In English you call it “sourdough”, in Italian we call it Pasta Madre ( mother dough) or Lievito Madre ( mother yeast) or Lievito Naturale (natural yeast). I don’t like calling it sourdough because it is really NOT suor.
There are many different recipes for making it from scratch, and there are many people who will donate it to you – in Italy there is a whole network of “mother dough smugglers” who will donate you some of their “mama” and teach you how to take care of it.
Yes, “mama” is a living organism, it is a fermentation of water and flour with the help of some good bacteria that is found in the air, and in some recipes in fruit, yogurt, or other ingredients.
Before I started my “mama” I did a fair amount of research on blogs, web sites, youTube, my books, library books, Facebook groups, and friends, then I decided to go my way ( as usual).
This is what I did, I mixed 30g of water (tap) with 30g of all purpouse (bleached) flour, and left it on the counter all day and all night, the next day I did it again, and again, and after a week I had a huge blob of stinky stuff on the counter . . . so it all went down the toilet . . . yuck !!
Then I did even more research . . .. and did it properly: 30g of unbleached all purpouse flour ( you can use rye or whole wheat flour ) and 30 g of bottled water ( I believe that the chlorine in the water and in the flour killed my first “mama”), I mixed it nicely and left it on the counter. The next day I took 30g of the mixture, added 30g of bottled water and 30g of the flour and let it sit, I also added a teeny weeny pinch of sugar. I did this twice a day for about 6 days, during these 6 days you will notice ( if you wish to have your own “mama”) that there are bubbles forming inside your misture! That is the bacteria that is fermenting with the flour and water ( and itzy bitzy bit of sugar), every day you will see it grow bigger and get more bubbles.
. . . so how long does this last ?!? Good question, when you notice that your mixture doubles in size in about 4 hours, then it is ready. An other way to see if it is ready is to drop a little bit in a glass of water, if it floats . . . it’s ready.
Once it is ready you can call it a Mother Dough ( or sourdough if you prefer) – At this point you can keep it in the refrigerator and “feed” it every 3 – 4 – 5 – or even 7 days !
This is the time you need to decide weather you want a liquid sourdough or a solid sourdough. I am still deciding . . . so I can’t tell you what I like best. But I can tell you how to feed the liquid and how to feed the solid:
For the liquid, you will use the same amount of “mama” and flour and water – so it is the same as you have done to create it, for example 30 g of sourdough, 30 g of flour, 30g or water.
For the solid, you will use the same amount of “mama and flour, and only ½ of that amount of water – for example 30g of sourdough, 30g of flour, 15g of water.
Whichever you have, it is best ( although not crucial) to leave it at room temperature for 20 / 30 minutes before you feed it, and it is important to leave it about 3 hours at room temp. before you put it back into the fridge.
So the liquid sourdough you just use a teaspoon and stirr all together and leave it in the container to grow for a few hours before it goes into the refrigerator.
The solid one requires a little bit of work, you have to make sure that the flour is all absorbed and that you end up with a nice and smooth but slightly sticky ball, then you should cut a cross on it and let it rest for a few hours. After it has rested, and usually doubled in size, you can “punch it down” and work it into a little ball again, and put it in the refrigerator.
. . . And all this work is for . . . ?!?!? an other good question !! this is natural yeast, it can be used instead of brewer’s yeast when baking. This is how the bread was made in the “old” days. Bread baked with natural yeast is not only more flavourfull, but it will also last longer and is better for you – as it has really long rising times, it will not keep rising in your tummy after you have eaten in ( as yeast does !)