So I’ve tried this once before: mix equal parts flour and water, let it sit, and after a couple of days I had some bubbling. As I kept feeding the starter, it got thicker, then started to dry out on top creating this leathery crust with a pinkish hue. I tried removing it a couple of times, but couldn’t get all of it off so I just started stirring it back in. It smelled more perfume-y than sour and the resulting bread tasted decidedly reminiscent of grape nuts cereal.
I scrapped it.
It’s time to try it again. With some adjustments of course…
1/2 cup Rye Flour (used to boost sour flavor)
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Four
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Bread Flour
2 1/2 cups warm-ish Water
Mix it all up (I did this in a large Pyrex container).
Then cover with a damp double layer of cheesecloth. Stir it up a few more times over the next two days. After 2-3 days you should see some bubbles breaking the surface or your starter may have separated with a dark liquid layer on top. From what I have read on other blogs, books, etc. that is alcohol which is a byproduct of fermentation and a good sign that you have active yeast in the starter.
From this point you’ll want to feed your starter by stirring in 1-2 Tbs of flour at least once a day. I have been removing a half cup of starter, stirring in a 1/2 cup of warm water, and then 1/2 cup of all purpose flour in the morning and then giving it another stir with a spoon full of flour in the evening. I keep the starter covered after the first couple days to keep it from drying out. However, if it looks like you are not getting the desired yeasty activity, leave the lid off for a few hours, then stir it up and put the lid back on. Occasionally, adding a spoonful of Turbinado or other sugar will help keep a strong fermentation going or juice up a tired starter. If the starter starts to thicken pass the “pancake batter” stage, add a little more room temperature water.
When you reach a sourness that you like, you can cover and refrigerate it. That will slow down the lactobacillus growth and keep for a couple weeks or so. Or just let ride. As long as you are feeding it and pulling out some of the starter each week to make bread you should not have a real big difference in the flavor from the starter. If you choose the leave-it-on-the-counter method, but do not make bread on a particular week, I would then discard 1 cup or so of starter and replenish with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup flour. f it ever starts to develop mold or smell really awful, just discard it and start over.
Okay now it is time to try it out. Bread #2 is on its way…