Sunday, 7 June 2015

About Sourdough Starters

About Sourdough Starters

Introducing "the family"

No it's not The Godfather part X111.... I have previously talked about how to make a starter - or, to use its old school name, the sourdough leaven. As the Bible says, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Sounds powerful - so who exactly are these 'leaven' guys? 

The starter is a group of microscopic yeasts who live in a flour and water 'swamp' and multiply whenever they are fed. What do they eat? Flour. Plain, white organic, rye - whatever. They are basically the lactobacillis culture found in yoghurt and sauerkraut. They love the heat, so to slow them down they live in the fridge. 

The Swamp Thing 


When they get to room temp and are fed some more flour, they get all 'active' and start to breed like rabbits. This results in a spongy mixture, not unlike foamy pancake batter, that we add more flour to and make bread dough. They are highly effective critters, killing anything that stands in their way - including any bacteria that is not part of their family. So if you use a dirty spoon to mix them, they will 'kill' any contaminants. These critters are powerful - that's why they are so good for your tummy. And why yoghurt and other fermented foods are so good for you.


Sourdough Yeasties will attack anyone who's not "in the family"


They don't just attack contaminants - they eat all the 'bad' parts of a wheat grain. Research has proven that the wild, strong yeasties will eat up to 90 per cent of the gluten and phytic acid in wheat. Phytic acid cannot be digested by humans - it acts as a 'shield' around the wheat grain to prevent our tummies from digesting the good stuff in the wheat. The wild yeasts eat all this stuff up in a process known as 'predigestion'. 

Commercial bread is made with commercial yeasts, which are weaklings that work superfast and wouldn't have the time to 'predigest' the wheat, even if they had the strength to - which they don't, as they have been cross-bred and inbred for so long. The difference between sourdough leaven and commercial yeasts is much like the difference between a wild boar and a farm pig. Get the picture?


 Sourdough versus commercial yeasts - who would you pick in a gluten fight?



As for naming my starter - I haven't, but others before me have. Whether you give your yeast community a single name, like "Greg" or the name of a village, like "Tiny Yeast Town" is up to you. I just call them "my little guys".