Have you ever had real homemade sourdough bread? It’s wonderful!
The first time I remember ever having it was many years ago at our neighbor’s in in Mt. Vernon, Washington. She made it every couple of days. Her starter was very old and it was great. It had a completely different flavor and texture to the commercial sourdough breads of the West Coast. The fresh smell and a lightly chewy texture gives me wonderful memories. I’d like to tell you the recipe you’ll read below is this one, but it’s not to be. I didn’t bake bread then and never thought to ask for a bit of the starter.
Beginning around 2004, I started baking bread in earnest and started my first sourdough starter shortly after that. Wish it was still around, but work had me traveling around the world which was not conducive to keeping a starter.
In 2007 while traveling for work in Russia, I tasted homemade sourdough again. Yes, Russia. Southern Siberia to be exact. It was my pleasure to be invited to a dacha in the mountains for a weekend. While there I enjoyed the forest, had a proper Siberian sauna, drink vodka and eat many new and tasty foods. But, most importantly I got to taste Siberian Sourdough Rye Bread. It was incredible. After bread came out of the wood stove I was ready to eat a whole loaf. But, at las we had to let the bread cool.
My host thought what a better way to that than have a relaxing sauna followed by a jump in an ice-cold stream. All of this and I still hadn’t had a drink. But that changed soon after the dip in the ice-cold stream. But, again I digress. The bread! It was fantastic. It was still slightly warm and had a nice brownish appearance.
That’s when I was taught how to properly enjoy Russian Vodka. You place a slice of fresh cut bread to your nose and smell it taking in all that earthly aroma. While the smell is still fresh in your nose you take a shot (or more) of Russian vodka and then taste the bread. I was told this symbolizes the connection between the wheat in the bread and the wheat in the Vodka. It works with any good wheat based vodka, give it a try next time you cut into a loaf of fresh warm homemade bread.
Now, how did that get us to Swedish Sourdough Starter? Because, I live in Sweden and the Swedish rye starter recipe is very like the Russian starter. I make this with a fine rye flour (Finmalt Råg Mjöl). This allows for me to make a rye bread or just use standard flour bread.
TIP: For you guys in North America, the rye flour you see at your local store is likely a coarse variety. It could work, but I’d recommend getting fine rye flour at your local Co-Op, Lucky’s or maybe Fresh Market. You can usually find it in the bulk grain section. Should you prefer you can just use all-purpose flour.
There are numerous starter recipes out there and even more opinions of the correct methods/ratios. This is just a recipe for the starter that I use and it’s a breeze to mix up. Feeding and keeping it alive is not a big deal either. So to the recipe and after that I’ll go over the feeding and care of you starter.
Swedish Rye Sourdough Starter
- Fine Rye Flour* (all-purpose can be substituted)
- 1/2 cup (1.25 dl) Chopped dried figs. (You can substitute a grated (unpeeled) small apple or pear instead of dried figs.)
To begin wash a crock or other container that is 4 cups (10 dl).
Day 1: Add 100 grams (3.53 oz.) of fine rye flour and 3 - 4 chopped dried figs to 100 grams (3.53 oz.) of warm water and stir. Once stirred, cover with cheese cloth or a cup towel and place in a warm place. Top of the fridge usually works well.
Day 2: Stir
Day 3: Add another 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of fine rye flour and another 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of warm water to the starter and stir. Once stirred, cover with cheese cloth or a cup towel and place in a warm place. It should be stiffer/thicker.
Day 4: Remove all but 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of the starter and place in a clean container. Discard all the remaining starter. Then add 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of fine rye flour and another 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of warm water to the starter and stir. Once stirred, cover with cheese cloth or a cup towel and place in a warm place.
Day 5: Add another 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of fine rye flour and another 50 grams (1.76 oz.) of warm water to the starter and stir. Once stirred, cover with cheese cloth or a cup towel and place in a warm place.
Recipe Notes*The rye flour I'm using for this recipe is about 125 grams per cup. Feel free to use cups instead of grams.
TIP: If you’re not using the discarded starter in bread, toss it in the fridge and use it within a couple of days in any baked items. Just adjust the recipe by the weight/volume of the starter.
You should refresh your starter regularly. It will vary from a feed a day in warmer climates to once every few day in a cooler. For me here in Sweden I feed every 3-4 days. I leave my starters (yes I have more than one) by the window which is much cooler. Also, you can put it in the fridge if you wish to give it and you a rest.
The refresh or feeding is easy. I take out all but about a third of my starter (300g for me). I then add 150g of flour and 150g water and stir. The discarded starter is used for making bread or other baked goods. Some our there might disagree with my feeding method, but it gives me what I want. I believe in the end you’ll find your own ratios.