.

Anything else you would like to know?

We are always here to help. Either contact us using our contact page, live chat or email – info@sourdoughbythesea.co.uk.

We’d love to hear from you!

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