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Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better for You and How To Start One

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Let’s Start at the Beginning. What Is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a combination of flour, water, wild yeast, and bacteria that live in symbiotic harmony.

Wild yeast is responsible for leavening (rising) dough by producing carbon dioxide.

The bacteria are responsible for souring the dough by producing lactic and/or acetic acid.

The leavening process starts to happen when the wild yeasts break down the sugars in the flour, predigesting it and using it for energy. The sugars in the flour feed the wild yeasts and allow them to multiply.

While the yeast is multiplying it is producing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Carbon dioxide is responsible for making the bread rise.

This “leavening” happens when the carbon dioxide gas is trapped under the network of gluten protein that is produced by mixing flour with water.

The beneficial bacteria in sourdough produce the lactic and acetic acids that give sourdough breads their classic sour flavor.

These beneficial acids also neutralize the nutrient-blocking phytic acid that is naturally found in the hull of all grains.

Lactic Acid Also Breaks Down Gluten

Gluten is a kind of protein found in all wheat grains. It forms long protein strands when mixed with water, thus giving bread the structure it needs to trap the gasses of fermentation.

The hard-to-digest gluten protein is predigested by the lactic acid during fermentation. It is then broken down into easier-to-digest proteins and enzymes while retaining the important structure that gives bread its shape.

Flours that are organically grown and have a higher percentage of bran and husk will have more of their own wild yeasts and bacteria attached to the flour. That is why using a whole organic grain like whole wheat or rye is recommended for starting a starter from scratch. Even so, some wild yeast remains in hulled flours, so it is possible to start a starter with just organic white flour.

Wild yeast and bacteria are everywhere. I mean everywhere! It’s on all organic and wild fruit and veggies and is responsible for the beginnings of fermentation. A fallen fruit in the organic orchard will ferment just the same as a fallen fruit in the jungle.

Yeast really likes sugar, so it can be found in higher concentrations on fruits — think wine grapes with their white yeasty skins. Wild yeasts were responsible for the first alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, and mead and have been utilized for leavening bread for countless centuries.

Wine grapes with natural yeast bloom.

 

Page Guide

Page 1. Intro
Page 2. What Is Sourdough?
Page 3. Bread Terminology
Page 4. Why Eat Sourdough?
Page 5. Tools
Page 6. Starter Recipe
Page 7. Fresh Starter vs. Discard
Page 8. Starter Hydration & Feeding
Page 9. Favorite Recipes
Page 10. Troubleshooting Sourdough
Page 11.  Starter Insurance Policy
Page 12. Using Stale Bread
Page 13. Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss
 

Ila Kaiser

Sunday 5th of December 2021

I am diabetic and wondering how to calculate the carbs and fiber for the sourdough breads. Can you help?

Butter For All

Sunday 12th of December 2021

Hi Ila,

So, unfortunately there is no definite way to calculate carbs for sourdough. The longer the bread ferments, the less carbs it has. As the yeast and bacteria eat up sugars the bread gets more sour. So a really sour sourdough, that has been fermented for 24+ hours will be the best for you. I would personally eat a small amount and then test blood sugar to see how the long-fermented bread affects you.

I hope this is a little help! Take good care!

Courtney

Donna

Monday 15th of November 2021

I’m on day 5 of my rye starter. Day 2 it almost doubled in size! Day 3 almost no activity. Day 4 it hasn’t risen but I can see a few bubbles! Is this normal? Should I continue to do the daily feedings or is this batch a lost cause? Thanks

Butter For All

Monday 22nd of November 2021

Hi Donna!

Don't toss it! This is totally normal. At first the yeast go crazy, then they mellow out as the bacteria get going, over the next few weeks they will balance out and harmonize into a lovely starter! Hope I caught this comment in time!

Best,

Courtney

Jill

Monday 21st of June 2021

Hi, I’ve made your Soft and Sweet Sourdough Milk Bread and can never seem to get a good rise out of it. I’m thinking it’s my proofing length but also how I fold my dough. Could you tell me your method of folding before the first rise? So far I’ve attempted a coil fold, but don’t think it’s working…

Thanks!!

Jill

Butter For All

Thursday 24th of June 2021

Hey Jill,

I typically do stretch and fold in the bowl. I just find that to be my preferred way to develop gluten. You can see me demo it in this video. https://youtu.be/aqYctt7W_N4 It is a different recipe but pretty much the same technique.

Hope this helps!

Courtney

Mia

Friday 26th of March 2021

I’m on day 3 and I started with wheat flour. Can I change to All Purpose Flour starting day 4?

Butter For All

Monday 29th of March 2021

Hi Mia,

Yes, you should be fine, the yeast should already be present from the outside husk of the WW flour. Just keep feeding it!

Rashmi Ingle

Wednesday 24th of March 2021

I live in Switzerland and want to start sourdough. Since the temperatures here are colder, do I need to take extra care to make sure the starter grows well?

Butter For All

Wednesday 24th of March 2021

Hi Rashmi,

That's a great question. I would probably try to keep the starter in a warm area of your kitchen, but you shouldn't need to do a lot of extra babying. Yeast can be trained to perform at cooler temperatures just by feeding the starter and keeping it in the climate you are in, and you want your starter to rise in your cooler temps anyway. I would just use (at least part) a local organic flour to try to capture some of your local yeast strains, they will already be suited for your climate. Once the starter is established in your climate is should work well no matter the flour.

Hope that helps!

Courtney

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