How to make quick sourdough at home
How to make homemade yeast

Making sourdough at home is easy and inexpensive. There are a lot of recipes for preparing it, but today we will see the simplest one, because you will only need flour and water.

We will try to create the right conditions to “capture” the yeasts and bacteria present in food and in the air itself.

Then we will use this leaven to make our own homemade bread. Before the creation of industrial yeast (barely 50 years ago), bread was always leavened with natural yeast.

Natural yeast gives bread a flavor that commercial yeast cannot. In addition, it alters all the characteristics of a bread: crumb, crust, duration, retention of humidity, etc.

To make our own sourdough, we will need a container, an old glass jar can help; we will be able to follow in full transparency how nature operates its magic.

The “insects” feed on the flour and release gases (which are then trapped in the bread in the form of bubbles in the crumb). For this reason, we are going to make a hole in the lid of the jar, so that it is not 100% airtight.

The process lasts 4 days; During this time, we will always try to have the pot with the same amount of sourdough (about half full, with a dense dough consistency). Each night we will have to “feed” our host, we will have to throw out half of the dough to make room for the new food.

How to make homemade sourdough.

1st day.

We mix the same amount of flour and water. The amount will depend on your pot.

Fill the jar only halfway (we’ll see why later). The water should be at room temperature. You can use tap water, let it sit for a while to lose its chlorine.

We will use whole wheat flour since the yeasts are on the surface of the food (wheat grain husks, grape skin, etc.); the “white” flour has had the shell removed, so insects are less likely to be of interest to us. The flour in the photos is wheat, the rye flour is even better.

Mix the flour and water and let stand in a quiet place (it should not be in a hot place). I made this sourdough in a hot December in Barcelona (in the street it was 9 ° to 17 °, at home something else, of course).

I make the leaven at night, when the house is quiet. During the four days of the process, it is easy for me to remind myself that I have to feed the dough before going to bed.

Day 2.

After 24 hours, there is no major sign of activity. The paste has settled a little and a brown liquid floats on the surface. If you look really tough, you can see tiny bubbles in the dough (but you have to look closely).

We throw out half the dough and add flour and water until the jar is half full again (like yesterday), mix well. We come back to let the dough rest for a day in a quiet place. This day (in anticipation of what will happen) I make a mark on the boat with a black marker; let’s see what happens.

Day 3.

By the third day, there are already signs of life. The dough is full of bubbles and has visibly swelled, the level has risen about 2 cm above the mark I made the day before; It’s okay. In addition, there is a smell, “that” smell. It is not an unpleasant smell, it is a smell of life, a new and unforgettable smell.

Like the day before, we throw out half of the dough and again fill the pan halfway with flour and water. Since you probably didn’t fill the bottle exactly to the mark from the day before, erase it and draw a new line on the glass.

Day 4.

Day 4 is a big day, a day we will never forget. Today we have finally succeeded in preparing the leaven.

The appearance of the pot is spectacular, the dough has doubled in size and it threatens to slip out of the pot. The mark we made with the marker is just a memory in the middle of the glass. Large gas bubbles are visible all over the boat, it’s ours!

Now that we have the sourdough ready to give us delicious loaves of bread, we can do several things:

  • Use it as is to make bread.
  • Put it in the fridge until we want to use it (before putting it in the fridge, we feed it again and wait for it to bubble). With the cold from the refrigerator, the sourdough “becomes numb” and does not need to be fed daily. So it can go on for months. It is quite normal for it to settle and create a thick layer of grayish liquid. When we want to use it, just bring it back to room temperature and power it up.
  • The third option is to “rinse” it with “white” flour to make it more versatile: a white sourdough gives white whole grain breads; A whole grain sourdough only makes whole grain breads because it stains the whites (not that it can’t be made).

I chose to clarify it, so that it is white, so I can make 2 different types of bread from the start; White breads and whole grain breads, thicker and darker. To clarify it, we simply put half of the dough back and fill the jar with flour and water. The same as the previous days, but this time with white flour.

Things that can happen.

  • The leaven is too liquid and the water separates from the flour. Very simple, the next day correct the quantities by using less water. The dough will be thicker.
  • The sourdough is very dense and creates a very dry crust. Very simple, the next day readjust the quantities by adding more water. The dough will be more liquid. It might be in a place that’s too hot and that’s why the crust is made.
  • No change happens for 3 days (or more) and it smells bad. Bad “bugs” may have invaded your leaven. Peace of mind, nothing happens, just throw it all in the trash and start over (it happened to all of us). If after 3 or 4 attempts you see that you are never successful, you can try putting a tablespoon of plain (skimmed) yogurt in the initial mixture. Yogurt is sour and will keep bad creatures at bay until the good ones arrive.
  • It is very hot and the leaven reacts very quickly (it does not take 24 hours to complete each phase of the process). This can happen if it is summer or if you have very high heating. In this case, you will have to move forward. It is more bulky because it may require to be more aware of the dough (feed it twice a day). However, even if you see a lot of activity, the first time around, try to follow the steps outlined and then draw conclusions.

What happens when the sourdough is not used and left in the refrigerator for a long time.

After a month, the sourdough pot in the refrigerator may have some problems. Over time, the leaven has settled and a dark liquid coats the dough. This alcoholic liquid is like a proto-beer (well, that is) with a toxic taste and of no great interest, so we’re going to throw it away.

What we have to do is revive the leaven. Oddly enough, there is life in it, since the yeasts and bacteria that make up the leaven are very resistant. They were here long before us and will easily outlive us for millennia. In addition, it is curious to see that after a month in the refrigerator, the mixture does not show “obvious” signs of putrefaction; It doesn’t have any noticeable mold or mildew, it doesn’t smell rotten (if left for several months, it may develop a distinct acetone smell, but there is still life). The combination of bacteria and yeasts that make it up is responsible for keeping it healthy, with curious asepsis, rid of bad insects that corrupt it, something surprising and eliciting my deepest admiration for the natural world.

To give the dough a shiny and vital aspect, we will return to step 2 of the sourdough manufacturing process. It’s that simple: we just throw away half the contents of the jar and add more flour and water again until it is filled to the previous level. It only remains to wait for the living being that we have cared for with so much affection to return and become strong; that is, to start bubbling again.

As with the initial procedure, there are no exact rules, since the conditions in each case are different: state of the dough, outside temperature, temperature of the refrigerator, flour, water, etc. The thing can vary from 4 hours to 1 or 2 days. Usually a few hours are enough. However, after sleeping for a long time, the acidic bacteria will have settled down better than the yeasts, so the dough will be quite acidic; It is advisable to give it a few feeding cycles this time before baking, so that the acidity decreases and the dough “forms”. In this way, it will gain strength and flavor. There is a verifiable fact and that is that the more the leaven is used and nourished, the better the bread comes out; improves its flavor and crumb.

In extreme cases, the mass may be very low and will require intensive care (UVI of mother masses); warmer environment, good quality whole wheat flour, etc.

Recipe and images: