Wednesday, September 13, 2017

3 Common Sourdough Myths You Should Ignore

 There's a bucket load of information on the internet about sourdough making, and quite a few books around on the subject too. A lot of them contain useful information, but others, as I have found from personal experience, contain some "rules" that just don't need to be applied. Today I thought I'd share some information about a few of the commonest sourdough making myths around.

1. You have to catch wild yeast to make a starter
This is one of the most common things I heard when I was first exploring sourdough. I didn't know whether it was true or not for some time. It puzzled me because if you were catching wild yeast when you made a sourdough starter, how did you catch them when you kept your bowl of starter covered?
The truth is that the yeast in sourdough starters is already naturally contained in the flour. That's why feeding your starter - giving it more flour and water - keeps it alive. Whilst there is wild yeast present in the air, soil and on the surfaces of things like fruit, the majority of the wild yeast in your starter comes from the flour you use.
So you are baking with wild yeast (because you're not using the single strain commercial yeast), but you don't have to catch it.
I've written more about sourdough starters here and here

2. You have to test your starter before baking
A lot of sourdough makers recommend testing your starter before beginning baking. Some test it for acidity, others do a "float" test, which means they put some starter in some water and see if it floats. If it floats it's supposed to be good to use.
This was a "rule" I didn't find out about into well into my sourdough baking journey. I've never tested my starter before baking.
Out of curiosity and because I have an open mind, I decided to try it one day when I was mixing up a loaf. I put the water into the bowl first and added some starter. It didn't float. I continued making the bread anyway. The end result? That particular dough just happened to prove very quickly and sprung beautifully in the oven. In other words, it was perfect.

As long as your starter is bubbly and doesn't smell weird, it's good to go! (And just in case you don't know, sourdough starters can smell yeasty, fruity or vinegary.)

3. Sourdough is sour
This is what put me off trying sourdough for so long.
Sourdough isn't sour unless you want it to be. Even then it's actually tangy, as opposed to sour.
It's very, very easy to control the flavour of your sourdough simply by what flour you use, and what proving methods are used.
I use different proving methods depending on what I'm making, the weather and how flavoured I want the bread to be.
If you've eaten a very tangy loaf of sourdough bread, odds are it was proved for a long time, and probably contained rye too. If you make your own you can easily control the tanginess.

I hope you've found today's post useful. Perhaps you have some sourdough baking tips of your own? Please feel free to share them below!

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  1. It is such an interesting process isn't it Sarah? And there is just SO much information out there. I have never floated my starter either? Happy baking x

    1. The information is a little overwhelming when you're first starting! I'm so glad I'm past that beginning point and that making sourdough is now second nature! x

  2. I've always wondered about the 'catching the wild yeast' thing so good to have that myth debunked. I would add that you don't have to feed your starter as religiously as some people imply. Mine sits in the fridge for weeks untouched and then I just pour off the liquid from the top and start feeding it again. Reading this has just prompted me to get it out!

    1. My starter goes through periods of spending lots of time in the fridge and then sometimes she'll stay out for a week. She's very tough and doesn't mind it either way :- Happy baking!

  3. that is good to know because I have put off going down the sourdough route because I thought you had to make so much bread.

    1. Oh no, you can bake once a week if you like, or even less. Starters are more fragile in the beginning but they get strong nice and quickly :-)


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Maira Gall