Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen, let us take you on a journey to the heart of the sourdough mother! Today we're talking about what goes on inside the sourdough starter.
🌾 For your sourdough mother, it is best to use whole wheat flour, preferably freshly ground: it is rich in microorganisms, enzymes, minerals and sugars, so that fermentation occurs quickly and the acid actively builds up. But white flour (00, 405, 550, anything that is white and free of coarse particles) has much less of all this richness, so a mixture of just white flour and water alone will ferment poorly.
🍞 How does fermentation begin? ⠀
Flour contains microorganisms that previously lived on the husk of the grain and which, when moistened, become active: they release gas and change the appearance and smell of the leaven. The natural enzymes in the flour also “wake up” and begin to break down the ingredients in the flour, converting starch into sugar, proteins into amino acids, and so on.
👨🏻🍳 At first, sourdough does not smell good, to say the least, and that is because it initially creates conditions suitable for certain microorganisms that like a neutral and slightly acidic environment. With the natural increase in acidity, both the smell and the composition of the microorganisms change (enterobacteria are replaced by lactobacilli and Saccharomyces yeasts) and the sourdough becomes more and more suitable for baking bread. ⠀
By making the sourdough from scratch, the baker helps it with a small part of the process by occasionally throwing in new "fuel" and creating favorable conditions for its growth and increase in acidity. Otherwise, all important events and changes in the sourdough take place by themselves - naturally.
🌿 Once the flour and water are mixed, the process begins! But at first it seems as if nothing is happening, only the smell gradually begins to change in nuances: first it smells like porridge that you forgot to throw away on the second day, then like stale grass and like sour food or even vomit - with wheat starter. But trust us, it has to smell exactly like that! 😁
🌿 Bubbles gradually form in the sourdough mother, a putrid, fermented smell builds up, over time it even increases and the sourdough gradually settles (or its surface flattens). And acid appears! The smell remains a bit unpleasant, but you get the feeling for it.
When conditions change (the environment becomes acidic), they die. These microorganisms themselves acidify the environment through their vital activity, are thereby poisoned and thus clear the way for the permanent residents of sourdough yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
✅ What do the bakers do? Everything is very simple: First you wait until the sourdough mother ferments and becomes sour. This takes 1-4 days depending on the temperature and the cooler it is the longer the wait.
✅ The second step is adding fuel. The acidity at the first stage says that the first microorganisms did a good job: they ate the nutrients contained in the flour, acidified the environment a little, so the environment became unsuitable for them and they began to die.
With a new batch of flour, new nutrients and bacteria enter the starter, but the conditions are not the same as before - the environment is more acidic and therefore unfavorable for enterococci and hay bacilli. This causes various lactic acid bacteria and yeasts to awaken.
🌿The next step after adding the fuel is known to everyone: we have to discard half of the starter and make a new batch. This is the final step that results in a finished, live sourdough starter, but there are times when the sourdough will stagnate at this stage, which of course we don't want. 😒
😇 In a good way it should be like this:
✅ During the first two stages, conditions are gradually created inside the starter that are optimal for yeast and lactic acid bacteria and not suitable for pathogenic flora.
✅ At the end of the second stage, the sourdough should be almost ready, and by discarding half and adding new flour in the third stage, we essentially renew it by getting rid of the remaining pathogenic flora.
✅ The entire original bouquet of microorganisms on the grain husk is brought into the starter, but due to the nature of the environment, only the yeast and lactic acid bacteria become active. From here on, their connection becomes stronger, more harmonious and fruitful.✊
If the starter doesn't sour after 2 or 3 feedings, becomes very liquefied, and smells bad, that doesn't necessarily mean it's dead or spoiled, but there's definitely something wrong with it.
➡️ This is caused by a lactobacillus that likes a slightly acidic environment, eats a lot of sugar and highly liquefies the starter. It is called Leuconostoc and, together with acids, produces a substance that acts like an antibiotic on all other microorganisms.
The key to this is the slightly acidic pH, which could be due to early feeding in the first stage as the starter was not given enough time to acidify.
👨🏻🍳👌🏻 Don't worry though, there are several easy ways to fight Leuconostoc!
The best tools are:
🍍Pineapple juice (fresh or canned) is good for souring, rich in sugar and yeast.
🍇 Raisins or ripe fruits. Fill with water, let stand for 24 hours and use this water for feeding. The effect is similar: lowering the pH of the medium, adding yeast and sugar.
🍎 Vinegar! Ideally, of course, 10-15 drops per 50g of water.
➡️ No matter what means you take, the ratio remains the same: 1:1:1, once per day! (flour/water/auxiliaries)
This is how you can quickly save your sourdough mother!👌🏻
Anyone who has read this post to the end can definitely call themselves a sourdough mother expert from now on. We hope that our tips help you and of course we hope you enjoy baking! ❤️