What is a living culture?
Your Starter Culture is a made of flour and water, that has been left to ferment until the yeasts become active. The fermentation process happens as a result of natural wild yeasts and lactobacilli that are present in the flour and in the air around us. Yeast consumes carbohydrates, and turns them into carbon dioxide, which creates the bubbles that make bread rise. People have used this process to make bread for thousands of years. It’s only recently that we have started to use ‘bakers yeast’ that is manufactured in a factory.
‘The yeasts you find in nature are never pure. They travel in motley company. They are always found with other microorganisms. They embody biodiversity. They have unique flavours. And they are everywhere.’ Sandor Katz
Your culture will respond to its environment: as it changes location and gets mixed with new kinds of flour, the flavour of the bread will subtly change.
Looking after your culture
Looking after the culture is simple. Remember it is alive, so it does need some attention. Store it in the fridge in a plastic tub with a lid, with enough room for it to expand slightly. DO NOT KEEP IT IN A GLASS JAR as the pressure could build and cause it to explode. The culture needs to be refreshed or ‘fed’ with some flour and water every week or two. You can do this whenever you bake your bread, but if you are only baking occasionally you can feed it in between. Don’t worry if your culture has ’seperated’ with a layer of thinner liquid forming on top. Simply give it a good mix whenever you refresh it.
Rye Culture: You have approximately 100g, which is enough to start baking with. If you follow the recipe on the next page, this includes refreshing the culture. If you are not ready to bake yet, this is how to feed the culture: Take it out of the fridge. Add 50g rye flour and 100ml warm water. Aim for a thick batter consistency. Stir well, cover with a clean cloth and leave the culture in a warm place overnight. You will end up with more culture than you need for baking, so give some away!
Wheat Culture: You have approximately 100g. Before you start baking you will need to increase the volume of you culture. Take it out of the fridge, add 150g white bread flour and 150-200ml warm water. Aim for a thick batter consistency. Stir well, cover with a clean cloth and leave the culture in a warm place overnight. You now have enough culture to start baking, following the recipes on the following pages.
Each time you bake, you will refresh the culture. If you want to pass it on, you can increase the quantity at any time by feeding the culture extra flour and water, and leaving it in a warm place overnight. During this process, always cover with a cloth rather that a plastic lid, as it needs to breathe.