I wanted a starter that used just water and flour and didn’t force me to toss out gallons of extra starter in the process, so this is how I made mine.
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
- Glass jar with a lid
- Spoon (preferably not metal or plastic)
- Filtered water
Day 1: Clean a glass jar. Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup water. Mix well. Set it on the counter. Cover lightly with cheesecloth if you want.
Day 2: Depending on how warm your home is, the starter may have started to lightly bubble and may have even formed a thin layer of liquid on top. The liquid is called hooch and is the alcohol from the fermenting grain (that will be baked out of the sourdough later). Just mix it back in.
Now, it’s time to feed the starter. Dump out half of the mix (unless you want to end up with cups and cups and cups of starter). Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup water. Mix well. Set on counter and cover if desired
Day 3: Repeat day 2
Days 4+: The starter is ready when bubbles pervade it within eight hours of a feeding and it has a nice, slightly sour scent. The warmth of your home makes a big difference in how quickly this happens. Keep feeding daily until it does.
Once you have an established starter it’s quite simple to care for. If you bake constantly leave it on the counter, use all but ½ a cup of the starter daily and add ½ cup each of water and flour and stir.
If you don’t want sourdough dominating the kitchen, give it a light feeding and store it in the fridge loosely covered to keep any unwanted fridge odors out. It will contentedly eat the flour you gave it for a week or two. If you still don’t need it after that time, take it out, dump half of the starter, give it a fresh feeding and put in back in the fridge.
Random tips and comments:
- Contrary to what I first thought, the more sourdough starter you use in a recipe, the less sour flavor you get because it takes less time to rise. The longer the dough rises, the more the flavor permeates the dough.
- Once you’re done with a jar, spoon or anything else that’s come into contact with the sourdough, wash it. The longer you wait, the more persistently the starter clings to the surface.
- I’ve yet to find an authoritative consensus on where the wild yeast comes from. Many claim that it comes from the air, but others say that it must be present in the yeast since you can cover the starter with a lid and it still works. What do you think?
Make Your Own Starter (or Not!)
Making your own sourdough starter feels like conquering a new adventure. It’s fascinating and fun.
Update: I have a confession to make. I let my starter die. A friend gave me a new start and it’s amazing. My sourdough bread turns out moist, delicious, and just a wee bit tangy.
So if you’re up for the adventure, try making your own starter. Otherwise, buy or beg a starter and get baking!
Here are a few other sourdough starter “recipes”: