I’ve been writing a lot about wine and talking to a lot of winemakers recently, and a topic that comes up often is wild yeasts and fermentation (no suprise there). It’s been interesting especially given my new pet – a sourdough bug that I’ve started from scratch.
I’ll call it a bug, because it’s like the old ginger beer bugs we used to have as kids, except this bug is fed regularly with flour and water rather than sugar.
Starting the bug was relatively simple, but I can’t help thinking that maybe I just got lucky. The odds of it all going wrong and your flour and water mix catching the wrong “wild yeasts” floating through the kitchen is really high. But a milky smelling, bubbling, creamy broth developed in about four days and has been gracing the kitchen bench, wrapped in a damp muslin blanket for the last month.
Perhaps I should turn my hand to a brew from the neglected vine on our back fence?
Ingredients (to start your bug)
100g 00 white flour
115 ml tepid water
for each feed
100 g 00 white flour
enough tepid water to make a paste
Mix initial measurement of flour and water in a small bowl until you have a sticky paste. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or muslin secured with a rubber band and leave it in a draught free spot in the kitchen. Re-dampen the cloth as needed.
After 2 – 5 days the paste should have a skin and look bubbly, with a milky scent. If it smells bad rather than simply sour, or if you have mould, then chuck it and start again.
If you’ve got a live one, give it its first feed. 100 g of flour and enough water to mix the whole brew into a sticky paste again. Work the mix to get plenty of air in – your hand is best. Cover with the damp cloth and leave on the bench for 24 hours.
Feed it again with another 100 g of flour and tepid water – it should be really bubbling and rising up in your bowl now. The bug should be bubbling and ready to use in about 8 hours and you should have about 400g of sourdough starter in your bowl.
Sourdough bugs last forever, as long as you keep feeding them. Mine lives in the fridge during the week and comes out on Thursday nights to warm up (with a damp cloth on top) and then get it’s first feed on Friday morning, getting ready for a weekend baking. They need feeding at least once a week, but even if you miss a week or it gets into bad shape, just stir it up, halve it and feed it and you’ll get it back in good heath fairly quickly.
You need about 200 – 300 g of starter to make a loaf of bread.