So you're getting into this bread thing, you've done a few no-knead ones and like the results, but you know.. it's missing... something.. I'd be willing to bet that that something is bacteria or rather lactic acid caused by bacteria, no, don't go out and put dirt on your bread, it's not that kind of bacteria that we're talking about No, no, go to your kitchen and grow something!!
Ok, now that I've got your attention I just have to mention that getting a decent starter isn't the most complicated thing in the world, but it does take a bit of luck and perseverance. It'll start off fine, then it'll wreak for a few days and then it'll stabilize and unless it starts growing mold; keep at it and it'll reward you with some great tasting bread.
First off, you need to commit to at least 10 days for this to happen.We started off our er... starter with some grapes that came with our farmer's share about a year ago, but to be completely honest, after a few cycles I very much doubt that the yeasts from the grapes contribute anything and it all ends up being yeasts from the flour you use to feed the starter with.
You'll want to mix around 100gr. or 1 cup each of flour and water. If you want to add fruit into the mix, mash them up a bit and add them. After mixing leave it out on the counter or somewhere with good ventilation (this supposedly catches your region's wild yeasts). If there's bugs around where you are, cover with some cheesecloth or leave the lid loose.
Feed daily with equal amounts of flour and water, remove mass as needed. After a few days it'll start to get bubbly and probably stinky like on this video.
If there's some water accumulated at the top, remove it, then feed, compensating with more water as needed.
After about a week, the awful smells should subside, but what you need to happen is for your starter to double in bulk after 4~8 hours for it to be considered strong enough. Once you've reached this stage, you can move your starter to the fridge in a container with a tight fitting lid. And, you're done!
Now that you have some starter, you can use it for some bread or (I've only recently discovered), pancakes!!
My procedure for when I use the starter is to
- Take it out of the fridge
- Feed it with the amount I need for the day's baking
- Let it work it's magic
- Take out what I'm going to use
- Put it back in the fridge
This process has been going on about every week for the past year (maybe more) and we've even gone to the extreme of neglecting it in the fridge for 5 weeks; let me tell ya it was hungry when we fed it, as indicated with the rapid creation of bubbles.
For what I like to believe gives you a better, stronger colony is to vary the types of flour you feed it with, this way there's more variety of yeasts in the mix and really, only the strongest survive ;)