Sourdough Starter Recipe

Sourdough Starter Recipe

You can buy a starter for your sourdough bread online or get some from a willing fried. However, it is so easy to make a sourdough starter at home that you will think why you didn’t know this before. The resulting bread is much better and you know exactly what went into it. For the easiest starter, you need only two ingredients – bread flour and water. If you want faster results, you can use part bread flour and part whole wheat flour. You also need a clean non-reactive container, such as a glass jar with lid that is not air-tight. Be warned that this process is easy but it is not instantaneous. It will take a few days. Depending on weather conditions, you can get your first starter in about 5 to 14 days. Be consistent, be patient and you will get there.

It is easier if you start your sourdough starter process on a relaxed Friday evening so that you get some time to get used to the process. Remember that discarding is an important part of the process. Please do not ignore this. If you don’t want to be wasteful, you can use the discard for other recipes which will follow.

Detailed process for making a sourdough starter

Day 1 Evening

  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water (microwave regular water for 10-15 seconds)
  • 1/4 cup bread flour (or optional 1/8 cup bread flour + 1/8 cup whole wheat flour)

Mix the ingredients together and put the mixture in a clean glass container. Make sure that the container is at least 3 times the size of your mixture. Put a lid on loosely. The lid should allow contact with outside air. Place the container in a warm (~80° F) but not hot spot, like top of your refrigerator.

Day 2 Evening

  • 1/4 cup starter from the previous day
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 8 tbsp bread flour (or 6 tbsp bread flour + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour)

Take 1/4 cup starter from the previous day and discard the rest. Add water and mix. Then add the flour, mix and scrape the walls of the container to keep it clean. Place the container back in its warm spot.

You can throw the discard in a trash can or save it. Don’t wash it in the sink or you will end up with a clogged sink. If you don’t want to be wasteful, you can use it in another recipe. Save the discard in another container and refrigerate it. Keep accumulating your discard until there is enough for other recipes.

At this point you may or may not see some bubbles in your starter. The fermentation process has begun. Be patient and keep at it.

Day 3 Morning

  • 1/4 cup starter from the night before
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 8 tbsp bread flour (or 6 tbsp bread flour + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour)

Take 1/4 cup starter from the previous day and discard the rest. Add water and mix. Then add the flour, mix and scrape the walls of the container to keep it clean. Place the container back in its warm spot.

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Day 3 Evening, Day 4 Morning, Evening, Day 5, 6, and so on

Continue the process twice a day for about a week to 10 days until the starter can double itself within 12 hours. Your starter should smell sweet-sour but not offensive. If there is layer of liquid on top of the starter, it means that the starter is hungry. Just stir the liquid back in and feed it again. The color of the starter will have shades of yellow, brown and sometimes even blue. Pink is what you don’t want. Pink means mold. Discard the starter if it has any pink.

Gluten developed in sourdough starter

Once your starter can successfully double itself in 12 hours, it is ready to be used for baking bread. If your starter is not enough for a bread recipe, feed it with more quantity of water and flour the night before.

Before
How to make an easy sourdough starter at home
After 12 hours, starter should grow at least twice in volume

 

Tips for making a successful starter

My first attempt at making a starter failed because I didn’t feed it enough. Here are some problems you may encounter along the way and how best to deal with them.

  • Sourdough fermentation uses naturally occurring wild yeasts and bacteria from the surroundings. Using whole wheat flour in combination with bread flour or white flour will provide a rich environment for the wild yeasts and bacteria to thrive. You can use just regular flour but the fermentation may be slower.
  • Room temperature matters. Temperature around 80° F is ideal for sourdough fermentation. Lower temperature will work but take longer.
  • When I discard my starter, I measure out 1/4th cup of the starter in a clean bowl, then rinse out my jar to clean the sides of the jar to reuse for the day. This prevents any mold from forming along the sides of the jar.
  • Don’t use an airtight jar. It will slow down your fermentation. However, do keep a lid on to prevent fruit flies from landing inside your starter.
  • Keep feeding your starter until it is strong. Once it is strong enough, you may refrigerate it until it is ready for use.
  • Create sufficient amount of starter for your recipe and save the rest in the refrigerator to reuse for the next one. When you are ready to reuse it, take it out and feed it as usual once it is at room temperature.
  • Sourdough fermentation is very forgiving. If you forget to feed your starter, don’t worry. You may see some liquid, called hooch, on top. Feel free to mix it in or discard the liquid and feed it as you would regularly.

If you are in a hurry and have yeast in your pantry, you may want to try my easy white bread recipe in a bread machine.

If you are serious about baking a sourdough bread, you may find a food scale, a dutch oven, and a dough scraper useful.


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