Live Sourdough Starter
Live Sourdough Starter
It's great fun to culture your own sourdough starter. We learn heaps, and it really is an experience - tending the baby, worrying if it will die from one of a million possible issues. Eventually, if we get through it all, we end up with our very own baby starter, which will become stronger as it ages.
It'll be a quarter of a century (or more) before your home made starter is as powerful as this one.
Back in 1990, master Baker Warwick Quinton decided to get serious about his baking obsession, and made this starter using organically grown whole grains and pure water sourced directly from a spring in the Blue Mountains of NSW. Gradually, with lots of hits and misses, he cultured this fermentation to be ‘viable’ in his tiny kitchen in Waverley, NSW.
His starter took many forms in the years between then and now. It began as a fermentation of cooked grains, a different grain for each day of the week, sitting in a window sill in the East Coast Sydney sun. The different grains would show varying effects in the way they fermented, and Warwick keenly observed the process as a scientist might. He had to. There was no internet at the time, so getting information about fermented bread and sourdough startes was fairly difficult.
There were failures, There were explosions ( seriously! ). There were more questions than answers. And then, there was life.
The starter was leavened from this point on freshly milled bio dynamic wholewheat flour, honey and sea salt. It produced a kind of neutral flavoured rising agent which people loved. Warwick wasn’t as keen on what he’d created as everyone else was. He wanted to simplify it, to allow the grain to be the master - rather than the interplay between honey, salt, flour and water. But after spending a long time trying to make it work at all, he chose to treat his starter very gently. He worked with this starter for his whole stretch in Sydney.
After many years of making one of the first naturally leavened breads in Sydney, Warwick headed to the Blue Mountains, opening a cafe and bakery specialising in Artisan sourdough breads and pastries in Leura, called ‘The Baker’s Cafe’. There he developed what he called his ‘bucket and bag’ starter - a liquid starter, based around a bag of flour and a bucket of water. This made wonderful, earthy bread, and it found its way also into pastries made for the cafe - in fact, he even attempted to make coffee with a strater infusion (needless to say, this didn’t end well)!
The Baker’s Cafe allowed his starter to be ‘grain fed’ - an experiment which took his starter from being enriched with honey and salt to being purely flour and water.
His bread was so popular that it even found its way back to Sydney!
Warwick began manufacturing his bread in larger amounts from an old abandoned shopping centre in Nth Katoomba, just down the road from his cafe in Leura. From here his bakery business grew in leaps and bounds, as there was no other bakery in the country supplying Sydney’s newfound taste for decent artisan bread. The starter morphed from a ‘Bucket and Bag’ into a 200 litre tub of liquid organic wholewheat starter, being used and fed every day to create many thousands of loaves destined for the Sydney appetite.
This starter found its way into what became a large Sydney bakery, and Warwick moved to Newcastle with his family. After a few years there, it morphed again into a desem, or dough starter, which resided in a domestic fridge in Warwick's Newcastle residence - about the time he began his website, www.sourdoughbaker.com.au.
Warwick has been using this style of starter ever since. He says he’ll never go back to liquid starters, with their constant need for attention.
A dough starter has a number of advantages over a liquid. It has a different mix of enzymes, and as such gives the bread a superior flavour and texture. It is also more stable, needing to be fed only occasionally. Typically, the starter is fed once every two weeks, though it will live quite happily for a month or more between feeds.
Our Live Sourdough Starter is over 27 years old. It was originally cultured from scratch by the SourdoughBaker himself, Warwick Quinton. During that time, this starter has leavened millions of loaves of bread. It has been the sourdough backbone to all of Warwick's bakeries, as well as the backbone of many other bakeries (home and professional) that Warwick has collaborated with over the years.
The starter is in the DESEM style, meaning that it is thick, like a dough. For transport reasons, the Desem has been rolled into a sheet and may require a feed before use. Full instructions are with the package.
In addition, the starter comes with Warwick's booklet, 'Sourdough Fermentation Mini Guide', a very useful printed book to help to demystify the sourdough process. This book is valued at $10 and is included free of charge.
Please note: Freight is included in the price to anywhere in Australia. We can't post overseas due to varying customs laws. Please don't order this product if you live outside Australia.