Wife has been on a baking spree lately baking different types of artisan bread almost every day. The spree started when she discovered this method of making no-knead bread using natural yeast starters.
Breads made using natural starters are richer in taste and flavour. Due to over 30 kinds of organic compounds being produced during the fermentation process, the dough is unique and complex in both the flavour and taste. They remain fresh and soft for a longer period of time too as the organic compounds prevent the starch from retrograding and retain moisture in the bread.
Making natural starter is quite easy. All you need is a feed, which can be wheat flour, cereal, raisins, fruits or vegetables etc, and water. Different ingredients create different starters which, in turn, produce breads of different texture and taste. Experiment and choose your ingredients accordingly. That is one of the reasons this is so exciting.
Generally, it takes about 3-7 days to make a liquid starter. As such, plan your baking and prepare the starter at least a week ahead.
For our first natural liquid starter at home, we used apples as we had them readily in the fridge. Apples make very powerful starters and the presence of citric and malic acid in them inhibit bacteria growth.
Apple Liquid Starter
(Adapted from Jayeon Bread by Sangjin Ko)
250 ml water
1-2 tsp honey or organic sugar
Wash a 500-ml jar with soap and rinse with clean water several times, ensuring that no traces of soap remain as soap will disrupt the fermentation process. (Do not use a used sponge when washing the jar because sponges contain a lot of bacteria.)
Place jar in a pot and fill the pot with water. Bring the water to a boil for at least 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Leave for 5 minutes.
Remove and drain the jar, Place it on a clean wire rack and leave to cool.
Cut the apple into 1-cm dice.
Put the diced apple in the sterilised jar. Add the water.
Add the honey or sugar.
Stir and cover the jar loosely. (Do not put the lid on tightly or it may explode due to the production os carbon dioxide gas during fermentation.)
Stir the contents carefully about once a day, but do not stir again after fermentation starts or the starter may become sour due to the growth of harmful bacteria.
Let it ferment for 4-6 days at room temperature (25-27C / 77-80F) and check the starter every day. Place the jar in an ice box or styrofoam box so that the temperature will not fluctuate too much.
Your apple liquid starter is ready when the dices apple floats to the surface and there are many bubbles. Strain the liquid with a clean sieve. It is now ready for making your natural starter. Discard the liquid starter if it is too sour or has a bad smell.
If not making a natural starter immediately, the liquid starter can be stored refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. You can make another batch of liquid starter by adding some of the liquid starter (in the proportion 1:100) to the new mixture. This will shorten the fermentation period.
Measure out 100ml of the sieved liquid starter. In a clean, sterilised jar or bowl, combine the liquid starter and 100g organic bread flour. Mix until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap.
Leave to ferment at room temperature (25-27C / 77-80F) for 18-24 hours or until the starter is doubled and bubbly.
Discard half the mixture, leaving 100g of the starter. Add 100ml water and mix until the starter is dissolved. Add 100g organic bread flour and mix to combine.
Cover and leave to ferment at room temperature (25-27C / 77-80F) for about 12 hours or until the starter is doubled and bubbly.
You can use half of the starter now for making bread or discard it.
To maintain the remaining 100g starter, add 100ml water, 100g organic bread flour and 2g salt (optional) and mix to combine.
Cover and leave to ferment at room temperature (25-27C / 77-80F) for about 12 hours or until the starter is doubled and bubbly. Repeat to use/discard half the starter and feed it every 12 hours.
If you are not planning to bake often, keep the starter refrigerated and feed it once a week. To activate a starter that has been refrigerated (and use it for baking), feed it as above and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours until it is doubled in size and bubbly. Do note that if the starter is refrigerated for longer without refreshing or refreshed more than five times, the flavour will change and it will become more sour.