If you’re looking to embark on a delicious journey into the world of homemade sourdough bread, you’re in for a treat. Today, we’re going to dive into the fascinating and satisfying process of creating a whole wheat sourdough starter.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned baker, this guide will walk you through the steps, tackle common challenges like mold and unusual smells, and help you troubleshoot any issues that might arise. So, grab your aprons and let’s get baking!
What is a sourdough starter?
A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that captures natural yeasts and bacteria from the environment. These microorganisms consume the carbohydrates in the flour and produce carbon dioxide gas, which gives the dough its rise. Unlike commercial yeast, which provides a quick rise, sourdough starter imparts a unique flavour profile and texture to the bread, resulting in that distinct sourdough taste.
The origin of sourdough starter is quite fascinating
Once upon a time, in the world of bread-making, a magical mix of flour and water gave birth to the sourdough starter. It all started when a forgetful baker left the concoction to ferment, unwittingly inviting wild yeast and friendly bacteria to create a lively, bubbly potion.
This sourdough fairy tale dates back to ancient bakers who stumbled upon spontaneous fermentation. Passed down through generations, the tradition spread from the streets of Egypt to the kitchens of medieval Europe.
Today, the sourdough starter, with its wild yeast and friendly bacteria, remains the heart of tangy, flavorful bread, connecting bakers across time and space. So, the next time you enjoy a slice, savour the delicious tale that began with a little flour, water, and a dash of serendipity.
Using white flour vs whole wheat flour for sourdough starter
Even though I personally like to use whole wheat flour for my entire starter, some people use all-purpose flour for the base of the starter first then add whole wheat flour.
But, don’t be afraid to experiment! You can mix whole wheat and all-purpose flours to find the perfect balance for your personal taste preferences. It’s also interesting to note that as your starter matures and acclimates to its environment, its characteristics may evolve, so feel free to adjust your flour choices as you continue your sourdough baking journey.
Using sourdough starter kits
Sourdough starter kits are super easy way to make your own sourdough starter. I use King Authur Baking’s A-Z Sourdough Starter Kit for mine.
This kit typically includes high-quality ingredients like premium flour, a jar for cultivation, and detailed instructions to guide bakers through the step-by-step journey of crafting their own robust sourdough starter.
Another cheaper but also effective and easy option is this sourdough starter kit, which comes with the jar, silicone scraper, cloth cover and instructions.
What can I make with sourdough discard
There are many things to you can whip up with some leftover sourdough starter and sourdough discard, including but not limited to:
- Beginner Friendly 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread (no yeast)
- 3 minutes no bake or knead sourdough discard wraps
How to make whole wheat sourdough starter
There are a lot of ways to make a sourdough starter, and the easiest way is to use a sourdough starter kit. The kit will have all the materials, ingredients and instructions to make your whole-wheat sourdough starter.
But in this article, you will know how to make your own at home.
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients and Materials
To create your whole wheat sourdough starter, you’ll need just two simple ingredients:
Whole wheat flour: Opt for high-quality, organic whole wheat flour as it contains more natural yeasts and bacteria that will kick-start the fermentation process.
Filtered water: Chlorinated tap water can hinder fermentation, so ensure you use filtered or bottled water for best results.
A clean jar: Opt for a glass jar, preferably with a wide mouth, as it allows for easy access during feeding and cleaning, and the transparency facilitates monitoring the starter’s activity.
A 1-quart capacity is a common starting point, but consider a larger jar as your starter grows more robust. Initially, cover the jar with a loose lid or cloth to promote airflow, aiding the fermentation process. Keep in mind that a smooth-surfaced jar is easier to clean, and crucial for handling the sticky nature of sourdough starters.
Step 2: Mix and Feed Your Starter
In a clean glass jar or container, combine 50 grams of whole wheat flour with 50 ml of filtered water. Stir it well until you achieve a thick, pancake-like batter consistency.
Cover the container loosely with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap to allow airflow.
Keep your starter at room temperature (around 70-75°F/21-24°C) for 24 hours.
Step 3: Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter
Congratulations! You now have a thriving whole wheat sourdough starter. To keep it healthy and active, follow these guidelines:
Feed your starter daily or every 12 hours, discarding half of the starter before each feeding. This prevents the starter from becoming too large and dilutes any acidic buildup.
Maintain a consistent feeding schedule and observe the rise and fall of the starter after every feeding. This will help you understand its activity level.
Store your starter in the refrigerator if you plan to bake less frequently. Just remember to take it out and feed it regularly to keep it alive.
Troubleshooting – Q&A
Why does my sourdough starter smell like cheese?
While a slightly tangy aroma is normal, a strong cheese-like smell might indicate an imbalance in your starter’s fermentation process. Try these remedies:
Discard half of the starter and feed it with fresh flour and water. Maintaining equal parts of flour and water is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance.
Increase the frequency of feedings to help rebalance your starter.
Keep your starter in a slightly cooler environment to slow down fermentation and reduce the cheese-like aroma.
My sourdough starter has liquid on top. What should I do?
A layer of liquid (hooch) on top of your starter may indicate that it needs to be fed more frequently. Follow these steps to revive your starter:
Pour off the liquid, being careful not to remove too much of the starter underneath.
Feed the starter with fresh flour and water, making sure it is well-mixed.
Increase the frequency of feedings, ideally twice daily, until the hooch no longer forms.
Why is there sourdough starter mold?
f you spot mold on your sourdough starter, don’t panic. It happens occasionally, especially in the early stages. Follow these steps to save your starter:
Scoop out the moldy layer with a clean spoon or spatula until you reach the healthy part underneath.
Transfer the remaining healthy starter into a new, clean jar.
Feed the starter with fresh flour and water as before, and maintain regular feedings for a few days until the mold disappears.
Creating a whole wheat sourdough starter is a captivating and rewarding experience that sets the foundation for delightful homemade bread. By following these simple steps and troubleshooting tips, you’ll become a sourdough master in no time.
Remember, each starter has its unique characteristics, so embrace the process and adapt to your starter’s needs. Now, get ready to embark on a lifelong journey of sourdough baking perfection. Happy baking!