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How Do I Keep My Starter Happy?

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Question

I purchased several types of speciality flours from you and am thoroughly enjoying trying out different types of bread.  However, I would like to check something if I may, when making bread that requires a starter or mother dough when they are left for hours, even days, should they be covered?  Any advice you can give a novice would be very much appreciated.

Answer

Natural Ferments

Ferments made without commercial yeast use natural wild yeasts in the air for the fermentation process so it follows that you do not want to seal your ferment or it will prevent the yeasts from interacting with your mix and prevent the natural fermentation process from occurring. The taste of bread from a natural ferment will be influenced by the nature of the wild yeast cultures in the local air so it will always have its own unique character.

The simplest and most basic ferment can be made by mixing some warm water with good strong white flour and leaving it in a warm place for 36hours until it starts to ferment. Simply cover the top of the bowl loosely with a linen bakers cloth or clean tea towel.

Don’t Kill The Good Stuff

Another important point is not to spray your kitchen surfaces with antibacterial cleaner just before you start. Whilst good hygiene is always important when you’re working with food, when making a natural ferment you are relying on the wild yeasts that are in the air all around you. If you blitz your work surfaces with a product guaranteed to kill virtually all known germs, and then start your ferment, the wild yeasts won’t survive.

Give Her Room To Move

The ferment is also likely to become extremely active and needs room to move. Make sure you use a bowl larger than the volume of the ferment when you first mix it in order to give it room to expand - when I made my first ever ferment I filled the tub and then put a sealed lid on it, I came down in the morning to find Mother had blown her top!

Dough Ferments

Dough ferments can be used by keeping back a piece of dough when you make a batch of bread, leaving it for 4-6 hours at ambient temperature or overnight in the fridge, then mix with flour, water and salt to make your next batch of dough. Again, simply cover the dough loosely with a cloth or place in a Tupperware container simply resting the lid on top without snapping it shut.

Putting Her To Bed

If you only bake once a week or you are going away for a few days, your mother will happily go to sleep in the fridge (this applies to both natural and dough ferments). However, if you have strong smells in the fridge such as strong cheese, garlic, spices etc and you leave your mother for long periods without sealing it, it may absorb these smells. (You may want to try it sometime, it may make for an interesting flavour to your loaf!) In this instance you can either snap the lid shut or cut up a plastic freezer bag and secure it around the bowl with an elastic band. If you do put your mother to bed for a few days, make sure you take her out again the day before you want to bake, let her come to room temperature and then refresh her before you go to bed and simply cover loosely with a cloth. This will refresh and reactivate the mother ready for your next day’s bake.

Hope this helps?

Happy Baking – don’t forget to send us some pictures!

Added by: clivemellum


Tags: Sourdough

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