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One Year Of Sourdough Love

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.

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Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂
22 replies
  1. Erin @ Texanerin Baking
    Erin @ Texanerin Baking says:

    Happy anniversary to one year of sourdough! 🙂

    That picture of your daughter cuddling the dough makes me want to have kids. She’s so cute!

    I used to have a whole rye sourdough starter going so that I could make German Vollkornbrot. But my husband complained that it didn’t taste like the stuff from the store (I’m convinced they use syrup or some kind of sweetener) so I just gave up. It was fun, though!

    I think it’s great you bring your starter with you on longer vacations. It’s often hard to find good bread!

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      you would make such happy kids Erin with all the amazing (and healthy) treats you make!
      and yes they do use lot of syrup. and there are tons of other breads you can make with sourdough, should I send you mine? (I think it would last until it reaches you)
      I take my starter only to feed it but do not actually bake when not home 🙂

      Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      molto ben espresso questo pensiero, e concordo. la bimba e’ la mia, grazie. e mi riferivo anche a lei quando parlavo delle cure… infatti anche la mia bimba fa dell’ottimo pane 😉

      Reply
  2. francesca
    francesca says:

    Mi piace un sacco il numero 10: cerco di divertirmi, sempre.
    Piu` o meno faccio come te…forse la mamma la diluisco di piu`….e me la porto in valigia!
    e….mi piace un sacco la tua bimba!

    Ciao francesca
    PS: ho appena comprato il latte condensato provero` la tua dritta della bollitura!

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      fammi sapere come va l’esperimento caramello.
      ma che bello avere cosi’ tante amiche matte come me che fanno le stesse cose matte che faccio io (portarsi il lievito in valigia). la bimba ringrazia 🙂
      xox

      Reply
  3. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    It is not crazy to take starter with you when you go on vacation, it is quite normal. Well, at least it is normal for me 😉 I normally take my starter, my beloved dough scrapper AND my balance with me.

    Reply
  4. kim
    kim says:

    Has it been a year? Wow!! You know what? I am going to try this today. Maybe , if Ryan starts to feel better. She is absolutely adorable cuddling with the dough..

    Reply
  5. rita cooks italian
    rita cooks italian says:

    Cara Barbara, che bel post!! Io ho ucciso diversi lieviti durante la mia vita (questa e’ una confessione), soprattutto perche’ mi scordo che sono nel mio frigo e aspettano la mia cura (dovrei avere una bambina come la tua che fa le coccole al lievito). La mia suocera Danese ha perso le speranze per cui non mi regala piu’ il suo lievito…la capisco. Ciao

    Reply
  6. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I’ve always wanted to start one myself! That’s so cool! And congrats for making it to one year. I’m not sure if I could even do it for a month! And thanks for the good tips!

    Reply
  7. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I love your beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing all your little sourdough adventures 🙂
    I took some of our canadian cultures back to Germany, since I’ll be here for the next little while. Long story… but in the end I managed to let them die… Gladly not without having my husband taking care of our original cultures in Canada, and also I had some of the cultures dried for my dad. I hope to bring them back to being happy and alive.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  8. Ninive
    Ninive says:

    hello Barbara

    I started my sourdough- adventure two months ago and have managed so far to keep my culture alive- mostly in the fridge. And I also don’t use different kinds of starter- the few grams of a different kind of flour don’t disturb me – or the dough. Today there will be the sourdough-honey-bread from zorra’s kochtopf.
    And my starter thrives without cuddling, daughters will stop to do such things when they reach some height and years….

    Reply
  9. Don Sadowsky
    Don Sadowsky says:

    Barbara I came here from your barley semola recipe looking for tips on how to supercharge my levain. I’m going to try your 1:1:1 ratio, I’ve never kept that much levain from the last feeding.

    Reply
  10. Roger Murray
    Roger Murray says:

    Hi Barbara, lovely stuff as ever. When you say your starter ratio is 1:1:1 not quite sure what you mean. Do you mean when you feed it, say you have 20g of starter in your jar, you add 20g of water and 20g of flour? Your starter looks so lively and liquid. I too have given up keeping different starters and have just one small jar of 50/50 white/wholemeal on the go that I can make leavens from. I bake every day so it stays out and I feed it when I make the dough and sometimes when I get up. The little jar means I throw away a lot less flour.

    Reply
    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      well yes, some of the pictures may have had a 120% hydration, but also the starter gets more liquid when is fully activated, cause the starches are eaten up and transformed into bubbles. yes, I mean the same amount of water, starter and flour. so good you can bake every day!

      Reply

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  1. […] Here is a post to get you started: http://breadandcompanatico.com/2012/08/18/one-year-of-sourdough-love/ […]

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