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Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

This is part one of a series about making your own sourdough bread starter and bread recipes. Make sure to come back for part two next month!


sourdough starter in a glass jar

Active rye sourdough in a glass jar for homemade bread.

So, there’s a pandemic going on.

Most of the United States and the world is sheltering in place, trying to simultaneously juggle conducting an entire life within a couple thousand square feet (or less) while not losing their minds from boredom. I didn’t know it was possible to be so busy keeping my children educated, fed, and reasonably clean while also wanting to tear my hair out due to unchanging scenery.

My solution? Bake all. the. things.

I’ve wanted to try my hand at sourdough bread ever since my husband took me on a trip to San Francisco where he proposed. I remember vividly the look in his eyes as he got on one knee and opened the ring box – but I also remember the clam chowder we ate in fresh sourdough bowls on Fisherman’s Wharf, a taste I’ve wanted to reproduce in my own kitchen.

I’ve always had the task to find a sourdough starter on the back burner. But as the days of being stuck at home stretched into weeks, I realized now was as good a time as ever to make my own, especially because the bread aisle has been pretty bare. I was shocked at how forgiving the process of growing a starter is. And bonus points: if you include your kids; you can call it science class.

Want to try making your own sourdough starter? Follow these instructions below!

Materials needed:

Glass container with a lid
Flour (I used a variety – all-purpose, bread flour, and wheat flour)
Filtered water
Food scale (optional)

sourdough starter in a glass jar

Beginning of my starter–a little clump of dough

Day 1:

Put a scant cup or 100g of flour and ½ cup or 100g of water in your container. I started out using a mixture of half all-purpose flour and half wheat flour.
Stir together and cover loosely.
Give your starter a name, if you so desire. (Mine is named Lavina, after the residence hall I lived in freshman year. She sounds like a homesteader, doesn’t she?).
Let it sit for about 24 hours.

Day 2:

Discard half of your starter or about ½ cup. I know, it hurts. If you’re like me and cook by taste, try a smidgen of your discarded starter. It will taste more and more sour as the days progress.
Put a scant cup or 100g of flour and ½ cup or 100g of water in your container.
Let it sit for about 24 hours.

top view of a sourdough starter

Bird’s eye view of bubbles

Day 3:

Follow the day 2 instructions – discard half your starter and then feed with fresh flour and water – but check it after 12 hours.
If your starter is bubbling and doubling in size, you can start feeding it every 12 hours instead of every 24.

Days 4-7:

Continue to discard half of your starter and then feed it every 12-24 hours. Once your starter is getting very active and bubbly, it is ready to bake with. This typically won’t happen until it is about seven days old – try to be patient!
You can test your starter’s readiness by taking a small amount of starter and dropping it in a cup of water. If it floats, it is ready.

glass jar with sourdough starter

This starter is ready to bake with

 

Maintenance:

While your starter is at room temperature, it will need to be fed 1-2 times per day.

If you aren’t planning on using it for a while, you can keep it sealed in the fridge, discarding and feeding weekly. When you do plan to bake with the starter, remove it from the fridge about a day before you want to bake so you can bring it back to full activity with a few discards and feeds (most recipes have some instructions on how much to feed and when before you begin a loaf).

Troubleshooting:

My starter was very dense the first few days. I was using measuring cups. I decided to switch to a food scale and had much better success with getting my starter active. The food scale is not required, but the measurements are more accurate.

Get that starter bubbling! In a few weeks, I’ll be back to share my favorite sourdough bread recipes, after my own trial and error. Come back for the second part of this series next month!

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One Response to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

  1. Avatar
    Joan Brown May 1, 2020 at 10:19 pm #

    Okayyy Im going for the sourdough starter! I havent made a starter in about…nm, I cant count that high! 😁 Here we gooo!!
    Thank you cute as can be Lorren!!

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