About 1 year ago I started my sourdough culture. Are you thinking: so what? why would anyone want to start a sourdough culture? Well, one good reason is that a big proportion of bread recipes are based on sourdough.
That was basically the reason to start my starter. It was just too frustrating to see all those beautiful sourdough breads and pastries and not being able to give them a try! (if you feel the same way check my Dirty Laundry And Sourdough Starter -updated with cups measurements- and start your own culture, it’s easy!)
So I took advantage of the heat of the summer (if you can call that heat in Sweden) to get a new culture going. I did not really know what I was doing but I happened to succeed and rise a lively (and lovely) sourdough starter which has been with me this whole year, helping in many baking adventures and eventually even travelling with me (crazy? well, at least I paid no ticket for her!).
It was really a long year, during which I learned a lot about sourdough. And not only through books and other websites, but mostly through planned and unplanned experiments. Like when I left the culture on the wrong spot of my pantry (just over the sink light).
Or when I tried glass jars instead of plastic containers…
I have learned that the best you can do is to share the love. Which means, give some of your sourdough away. It is a good test of her strenght (can she survive in different environments?) and gives you a super-power: if by accident something happens to your own starter, you can always take some back from a clone. Which is exactly what I did once – no, my culture did not die, I just threw it in the sink because, oh well, how many things do you want to know? -:)
Clones of my sourdough are now both in Sweden and in Italy and are all doing extremely well, notwithstanding the different climatic conditions, flours, waters, and owners.
HOW I MAINTAIN MY SOURDOUGH
1. I use organic stone-ground flour, possibly bread flour
2. To make sure I will not feel overwhelmed by the feedings, I do not keep several types of sourdough (rye, whole wheat, etc) but only a white wheat one. When I need different starters, I use a tiny bit of my white culture to create them (and keep only for the recipe, without saving a sample)
3. I used to store my culture in the pantry and feed it twice a day. This was stressful and the amount of flour wasted was making me cry. So now I keep it in the fridge, feeding it once every 5-7 days.
4. When I need to use my sourdough I feed double amount of it, put half back in the fridge, and half I leave out, feeding it twice a day for as long as I intend on baking with her. This way, if by accident I have no time for the feedings, the “mamma” will stay safe in the fridge and I will have just wasted some flour.
5. I always keep a 1:1:1 ratio for the starter, the water, and the flour. I tried different ratios, but I think this is the easiest to manage and the most resilient. If I need different proportions in my leaven, I make them time by time, without modifying the basic starter.
6. I do not sift the flour. I used to, but it takes more time and I see that there is no difference really. The bubbles are there anyway.
7. I do not use bottled or filtered water. At least in Sweden, tap water seems totally ok for natural leaven.
8. When I travel for less than 2 weeks I make a lot of culture and leave it in the fridge. She is going to be totally ok. For more than 2 weeks trips I simply pack my “baby” in the suitcase. It is easier than one may think…
9. Once you’ve found out that it can make good bread, I believe it is best to keep your sourdough alive. One should not take for granted that a new culture will make wow stuff. So when you reach the wow factor, just stick to it. I have heard of a woman who kept her sourdough starter alive for over 30 years. Why not, I thought.
10. Make it fun, always. Playing with dough it is really like playing with play-doh…
CONSIDERATIONS: As you may have noticed, I am totally in love with my sourdough starter. So I am really happy wishing her (yes, it is a she!) happy 1-year birthday and wishing she will stay with me for much, much longer… oh… and don’t forget to cuddle her. Cuddled beings are happier and make better bread.
Extemporary mini-loaf made by my 3-year old just mixing ingredients casually.
Note: all the sourdough recipes posted on this blog are made with the same starter.
RIASSUNTO IN ITALIANO (perche’ google translate a volte e’ assurdo): Circa un anno fa ho iniziato la mia coltura di lievito naturale (liquida, come fanno i piu’ al di fuori dell’Italia). Ho cominciato perche’, da poco interessata alla panificazione, era troppo frustrante vedere tutti quei pani e quei dolci fantastici realizzati con il lievito naturale e non poterli fare. Cosi’, senza realmente sapere niente, ho cominciato la mia coltura, e ho avuto fortuna. Da allora il mio lievito natuarale mi ha accompagnato in tante avventure e ha persino viaggiato con me. Ho imparato tante cose, per esempio a non mettere la coltura sopra ad una luce accesa. Ed ho imparato che la cosa migliore che puoi fare e’ condividere l’amore. Intendo dire, donare il lievito a chi lo vuole. In questo modo puoi sperimentare la resistenza del lievito ad ambienti diversi e avere il vantaggio di poterne riavere un po’ da uno dei suoi cloni, in caso dovesse accadere qualcosa al tuo (come ad esempio buttarlo nel lavandino, come e’ successo a me). Cloni del mio lievito naturale sono ora sia in Svezia che in Italia e se la cavano benissimo nonostante tutte le differenze.
COME MANTENGO IL MIO LIEVITO: 1. uso farina di forza biologica, macinata a pietra; 2. non mantengo diversi tipi di lievito ma uno solo, cosi’ non sento mai che e’ “troppo sforzo” mantenerlo. quando ho bisogno di lieviti diversi (a base di segale, etc), li faccio al momento a partire dal mio; 3. mantengo la coltura in frigo, rinfrescandola ogni 5-7 giorni; 4. quando devo usarla, dopo il rinfresco una parte la tengo fuori e il resto lo rimetto subito in frigo, per evitare incidenti; 5. mantengo sempre un rapporto di 1:1:1 di coltura, acqua e farina. se ho bisogno di cambiare le proporzioni per una ricetta lo faccio al momento, non altero mai la “mamma”; 6. non setaccio la farina. si risparmia tempo e le bolle vengono lo stesso; 7. non uso acqua filtrata o imbottigliata, ma questo forse funziona solo in Svezia, dove l’acqua corrente e’ fantastica; 8. se viaggio per meno di due settimane rinfresco tanto lievito e lo lascio in frigo. per periodi piu’ lunghi la metto in valigia (e’ piu’ facile di quanto possa sembrare); 9. penso che una volta riusciti a creare una coltura che funziona e’ conveniente tenersela. ho sentito di una signora che ha mantenuto lo stesso lievito madre per piu’ di 30 anni… perche’ no? 10. cerco di divertirmi, sempre.