In order to make and take advantage of the cultured benefits of sourdough bread, you need to first make a starter. The starter is the "mother", that which ferments and multiplies the beneficial bacteria. This starter is fed daily or weekly, according to how often you go bake. I know people that have had their starter for over 30 years. Its a wonderful thing to have on hand as you can use it in multiple recipes, especially any that you want to have a rich and "buttermilky" flavor, however sourdough is a dairy free. low cholesterol, low fat way to do this, and much healthier all around.
Sourdough starter used to make breads, muffins, pancakes, crackers, pie crusts, pizza crusts, and more is great for those that have more IBS type symptoms because of the phytic acid in the grain that is able to be broken down during the fermentation process. This does NOT occur during traditional bread baking and so many who can't eat regular bread can do fine with sourdough. If one DOES have IBS or IBD, a grain free diet entirely might be necessary along with other measures, but once stabilized or if in the beginning stages, sourdough may be the right bread type to try.
But even if you don't have any of the above concerns, the beneficial bacteria consumed by eating cultured and fermented foods is a bonus for every diner.
My quest lately has been particularly for good quality complex carbs along with quality proteins, both to ward against diabetes, and to provide my athletic boys with rich energy foods that is also not pumping them full of breads (which is typical anytime someone says "carbs".) My boys being bread lovers, as is usual and simple, I wanted to at least give them some options that instill health benefits.
The starter I use:
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
1 tsp salt
1 packet or 1 tsp yeast (I usually use active dry yeast)
1 single serve of plain yogurt (or veganize with 1/2 c. of room temp water)
Mix together in a glass dish that allows enough room for expansion. with a tight fitted lid
If you are gluten free, you really can use any grain (oat flour, brown rice flour, white rice flour, millet, amaranth, etc) In fact, you might find it really enjoyable to try different variations. If you don't worry about gluten free, you can use any regular flour. The point is that any flour used with fermentation will be easier to digest, absorb minerals better, and be easier on the gut than regular bread.
Fruit flies tend to be a problem because of the sweet smell of fermentation, and while I don't love using plastic, I will cover with a plastic wrap before putting on the glass cover, or I will use a square of cheesecloth, anything to keep those little buggers away from enjoying our cultured concoction.
Once this is mixed, leave out in a mildly warm place, like on top of the refrigerator
Every day for the first 5 days, I add by mixing with a spatula by hand:
1/4 c xylitol(you can use sugar, I just prefer not to use refined sugars)
1/4 c more of your grain flour or gluten free flour blend
1/4 c water
This is feeding the bacteria that are starting to grow. It needs the nice warm spot and the moisture of the fermenting to keep growing. It will start developing a strong sweet smell. If at any time you see mold or green mold around the top, something went awry and you want to toss it out. But if you scrape down the top after mixing so nothing is left on the sides, this shouldn't be a problem. Also, I never use my starter for 24 hours after I've fed it. So I usually scoop off what I need, and then feed it and wrap it back up again.
Now, to refrigererate or not? If you bake (and eat) enough sourdough products, keep it on the counter and feed it every day at the same time. If you don't bake or use the sourdough that often, it can store indefinitely in the fridge and just feed it once a week. Before using it however, you will need to bring it out, place it on the counter and bring to room temperature.
Over time, you will see the starter get nice and "fermenty", bubbly and expanding up the glass dish. This is an excellent starter.
As it makes so much, you can scoop up a cup by cup and give as gifts. It can also be frozen, taken back out and fed, picking up right where you left off. I like to make sure I have one or 2 1 cup bags of frozen starter in my freezer just in case something went wrong and I lost my original mother.
If you find you are in love with sourdough, I would definitely look up people that turn this into an art. I keep mine very simple and basic, but wow are there some sourdough gods out there! yeah, you won't find that level here!
You'll need this starter to be able to make the recipes I have coming up. We'll be doing all gluten free recipes, but you can easily convert them to regular flour with a 1:1 ratio (an even substitution) They are chocolate cupcakes, soda crackers, pie crust, pizza crust, and grands biscuits.
I'll post them next week so you have time to give your starter 5 good days.