So in Okinawa and in Japan in general, bread is as you might say, a little limited. Japanese people are of course the conissseurs of rice and noodles but very few times have we had good bread here. I started to miss sourdough bread a while ago but couldn’t get sourdough starter here with some of the import regulations. If you aren’t familiar with sourdough starter, it’s what gives sourdough its unique sourdough taste and is essential to homemade sourdough.
Option one: accept that there will be no sourdough for three years other than the very poor attempt made by the commissary.
Option two: make my own sourdough starter. Part of why I got into food blogging was to make the things I couldn’t get from home. The obvious good food blogger option is #2. I was talking to my friend Jerry about it and he thought that I should try some Okinawan flour. I decided that I would do a little experiment of our Okinawan flour against all purpose flour from home and see which yielded a better result.
What is this so called sourdough starter? Well, it’s wild yeast that has been cultivated, and it is used instead of instant or active dry yeast in sourdough bread products. So where is wild yeast? How do we grow it? Well, wild yeast is actually in flour, the air, everywhere. We usually just don’t cultivate it and give it what it needs to grow.
About growing wild yeast: It’s simple really, just flour, water, dedication and time. The yeast does need to be fed more flour and water to continue to grow and multiply. After a couple days, the starter becomes bubbly and a bit frothy. It continues to grow for a few more days and is ready to be made into bread.
You can use any kind of flour but all purpose yeast is known to be the most predictable. I found that it produced superior results to the Okinawan flour which is a little finer milled and has an almost silt like texture. If you want to try whole wheat or any other type of flour starting with a little bit (say ¼ cup) of the all purpose sourdough starter as a seed and then fed with your other flour can impart that other flour’s character.
I followed a starter that used a 1:1 ratio of water and flour but other starters vary in those proportions. Simply use a bit of this sourdough starter and feed it with the ratios of the bread you want to make if you want to adapt to its starter.
- All purpose flour
- Water (filtered is best)
- 2 qt bowl
- Day 1: For most accurate results, measure by weight 4 ounces flour (3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons) and 4 ounces water (half cup). Mix well until you have a batter, scrape down sides of bowl. Cover with plastic and let sit for 24 hours in an area that will have a constant temperature of about 70-75 degrees where you will be able to keep it for several days (you can move it but be sure that it stays in a place of constant temperature and humidity).
- Day 2: Aim to feed it at about the 24 hour mark by adding another four ounces water and four ounces flour to the mix. Again it’s best to measure by weight but you will probably be ok doing ½ cup water and ¾ cup plus 2 T flour if your prefer for ease. Stir well. The starter should be looking a little more bubbly at this point. What’s going on in the yeast is eating the sugar in the flour to make alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles. It will be starting to get a yeasty.
- Day 3: Continue to feed the starter with another four ounces of both flour and water at about the 24 hour mark from when you last fed the starter. Mix well and scrape down again. The volume of the starter should be increasing and acidic, frothy and thick. Mine had a little separation but I continued to feed it and by day 5 things were looking great! Don’t give up if you think it’s off a little.
- Day 4: Continue to do as you have done for the past few days and give the starter another 4 ounces of flour and water. It will continue to increase in volume and sourness.
- Day 5: Check your starter. It should be frothy with large bubbles. If you taste it you will probably be a little repulsed at how sour it is. It may be stinky. It should have a large volume. These are signs that the yeast is ripe and ready to use!! Go for it!! If you think it’s not quite ready, continue adding flour and water for a couple more days and it should be good to go!
- Beyond Day 5: To maintain the starter, discard about half and feed it with more flour and water. Stir vigorously.
- If you are using the starter within a few days, leave it out in a place with a temperature of 70-75 F and feed it for the next few days, everyday discarding half and feeding it with more flour and water.
- If you won’t be using the sourdough starter, refrigerate it but take it out a least once a week to discard half, feed with four ounces flour and water and sit out overnight.