I didn’t make a sourdough starter for sourdough bread for a long time because it was intimidating. There were so many people out there giving so many tips – bloggers, YouTubers, Instagramers – everyone made it look like a complicated process, overly involved process and it scared me.
I bake and I love to bake, but cooking is more of my thing. Baking always seems so precise and sourdough bread with its sourdough starter seemed to be the most finicky kind of bread. I like to taste as I go normally and that doesn’t work so well with dough.
But, I finally took the plunge and guess what? You don’t need a book to tell you how to make a sourdough starter. You don’t need to watch hours of Youtube. Here are some simple lessons I learned in starting my sourdough starter that will help kick off your journey of made-from-scratch baking.
What is Sourdough Starter
Sourdough starter is a mixture of water and flour that you use to make sourdough bread and other sourdough bread-like products. Instead of using a packet of yeast from the store, sourdough is made via a fermentation process and uses a naturally occurring lactobacilli (lactic acid) and yeast that’s living in your environment.
Here’s how you make it
Day 1: To start your sourdough starter you need a cup of water and a cup of flour. You want to mix it together in a glass bowl and leave it on your kitchen counter. Ideally, leave it closer to the oven so when the oven is on it’s a bit warmer. The heat will help to make the natural yeast more active. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, cheese cloth or put a lid on loosely. You want the starter to have access to air. It’s alive, after all.
Day 2: Remove half of the starter and discard it. Add another cup of water, flour, mix and cover lightly. This is how you feed your sourdough starter. Ideally, you want to do this at the same time each day.
Day 3: Remove half and discard it. Add another cup of flour and water each. Mix and then lightly cover. You’re probably already starting to see bubbles in your starter! This is good. This means it is active.
You may also see a watery liquid called Hooch. Technically, it’s alcohol but it’s naturally produced by the yeast. It also means the sourdough starter is hungry and you may want to feed it earlier or feed it multiple times a day (which I don’t recommend doing until Day 7 because you’ll fly through the flour).
You can just skim it off the top and continue to feed as normal. I found that moving my feeding time up helped to reduce the amount of hooch. You really want to make sure you are feeding at least once every 24 hours to avoid it. I recommend feeding at the same time of day, every day.
Day 4: Remove 1 cup of the Sourdough starter. Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour.
Day 5: Today is the day you can start using your sourdough starter discard. I like to make crackers with mine. My cracker recipe requires 1.5 cups of sourdough starter. So, when I want to make crackers, I remove 1.5 cups of sourdough starter and then add 1.5 cups of flour and water each. If you don’t want to make anything, just keep removing a cup of the starter and then adding a cup of flour and water each.
Day 6: Remove 1 cup of the Sourdough starter. Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Mix and cover.
Day 7: Remove 1 cup of the Sourdough starter. Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Mix and cover. This is the first day you can attempt to make sourdough bread if you want to. However, I recommend waiting until at least Day 10.
Day 8: Remove 1 cup of the Sourdough starter. Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Mix and cover.
Day 9: Remove 1 cup of the Sourdough starter. Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Mix and cover.
Day 10: Remove 1 cup of the Sourdough starter. Add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. Mix and cover. You could try to make sourdough bread this day. That said, I waited until Day 13. Here is the recipe and process I used to make our’s.
After Day 10
After Day 10 if you want to slow your starter down, stick it in the refrigerator. The coolness delays the active process within the starter and it won’t grow as quickly. Then, you only have to feed it once a week too.
I recommend this for anyone who is not a baker. Unless you use it every single day, you’re going to go through A LOT of flour and it will start to feel really wasteful to just throw away the starter discard.
Using the sourdough starter once it’s on ice
When you want to use it, take it out of the refrigerator, remove the starter amount you need for your recipe, feed it that same amount in cups of water and flour and then stick it back in the refrigerator. That’s it.
The type of flour
You can really use any kind of flour. Most purists will tell you to use whole wheat, unbleached flour. I use bread flour. It’s what I had available the day I wanted to begin my sourdough starter and since we are under a stay at home order here in Michigan flour has become a scare commodity.
However, after watching Patrick Ryan on YouTube ( a beautifully, short video on how to make sourdough) it gave me confidence to try with another type of flour. Based on the way my bread has turned out, I can say he was right.
So that’s it, friends. Does it still seem as intimidating as it did when you first started reading this? I hope not!
Storing sourdough starter
Here’s a few great containers for storing your sourdough starter:
- Square Clear Jar with chalkboard
- 50.75 oz Clear Jar
- Anchor Hocking Jar – I use this one now to store my starter.
For more recipes from scratch, click here. To see the sourdough bread recipe and process I used, click here. Lastly, you can find my delicious Butter Parmesan Sourdough Crackers made from sourdough discard here.
Thank you so much for visiting today! I hope you’ll come back soon to see what else we are up to at Sugar Maple Farmhouse.