Though you can try to create sourdough bread without starter there are several different types to choose from. The most commonly used starter is a liquid sourdough starter though there are others you may want to try. Depending on the type of sourdough bread that you want to produce, there may be an ideal starter. From rye to stiff, Desem, and Amish Friendship Bread starters, there may be one just right for your bread baking.
Liquid Sourdough Starter
The liquid sourdough starter is the traditional option and is made solely from water and flour. As a liquid starter, it will be 100% hydration so you can use equal amounts of water and flour. Not only is it relatively easy to use but it remains cheap to make so remains exceedingly popular.
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Choose any type of grain-based flour and you can make a liquid sourdough starter. That could even mean gluten-free flour but it should be unbleached. Keep the starter hungry and give it time before you feed it. The acidic profile means you may want to use it quickly once created though it does mean less mixing when incorporating it into your bread dough.
Rye Sourdough Starter
A rye sourdough starter can be considered a tradition in parts of Eastern Europe. This is mainly to do with how robust and hardy the rye grain is with the cold climate but also the specific flavor profile.
Due to the firm, almost paste-like consistency of the starter, you will need to use more liquid when forming the bread dough. There is also comparatively little gluten found in rye flour yet it does ferment rapidly to expand and then produce bubbles. Be prepared to work quickly as the starter will be ready once it has produced a domed effect. Take care as once that dome has collapsed, your window may have gone with it.
Stiff Sourdough Starter
The stiff sourdough starter has a similar consistency to a rye sourdough starter. Consider less water but more flour as this type of starter will still create a ball once it has been sufficiently mixed. You can then knead it properly to ensure that the flour is fully incorporated. As long as you are relatively gentle with the starter, you should be rewarded with a reduced sourness, certainly compared to a rye or liquid starter.
Thankfully, the stiff starter does benefit from a longer ‘ripeness’ window. You should still have time to use its leavening power and it is ready once large bubbles appear just below the surface and a dome shows up.
Desem Sourdough Starter
Using the Dutch word for ‘leaven’, a Desem sourdough starter has its origins in Belgium but was probably influenced by the French. To use this type of starter, form a dough ball from freshly ground wholegrain or wholemeal flour with water. This ball then gets buried with the same flour in a container and kept cool while it cultivates.
A Desem sourdough starter only requires feeding once or twice a week so proves economical. When you do need to use it, use the starter wisely and it should produce a delicious flavor without a lot of maintenance.
Amish Friendship Bread Starter
This is quite a specific type of starter, as you may expect. Yet if you do want to make a batch of Amish Friendship Bread then you need a specific starter. You may be used to starters that get passed around and this is how the starter achieved its name. Essentially, it is a little sweeter than a typical sourdough starter so be prepared to create a recipe like Cinnamon-Sugar Bread.
Once the starter has been created, divide it up and measure out a single cup for each Ziploc bag (gallon-sized). Have a few at hand as you could have four to six cups ready to go, depending on the active state of your starter. Leave some instructions on the Ziploc for your friends, co-workers, or neighbors and you can simply cook a couple of loaves with your single cup of starter.
Some sourdough starters are relatively specific and tailored for a purpose or type of bread. For instance, an Amish Friendship Bread starter should be shared and used for sweet types of bread. However, a Rye sourdough starter would be ideal for Rye sourbread. You can always choose a sourdough starter based on how easy it is to maintain (Desem), how little time you have (stiff), or how familiar it is to use (liquid).
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