If the kitchen were clean, you wouldn't be reading this blather about homemade sourdough starter because I would be doing something truly useful like unloading the dishwasher or mopping the floor. But seeing the kitchen knee deep in detritus just gives me the motivation to just keep moving. Lead with your strengths!
In this case we are leading with something that is probably described in the annals of chaos theory. (Play with the updated powers of ten imagery and see how that works... )
The need for constant motion has led us to the mystery of sourdough starter. You can buy the stuff ... you can make the stuff with a boost of dry yeast from a packet ... or you can hunt the big beast that is the capturing of natural yeasts found on the wheat flour.
Think of this as uber-intensive gardening. There's a lot of tiny livestock in the jar along with the yeast and the key is to set up an environment that helps them all play nice together.
My first batch was made with flour, water and a packet of dry yeast. The loaf was delicious but hard even after rising all night. So I tossed that batch out and started again. This new batch includes peach juice and lemon juice with the flour and water. The experts recommend pineapple juice to create the perfect environment for yeast to grow, but I didn't have any. Some people have tried raisin juice while others use grape juice.
But in any case, the PH levels are important in balancing the atmosphere for the needs of the yeast. Following are some useful links if you want to try this at home. Let the chaos begin ... or in my case ... ferment to a new level.
- The juice on pineapple: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233