Sourdough starter-the art and science

Sourdough loaf

The secret to great sourdough bread is your starter.

I think anyone who makes sourdough bread will agree with me and you cannot spend too much time getting your starter ready to perform.

I have two starters: one is from Neven Maguire’s book, “Home Economics for Life”, and is made up of strong white flour, whole meal flour, and rye flour.

The other one I use is a rye flour starter that Jack Sturgess (aka “Bake with Jack”) uses and has taught on his YouTube channel.

What I have worked best is to prime your starter a day or two before baking, and after taking it out of the fridge where, in my case, it has spent the week. I bake at the weekends so I only need the starter to do its thing at the weekend. During the week it is resting and laying up in the fridge.

But bringing it to hand and getting it primed to perform is a little bit of art and a little bit of science. And you have to read the signs carefully and observe how your starter is doing and if it is showing signs of life, vigour, strength.

This week one of my starters, the rye one, blew the lid off the container in which it was kept two days before baking. But it seems to have performed poorly when it came to the actual bake as the oven spring I have achieved is a little bit disappointing.

The other one has performed spectacularly and nearly caused so much oven spring as to tough the lid of the Le Creuset pot (“Dutch Oven”) in which I baked it.

Next weekend is another one, another chance to get it right.

Irish wholemeal soda bread (aka “brown bread”)

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