Wild Culture Sourdough Starters are shipped in a dehydrated state to reduce the danger of spoilage in transit. Activating your culture is an easy process requiring only a few simple steps and a few days time. Please note that sourdough cultures are very sensitive to temperature and when activating your start be sure it is placed in a mild location ranging from 60˙ to 85˙F (15˙ to 30˙ C). If the starter is too cold or too hot it will not properly activate.
Once your Wild Culture Sourdough Starter has been activated it can be used to bake breads, cookies, doughnuts, pretzels, pizzas, pastries, rolls, pancakes, biscuits, muffins, bagels, crepes, etc. in a wide variety of shapes and flavors. The possibilities are endless for using Wild Culture Sourdough Starter for leavening in baking. Any combination of wheat, rye, pumpernickel, spelt, oatmeal, cornmeal, oat, buckwheat, gluten-free, or ordinary all-purpose flour can be used to make delicious artisan sourdough breads at home. Just be sure to use unbleached and unbromated flour with the sourdough cultures.
A downloadable version of these sourdough culture activation instructions is available here as a .pdf file.
Wild Culture Sourdough Starter Activation Instructions:
1) Place the contents of the packet into a clean one-quart (or larger) wide-mouth glass canning jar or similar container.
2) Add 1/4 cup of room temperature water and mix well. Add 1/4 cup wheat flour and stir vigorously. Be sure to incorporate a significant amount of air into the mixture. (Note: If you are activating the 100% rye culture, use rye flour in place of wheat flour in these instructions. If you are activating the gluten-free culture, use gluten-free flour to activate and feed your culture).
3) Cover loosely and place in a warm area (65° to 85°F degrees) for 12 to 18 hours. The warmer the location, the quicker the sourdough starter will activate (but stay within the temperature range).
4) Make sure your culture is in a mild location within the 65° to 85°F degree temperature range. Temperatures beyond that range can be problematic for activating the culture and may even damage or kill the culture.
5) Mix in 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. Be sure to incorporate a significant amount of air into the mixture. Cover and return to a warm spot for 12 hours. Be sure to use a large enough container and place a cloth or paper towel under the container as active sourdough starter may bubble over.
6) Discard all but 1/2 cup of the flour and water mixture. Mix in 1/2 cup water and a little less than 1 cup of flour. Repeat this process every 12 hours until the mixture becomes light and bubbly.
7) Sourdough starter is very sensitive to temperature. If the mixture is kept quite warm, this process may be concluded within the first several days. It is common for sourdough starter to take 2 to 5 days to fully activate and be ready for baking. It may take longer to complete the process if you are in a cooler area or climate.
8) Once the starter is bubbling reliably within several hours of being fed, feed the starter for two more cycles. When the starter doubles in volume in about 4 hours, it is sufficiently leavened to be baked. Either begin baking with it or cover it loosely with a lid and place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake with it. The lid may be tightened once the mixture becomes dormant and minimal carbon dioxide is being produced.
9) The Wild Cultures should be fed every week or two while dormant in the fridge. To “wake-up” the culture for baking, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then begin above feeding cycles to activate the culture. Depending on how dormant the culture was, it can take anywhere from 4-24 hours out of the refrigerator to fully activate a dormant culture for baking.
TIP: As a general rule, when the sourdough starter culture doubles in size in approximately 4 hours, then it is fully active and ready for baking.