Feeding your Sourdough

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Getting your leaven ready for bread making

Producing the right amount of sourdough starter

Your natural leaven is a living organism, if you want it to reach its full strength you need to feed it regularly every 24 hours (some even do it every 12 hours). If you are baking every fortnight or month you can keep your mother Sourdough in the refrigerator and feed it at least twice before using it. It is good practice to double your starter with each feed.

Once your leaven no longer gains volume and you start to notice an uneven surface the organisms have ceased to multiply the starter is at its pick you should use it within 3 to 4 hours.

Leaven will flourish at temperatures between 22 and 25°C, but it is fragile and should not be exposed to draught or direct sunlight. Starter will develop faster at 32°C but the resulting leaven will be more acid producing a more tastfull bread at the risk of compromising the bread volume. Cold slow down leaven action but doesn't destroy it while heat (over 40°C) will kill your starter.

Always put a small amount aside for next baking day. If you are not going to bake for a while feed your starter let it work for one hour then put it in an airtight container at the bottom of the fridge this will slow down its evolution and keep it alive for 6 to 8 weeks.

To create a backup, if you were to loose the starter you have in you fridge, when you happen to have some strong Starter left over, combine it with flour until you get a firm dough then divide it into small balls 15 to 20 mm in diameter and leave them to dry being careful not to expose them to direct sunlight. If you need to start a new chef reduce two of the balls to powder add a tablespoon of whole meal flour and 2 tablespoon of water, mix and let it ferment for 24 hours. Then refresh it every 12 hours (See making a starter).

The role of leaven in bread development

With natural leaven breads no sugar is added to the dough so the fermentation starts with the sugar naturally present in the flour (about 1.5% of the flour). When the sugar is depleted it starts to feed on the glucose which until now has been locked in the starch. The simple sugar glucose is produced by an enzyme naturally present in the flour called amylase which splits the starch and produces maltose which in turn is transformed by another enzyme called maltase until finally the yeast transforms the now present glucose into co2 and alcohol.
The resulting co2 is what gives your bread the lightness and holy texture, while the alcohol evaporates with the heat.

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