My “Mama”

Tuscan Bread sourdoughI am the proud mother of 2 “Mother Dough”, they were officially born September 6, it was a long “labour” but we did it !

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.

This is what the liquid looks like: Liquid Sourdough

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.

This is what the solid looks like: Solid Sourdough

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 !)

Tuscan Sourdough bread


6 thoughts on “My “Mama”

  1. Love it and love your loaves of bread. Glad you have made it. I was like you two liquid and 65% but you can use each for a different purpose but they do eat a lot to keep them happy.

  2. Hello, I know this post is half a year old, but…

    A friend brought me a mother dough from her mom from Italy. I am very excited about it and want to use it. It is solid and well fed. However I don’t know what to do with it. How much do I put in my bread dough for replacing a package of yeast? What does it replace in a bread recipe?

    I tried myself once and made bread with a little less flour and no yeast. It was puffy enough, but tasted very pale.

    • Hello ! the first thing you should remember is to feed it a couple of times a week – if your “mama” is solid, you probably want to give it 50 or 40% hydration – so you take 50g of your “mama” add 50g of flour and 25g of warm water ( for a 50% hydration) or 20g of warm water ( for a 50% hydration), and ¼ tsp of honey.You want to work it well and fold it a few times for the gluten to start building. As far as bread is concerned, there is no “rule” as to how much to substitute for yeast – it really depends on how active your “mama” is. After you have fed your “mama” it should double in size at room temp in 2 hours. When it does that it is ready to be used. You take what you need and put the rest in the refrigerator. If it does not double in size in 2 hours, you should feed it once or twice a day and keep it at room temp until it does. this link can give you a conversion from dry yeast to natural yeast depending on how much flour and liquid re recipe calls for . . . I hope it helps – if not please contact me again ! Have fun with your “mama”

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