I've tried baking bread with sourdough starters before, but never to get one from scratch myself. I've been waiting for a chance to try for quite a while and no occasion would be more propitious than the start of a new blog. Sure, if it doesn't work, it wont make a too good impression but what would be life without risks.
Before starting I leafed through my bread books to get some background info. There seem to be many variations which can all be divided in two groups: soft/wet starters, with quite a high water/flour ratio and dry ones, i.e. French style. I picked the French method mainly because I found the description (from Joe Ortiz's "The Village Baker") clear and more detailed than those in my other books.
Ortiz calls for little flour (1/2 Cup) to be mixed with enough water to
obtain a firm dough, which in 2-3 days time will (hopefully) become
your chef. Organic flour is supposed to contain more natural yeast and
for this reason I bought some organic stone ground flour from Weichardt-Brot
in Berlin two weeks ago. There is a number of other ingredients that
can be added as improvers to the dough, either as supplementary wild
yeast source or nourishment: milk, honey, malt, grapes, cumin powder
and a few others.
Ortiz gives some examples of starters containing a few of those and
states that each ingredient can give the dough a peculiar flavour.
Since I'm trying to recreate the flavour of a particular bread I
decided to modify his examples slightly. My goal would be to bake
something similar to the sourdough version of the classical everyday
Neapolitan bread: Pane Cafone.
This bread, usually 1 or 2 kg rounds, with irregular crumb and baked
till the crust is almost mahogany in colour, is usually made with yeast
or old dough, and is perfectly fine that way, but in a few bakeries it
is still made with sourdough and then it tastes like bread heaven.
To try and capture the flavour I considered which extra ingredients would fit in the chef. Cumin definitely does not come into Italian breads (apart... cumin bread of course). Grapes seemed a good idea but no chance to find organic ones at the moment. I wanted one between malt and honey and went for the former since Italian bakers often use it in bread and since one of my favourite bakeries making Pane Cafone always seemed to have malt tins in their garbage. After some thought I also included about a tablespoon of milk to get some lactic bacteria hopefully too. I like the taste they give to bread. Now I'll just hope and wait: wish me good luck.