The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough flour question

littlelisa's picture

Sourdough flour question

Hello fellow bread geeks

I've taken a long break from making sourdough as we moved to Mauritius, which has affected my breadmaking in very specific ways:

1. This place has a crazy hot, humid climate (frequently above 80% humidity)

2. There is no decent unbleached stoneground flour available, so I end up bringing bags of flour back from visits abroad to sustain my home baking, which is on average one bake weekly (artisanal white lean loaves, but made with commercial yeast). Reasonably good results.  

3. The local bread quality is really dire (cottonwool white bread, even the baguettes), so I avoid buying bread locally except when absolutely necessary. 

OK, but now I've come across Trevor Wilson's unbelievably amazing e-book on sourdough open crumb mastery (if someone can tag him in this and point him towards my awe and gratitude, I'd be delighted). So I'm (obviously) feeling inspired to revisit my sourdough adventures. This will involve cultivating and sustaining a starter under these conditions. 

1. Can I cultivate and feed a starter with the supermarket-level all-purpose flour here, and then gradually switch to my painstakingly imported stoneground? I'm a bit precious about throwing lots of flour away, given how much effort is involved getting it here. 

2. Given the climate and my weekly baking schedule, I'm thinking my best bet for a starter regime is refrigeration. Does that sound sensible?

3. Any other advice on this?

Cheers  (and happy to be back among fellow breadmaking folk!)


WatertownNewbie's picture

The good news is that you are in a beautiful location.  The even better news is that there is a lot of info on TFL about starters.  My suggestion is that you go to the thread on the NMNF starter (posted by Dabrownman) and see whether that helps.

littlelisa's picture

Thank you - going to check it out promptly!

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

While it may seem like heresy to some, you might consider looking into using a dried starter to bypass the time and expense of cultivating your own starter. I'd suggest that you look into purchasing that dried starter from a business such as Amazon if it serves the same country where you purchase your stone ground flour. Or perhaps you might look into requesting some dried starter be mailed by the people who post here to an address when you go abroad. It's going to adjust to your locale as you feed it anyways. Just a thought.

G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

I bought my starter on Ebay for a few dollars after two unsuccessful attempts of cultivating it. It gets you baking sooner and is basically guaranteed to work. Win Win in my book. 

I also leave mine in the fridge and refresh when needed and it works well. 

littlelisa's picture

Excellent idea. I'm pretty sure I can do that. 

not.a.crumb.left's picture

for SD bread is not impossible and there is a recent thread from a baker in Brazil called Solano who explored how to make

SD bread with weaker , low protein flour. In essence you need a faster bulk at higher temps (which sounds like you will have no problem with) and/or using more leaven to encourage a faster bulk. Matteo Festo has some low gluten type of recipes in his ebook Natural Leavenings. I tried the other day to bake a bread using low protein pizza flour and it worked. When I started out I blamed my lack of success on my flour but you can make beautiful bread with what is called AP flour as long as you adjust the process to not exhaust the low gluten flour and start with a lower percentage of water until you know how much water your flour takes...

I also seem to remember that there was a SD baker posting on IG from Mauritius...If I came across any posts, I shall let you know as I find that people are always very helpful and Trevor's post on his IG account are also always really, really informative and inspirational. Just be careful with his pre-mix method and weak flour, if you have weaker flour as it might not be strong enough and will de-grade. This had happened to a number of TFLer when they tried his Champlain formula.  

Happy Baking, Kat       

p.s. I think many bakers use AP flour for their starter and you can give it a little bit more umpf with just a bit of light rye flour...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you may find yeast water more helpful to raise bread in the tropics.

I agree, the refrigerator will be very useful once the starter is up and running, whoops, rising.  It doesn't take a lot of flour to make a starter.

 Mini's extreme economical flour starter:

You can even put a few heaping tablespoons of flour in a jar, gently cover it with thrice the volume of non chlorinated water, do not mix but cover and let it stand and separate for about 4 days in a shady spot.  Leave it pretty much alone. Skim off anything growing on top and perhaps gently add cooled boiled water if the water layer is less than 2 cm over the wet flour layer.  When you see the tiny rising bubbles forming in the wet flour layer and there is enough activity to make the water layer suddenly cloudy ( at about day 3 or 4) give the wet flour layer a light stir mixing in a little of the dry flour below it and see if it springs to life in the next 12 hours. 

 Don't give up and repeat the gentle stir.  if it starts rising let it peak, remove  a spoonful to another jar and give it a one part starter, one part water, two parts flour to make a soft paste.  Beat it like crazy if you've build up frustration with all this passivity.  Let it peak and then feed it again making a slightly larger soft dough or paste.  Now decide if you wan to use it when it peaks in a recipe.  Save some to feed (maintenance starter) and use the rest directly or build a larger amount for baking.  

littlelisa's picture

So, unexpectedly, I discovered that there's a little shop in our village that stocks Canadian very strong white flour, imported from the UK. (Horrendous carbon footprint on that, I know but...) I bought a few bags and set up a starter attempt using Dan Lepard's method from The Handmade Loaf, which I've had some success with before. By day 6, my starter was tripling and overflowing the jar! Hurrah! So today I'm attempting my first loaves using that starter... wish me luck :-)