In Italy we call it “Pasta Madre” (the Mother Dough), it was used in bakery before fresh and dried yeast became popular and it is still indispensable for some particular kind of bread. The Sourdough is a mixture of flour and water (we’ll see later what kind of flour is better) subject to spontaneous contamination by microorganisms with lead to a lactic bacteria culture. This long process is essential for the dough to be natural, digestible and have that unmistakable beautiful flavour coming from the acidity of the fermentation.
Not long ago the Sourdough was considered a luxury, something you could find only in bakeries but there is a good news: if you have enough time, patience, constancy and passion in baking, you can have your Sourdough at home and, let me tell you, it makes a big difference! But remember, this little dough will need many attention and will have to be well looked after, you’ll have to be a good mom or dad 🙂
How to make your first Sourdough
It is all a microorganism game: the ones in the flour, together with the ones in the water plus the ones in the air, you don’t need anything else.
Now the first question is, what is the best flour? I personally think that the strong flour is better because of the high percentage of gluten, even better if it is stone grinded. About the water, I prefer the stil mineral water from the bottle or, if you use the tap water let it rest for few hours before you use it. You’ll need 2 parts of flour and 1 part of water, for the first sourdough I suggest:
200 gr flour
100 ml water
Mix them together, give the dough a spheric shape and let it rest in a glass bowl, cover with cling film and make small holes with a fork to let the air pass through.
The perfect temperature for the sourdough to rest is 27 degrees but it will be acceptable between 22 and 28 degrees, this is the reason why the better season to start making it is summer.
According to the type of flour used and also the temperature the dough will have to rest for 48-72 hours. Attention: if you see or smell old before at least 48 hours the process was unsuccessful, in this case you’ll have to put it in the bin and start again, but don’t worry and don’t loose your confidence! 😉
After the first 2-3 days, if everything looks and smell all right and the dough grew at least 3 times its first dimension, you can start refreshing it.
How do I refresh the Sourdough
This is the process that allows the Sourdough to be fed and survive for long time. According to the previous quantity, to start your refreshing process you can extract 100 gr from the heart of the Sourdough (you can put the rest in the bin) and add 100 gr of the same flour you’ve been using plus 50 ml of water to to, mixing well until nice and smooth. Let it rest for at least 24 hours and repeat the same process for the following 4 days, everyday at the same time if it’s possible. After that you will carry on with refreshing the dough every 12 hours, twice a day, until it will loos the acidity in the smell and it will be able to double in size in only 4 hours. At this point your Sourdough will be ready!
Form now on you can keep your Sourdough in the fridge at 4-8 degrees temperature, in a plastic container or in the same bowl with cling film but without holes. You will have to refresh it at least every 5/6 days maximum but the ideal frequency of your baking will be 2/3 days. I always suggest, before you use it, to refresh the Sourdough with the flour your are going to add making the bread dough. You will need not more sourdough than 20% of the whole bread dough: for example, for 1 kg of bread you’ll need 200 gr of “Mother dough”. Every time you will use it you’ll also have to add flour (same amount) and water (40-50%) to the remaining part that you don’t use, leave it at room temperature for at least 12 hours, and then keep it in the fridge as usual.
You can use the Sourdough for many different type of bread, pizza and focaccia!