The frist step to your own bread is your own sourdough. If you would like to create sourdough from skretch yourself, you will find a few tips from us, which will hopefully help you. Sourdough can be of very different consistency and smell. Mistakes or doing something "wrong" is not really possible! Next to your own sourdough you could also use a starter, but we are not experts and didn't do enough experiments with it to give hints.
Making sourdough is really simple. You only need rye floor and lukewarm water and a warm room, that helps the sourdough working. In the case, that you do not have a lot of time or it is not really working, just add a little bit fresh yeast.
On the picture you can see all the ingredients, I used 150ml water and the same amount of rye flour. If you use yeast, just take a few crumbles! You do not need the complete block of yeast shown on the picture.
As a cup, take something cylindricalm, a measurment cup as whosn on the picture and not the smallest one from your kitchen. And then you just mix everything until you cannot see any little lumps and it looks like a nice even mass. After that, you can just let the dough work. The evolution over time you can see below in the photos, the right panel shows the dough after roughly 12 hours.
After 12 hours, or a night, the dough isn't done for baking, I would call it a predough. In some recipes you can find this description and often it is a dough which is used in addtion to the sourdough but isn't itself sour. To get the sourdough you need to take care now a little longer. Every day, or more every second - don't worry one day more or less is not a big deal - add a little bit of tepid water and a few table spoons of rye flour and mix it. There are no exact measurements necessary. The consistency of the dough should be well mixable and a fluid to viscous dough is fine. To test you can check how fast it streamd of the spoong. It shouldn't run off, more slowly or ponderous. Most of the times, I take 2 heaped tablespoon flour and a big splash tepid water from the tap. For the case the stiring is not smoothly just add a little more water. After roughly 3 days the dough will start to smell sour. This is the first sign, that you are on the right way and should maybe spend some time to find a recipe you want to bake. Finding a recipe can be hard and you should take your time to find a good bread. Be careful with the recipies and check double if you need some additional ingredients or a predough.
In general, when you can see small bubbles or the left overs from bubble bursting, then the dough is ready to use for baking a bread. The smell at that point is very sour and acidic and -important hint- try to suppress the urgent need to lick the spoon of dough! Believe me, tried more than once: not tasty!
This sourdough is very active and perfect for baking a bread. But that is not always the case! This one was bubbeling all the time.
To describe the smell more is quite difficult. My dough smelled very acidic before, the odour is not always describable as pleasant. One time, smelling it nearly hurt my nose because the smell was very penetrating and harsh. That time, I throw the dough away because it was so disgusting. But that doesn't need to be the case. With a few spoons of rye flour and some water you can safe the dough and the smell goes back to a normal amount of acidic-level. Putting it in the fridge over night also can help against to acidic smell.
An important point here, especially in summer: Cover your dough. Preferably, use a kitchen twoel and fixate it with an elastic band. Be aware not to cover the dough completely and close the system from air exchange. The dough needs air to work.
IN case you already know that you will not be able to bake for several days of even weeks, then you can put the dough in a closed sytem like a preserving jar and leave it in the fridge. As soon as you know you want to bake, take the dough 2-3 days before the baking day out of the fridge and feed it a little bit with new rye and water to increase the activity.
For very long periods you can also dry your sourdough. Therefore, spread the dough evenly and thin in a baking tin and let it dry. The dreid dough you can just store in a jar on the sheld. On demand just reactivate it again with flour and water. It is also possible to freeze your dough, but I never tried that and I am not sure if that is the best way to do so, because the organisms in the dough could -most highly- die during a long freezing process. I think drying is a better way to keep your dough for a long time.