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Each unaltered grain of wheat contains elements required to perpetuate life. The outer wrapper of the seed (bran) protects the seed and provides fiber and nutrients. The bulk of the interior of the seed is a starchy substance called the endosperm. The endosperm provides the germinating seed with the nutrients it needs until a root system matures and can sustain the plant. The germ is the tiny embryo of another plant. When wheat is commercially milled into white flour, the nutritious germ and bran are removed, stripping the resulting flour of the minerals and vitamins that are naturally present. Manufacturers are required by law to add 3 or 4 artificial vitamins back into commercial white flour which is then called ‘enriched.’ At least 16 vitamins and 11 minerals exist in an intact grain of wheat.

The intact wheat berry arrives with strains of microorganisms that live well on grains. A single gram of flour has around 13,000 yeast cells. The yeast that are prominent in your starter will be those that have a taste for (and reside with) your grain. A starter needn’t be exposed to the surrounding air to ‘capture’ wild yeast. Leaving the lid off only attracts insects and unwanted pests.

Sourdough starter is a balanced culture of yeast and lactobacillus bacteria growing in a water and flour mix. The ratio of lactobacillus to yeast at room temperature is well balanced, with yeast reproducing at a slower rate. When refrigerated, the lactobacillus reproduction slows. Generally, you’ll want to maintain your starter in an area where the temperature remains between 65°F to 85°F. If your home is normally cooler than this, your starter may be happier sitting near a light bulb, on top of a refrigerator, on a warm hearth or in an insulated box. If your home is too warm, setting your starter’s container in a bowl of cool water will help protect it from overheating.

Baker’s yeast is an isolated strain of yeast and has no lactobacillus while a healthy Sourdough starter has BOTH Yeast and Lactobacilli. These two microorganisms are designed to work together in a symbiotic relationship. Lactobacilli are anaerobic organisms which live off of carbon dioxide. Yeast lives off of the starch in the endosperm and produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct. This enriches the Lactobacilli colonization which then prevents growth of harmful bacteria.

Sourdough starters are simply containers that host this process and (in return for regular feeding) give the bread maker a natural leavening agent.


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