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- In saucepan, combine 570 grams water with sugar. Set over low heat just until dissolved. Cool.
- Once cool, stir in honey and place in one container, along with raisins. Seal and place in warm location (at least 70 degrees) in your kitchen.
- Thoroughly shake mixture several times daily and pop top periodically to allow for adequate air exchange over the next 5 to 7 days. After 3 or 4 days (depending on ambient temperature of kitchen), you’ll begin to smell alcohol. The lid will pop when opened, releasing carbon dioxide as by-product of fermentation. This means you are on your way to a happy mother! Leave jar loosely covered with lid at this point, allowing mixture to “breathe.”
- After 6 or 7 days, you should observe bubbles actively rising to surface. This means yeast water is ready. Add 60 grams yeast water to 60 grams bread flour in second container (this jar will house starter). Stir until thoroughly mixed, and leave loosely covered with lid at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
- After initial mixing, small bubbles will indicate signs of life. Add remaining 120 grams water and remaining 120 grams flour, position lid, and allow to ferment at room temperature for another 8 hours.
- Now that you have your own sourdough mother, keep it alive by feeding equal parts starter, flour, and water by weight (See “Starter Maintenance” for more detailed information on feedings). After several more feedings, drop 1 tablespoon starter in glass of water. If it floats instead of sinks, your starter is ready to leaven bread. Note: Once fed, starter will double in size. Keep it in a container that will accommodate this expansion.
To perform a feeding, simply discard half the amount and add water and flour in parts equal to or greater than weight of remaining starter. For example, if you have 100 grams of starter left after you’ve discarded half, add at least 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. It’s important not to starve your starter with skimpy feedings, but it is okay to add more water and flour to bulk it up when planning a big batch of baking. If you are keeping your starter in refrigerator for longer than a few days, it is preferable to give it two feedings at room temperature before making leaven or mixing dough.
Maintaining a sourdough starter culture is the soul of bread baking and a relatively simple affair if you learn the clues of fermentation and how to react to them accordingly. No single feeding or batch of bread will perform exactly the same as the last, due to the many variables that affect fermentation, including time, temperature, atmospheric humidity, and the type of flour used. This is the glory and joy of baking with natural leavening. Over time, you will intuitively learn to better gauge starter and dough. Engage your sense of smell, as well as sight, to note the maturity of the starter and when it is ripe and ready to leaven bread: it should smell fruity and slightly acidic and have recognizable bubbles present on the surface.