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Yes, you can; however, you need to be aware that most "bread flour" is packed with additives such as xanthan gum and other thickeners. This may interfere with the texture of the starter and makes a much firmer dough.
In this case, you may need to use your mixer with a k-beater to feed the starter. It may result in a less flavourful starter, but still remains effective.
Where are the bubbles?
The reason I like to use large glass containers is that it is really easy to notice changes in the starter. But, most importantly, you can see how active it is, and bubbles are usually highly visible. You may think your starter is under-achieving if you use a ceramic bowl and do not notice any bubbles reaching the top of the starter.
If you do not see bubbles at the top or at the sides of the starter, it may be because the room temperature does not create an ideal environment for the bacteria to thrive, and it may, in fact, take longer to grow.
A great tip (especially in the winter months when the heating is on timer) is to place the starter above (or next to) an appliance, like a fridge. The warmth is often enough to quick-start your starter.
You need to make sure that you feed the starter at regular intervals. If it still does not help, you can go for a third feeding, and do so every 8 hours.
My starter is growing too fast. What do I do?
First, you need to be aware that your taster will double in size after each feeding, so you must use a large enough – plastic or glass – container. I have used both a large 2 litres glass container (just about right) and a large 3 litre jar, with great success.
How fast your starter grow will greatly depends on the temperature of the room. During the summer months, your starter may grow very quick, while in the cooler months it may be requiring a little help. See below how to boost your starter.
Do not use any metal utensil during the making of this recipe (or any other fermented recipe, for that mater), as metal interacts with the fragile bacteria responsible for the necessary fermenting process.
If your utensils are made of medical-grade stainless steal, then these can safely be used.
What is that liquid accumulating at the top?
Do not worry. This, in no way means your starter is dead, or dying. This is natural and liquid may – or may not – collect at the surface of the starter.
The liquid is actually very active, a bit like kefir. The liquid, in fact, contains a large amount of lactobacillus, which gives the bread its amazing sourdough taste.
Is it possible to boost my starter?
Personally, I have added once a couple of tablespoons of kombucha to the starter feeding mix (keeping the exact same ratio of flour to liquid) with great result. The bacteria required for the fermentation of the grains are the same that the one colonising your kombucha or kefir, let it be water kefir or milk kefir. You are simply creating a friendlier environment for bacteria to thrive.
How long can I keep my starter for?
The answer is easy!
A starter if regularly attended to, fed about every 5–to–7 days, can last for many decades in your fridge. In the past, mothers would pass on portions of their starter to their daughters, and some have been recorded to be decades-old, and still thriving.
My sourdough did not rise. What went wrong?
I noticed, when making my first attempt, that the sourdough increased very little in volume. It was quite disappointing indeed, but I quickly understood that any draft (or the flow of air from the fan-assisted oven) can prevent the sourdough from proofing.
This is elementary. Even when making regular bread, any draft can damage the proofing process.
The best pace for the dough to proof overnight (or at least, 12 hours), is in the cupboard above your fitted fridge or freezer, or inside the oven with the bottom-only heat setting and at a maximum temperature of 45–50˚c.
A warming cabinet or drawer provide the ideal environment, if you are lucky to have a kitchen equipped with either.
If you only have a fan-assisted oven without a bottom-only heat setting, you may have to play around. Heat your oven to 75˚c. Once that temperature reached, switch off your oven and you may now place the dough in the middle of the oven. Let it cool slightly and close the door. The oven should remain warm enough for long enough to help the dough proofing.
Can I use a single type of flour to feed my starter?
Yes, you can. Although, I would highly recommend to mix, at least, two different types of flours. Buckwheat and tiger nut flour work nicely together, for example.
Do not use brown rice flour alone. It just doesn't work. Using starches-style flours will increase the feedings.
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Olivier is a Michelin trained chef, a registered Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating.
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