This is not for amateurs. Starting a seed culture definitely falls into the realm of weird science (think eccentric 10th grade science teacher). However, if you dig that sort of thing, then this might be right up your alley.
In this post, which may turn out to be quite lengthy, you will find out how to create and maintain a wild yeast culture that will eventually be made into sourdough mother starter.
It all started on 8/1/11 with a little pineapple juice and flour. I was sure that it was doomed to fail, but after many, many days of faithful feeding and watering, I am now a proud mother of one delicious seed culture.
Recipe for your seed culture:
2T pineapple juice
2T bread flour
Mix the flour and juice together, cover and let stand at room temperature until the next day when you will repeat step one. Repeat this for four-6 more days until your culture is bubbling with gas.
On day 7 measure out 1/2 C of the seed culture and mix it with 3 oz of bread flour, 2 T of water. Discard the rest or save it or give it away. Cover and leave this mixture sit until it begins to rise and doubles in size. If it does not become active leave it for another day or so, it should begin to show sign of life. Continue feeding your culture 1-2 T of flour each day along with a little water. I have continued to feed my starter daily, it did not start to rise and expand as it should unitl 15 days or so later. When this happens your seed culture is mature and you can move on to creating a Mother Starter.
I also admit to being gone two weekends in a row and did not feed to those two weekends. I placed it in the refrigerator on those weekends hoping to save all my love and hard work. It worked!
**Toubleshooting: There are some things that can go wrong with your seed culture causing it to die.
1.Use only filtered or unchlorinated water. The chlorination can damage the delicate wild yeasts rendering them disabled.
2. If your mixture contains too much liquid (as mine did) it will not expand as the gas will just push to the top of the mixture and form bubbles; instead of pushing the flour mixture up and out. Mix more flour in with the next feeding or omit the water for a few feedings.
3. If by day 6 or 7 you do not see any more bubbling or activity you may want to give it a boost of acid by feeding it 1T of apple cider vinegar instead of plain water.
4. Lots of liquid? I had a problem with lots of brownish liquid forming on the top of my mixture. I chalked it up to the mixture containing too much liquid. I omitted the water for several feedings which seemed to do the trick.
Why pineapple juice? Pineapple juice is quite acidic which is just the right PH level for the wild yeasts to become active. The sugar from the juice probably helps the yeasts too. I have not heard of any other types of juice being used, but you can always experiment!
On to the Mother starter:
This will be the dough that you will base all of your sourdough breads off of. It can be kept in the fridge for several weeks without feedings or refreshing, but it will need some refreshing if not used after 5 days of being created. Recipe for Mother Starter is from Peter Reinhart's-"Artisan Breads Every Day"
2 3/4 C (12 oz) whole wheat flour/whole rye flour/bread flour
1 C (9 oz) of spring or filtered water
3/4 C (4 oz) mature seed culture
Combine ingredients and stir until combined. Knead for 2 minutes until it is smooth. Shape in a ball and place in a clean lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely. The container should be larger enough to hold the dough once it has expanded and doubled. Leave out a room temp until it has doubled in size, 4-10 hours. I left mine out overnight. When it has doubled in size, take it out of the container and knead it a few times to let out the gas. Return it to a smaller bowl if you wish as it will be housed in the refrigerator from now on. Cover the bowl tightly and vent any gas build up in the container after a few hours. Yay! You now have your Mother Starter!
To refresh the starter repeat the recipe for the mother starter by using 3/4 C (4 oz) of the old mother starter.
Sourdough bread recipe in next post.