Four steps walking you through what a sourdough starter is, how to make a starter from just flour and water, getting your starter ready to bake with, and how to maintain it without hiring a nanny 😉
What You’ll Need:
- Clean Glass Jar or Container
- Scale or Measuring Cups
- Flour (any kind)
- Drinkable Water
- Clean Cloth or Lid
What is a sourdough starter?
- A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that, over time, will capture the wild yeast in the air and eventually will turn into a leavener.
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
In a clean jar combine 100 grams of water and 100 grams of flour (¾ cup flour & ½ cup water). Stir until a thick paste is achieved and all the flour is hydrated. Leave for approx 24 hours. The next day, discard all but a few tablespoons of the mixture and add another 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. Repeat this process every day. Eventually, the smell will go from off-puttingly acidic to sweet and yeasty.
At this point, move to a jar that is at least 32oz. Continue to feed your starter every day and mark the level with a rubber band around the jar after each feeding. Eventually, you will notice the starter rising and falling. You now have a healthy sourdough starter that, if fed properly, can be used to leaven bread.
Getting Your Starter Ready to Bake
About three days before you want to make bread dough begin feeding your starter at least every 12 hours. Take note of how many hours it takes for the starter to rise to its peak level and how long it stays at peak level before it begins to fall. You want to use the starter in your dough when it’s at it’s peak.
Feed your starter a final time about 6-8 hours before you want to mix your dough. Test the starter by pouring a bit into a cup of cold water. If it floats, it’s ready to use.Be sure to save a few tablespoons of your starter to keep it going for other batches of bread.
Maintaining Your Starter
In between baking with your starter you can feed it and put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. You only need to feed the starter in the fridge about 1x/month to keep it healthy. When you want to bake again take it out of the fridge 3-5 days ahead of time and feed it every 12 hours until it’s happily rising and falling again. Then it’s good to go!
If you don’t want to bake for a very long time or if your transporting your starter over a long distance feed it with flour only until a very dry dough ball forms. Keep this in a container in the fridge for up to 6 months. When you want to use it give yourself 7 days of normal feedings until it’s bake to rising and falling regularly.
How do I avoid killing my starter?
- Aside from baking your starter in the oven, it is almost impossible to kill. If something is weird with it throw out all but 1 tablespoon and begin feeding it every 12 hours and it will almost always come back. Avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures to keep it happy. Remember, people have neglected starters for 1000’s of years and those starters are still around 😉
My starter has a dark, smelly liquid on the top.
- That’s called hooch and it's fine, just means the starter is really hungry. Pour off the hooch and scoop out a tablespoon of starter from the bottom of the jar. Feed every 12 hours till happy again. To avoid this, feed the starter more frequently.
When do I actually need to throw away my starter?
- If you see actual mold growing on top or yellow/red streaks running through it, it’s time to say goodbye. To avoid this, (broken record here) feed the starter regularly.
What do I do with the discard?
- It does suck throwing it out! There’s a bunch of recipes to use up discard with a simple google search from frying chicken to making pancakes.
For more information watch the video above. Leave a comment with any questions and we’ll do our best to get back to you!