How to Make a Sourdough Starter

I first heard about sourdough starters when the pandemic began.  I was intimidated by the process but after many months, I decided to give it a try. I went in with the philosophy that if it didn’t work, at least I tried.  And it worked!  After two weeks my starter was active and bubbly. 

What is a sourdough starter?

It is the combination of flour and water, that when you let it ferment, it creates an active colony of wild yeast and good bacteria.  Normally, we get active dry yeast from the store, that when you mix it with warm water, it helps rise the dough to make bread. 

When you make sourdough bread you don’t need active dry yeast.  You simply make your own wild yeast by fermenting flour and water.  And this isn’t new, it is the primitive way that our ancestors made bread back in the day.

The process is that in the beginning, after you mix the flour with water (see the recipe below), every day you will discard and feed the starter.  Meaning that you will discard half of the amount that is in the jar, and feed it (with flour and water) the same amount that you discarded.  Making it equal parts.  After 5 days you will start to discard and feed it twice a day for three days or until your starter becomes active and happy.  It will have bubbles and every time you feed it, after a few hours it will have doubled in size.  That will tell you that your starter is active.

I have two sourdough starters, one regular and one gluten free.  They both require the same process to make them and maintain them.  

During the first few days after you create the starter, the discard will just be water and flour, there will be no good bacteria yet.  You have to give it some time to allow it to grow the good bacteria and ferment.  The warmer your house is, the better it will be for your starter to become active. 

What happens if you are going away and will not be home to feed your starter?

You can put a lid on and put it to rest in the fridge.  When you get back you can feed it and keep it out on the counter, and in about 2-4 hours it will be ready to be used.  Remember that you always want to leave some starter in the jar to keep the master starter going on for years.  If you use it all up you would have to create a new one.  The older the starter is, the more mature and active it will be.  

Why is sourdough bread better than regular bread?

Sourdough bread has probiotics that help the intestinal flora, and make your gut stay healthy.  

Sourdough bread is easier to digest because the bacteria and yeast composition will start to breakdown the starches found in the grains before we eat it, so it is less work for our intestines.  

When you are making sourdough bread, you want to let the dough ferment for about 8-12 hours.  The long fermentation process allows our bodies to process the nutrients better.  It has nutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E and others.  It also has a delicious taste that no other bread has and, it is homemade, so it has very little preservatives.

What flour can you use to make a starter?

You can use any flour that you would use to bake.  All purpose flour, rye, whole wheat, Einkorn.

What do you need to make a sourdough starter?

You will need flour (I use organic all-purpose flour) and filtered water. 

I started with a small amount; 

1/2 cup flour

1/3 cup water

In a glass jar, add the flour and water and mix well with a fork or a spoon (I prefer a fork to ensure that there are no lumps of flour left without being mixed).  You want the consistency of a pancake batter but a little thicker.  If you think the mix is too thick, add a little more water or vise versa.  Cover the jar with a paper towel and an elastic band.  Leave it on your counter for 24 hrs.  

 You will need to discard half of your starter every day and add (feed) the same amount of water and flour that is left in the jar, making it equal parts.  On days 5, 6, and 7, you will discard and feed it twice a day, in the morning and at night.  You will do this process (discard and feed) until your starter is bubbly and doubles in size after 2- 4 hours of being fed.  After that, your starter should work and you can start cooking with it.   

There are days in the week that I don’t need to use my starter, so I cover it with a lid and put it in the fridge, this is called “to put it to rest”.  If I want to make pancakes, I can take it out of the fridge and use it right away, but if I want to make a dough for bread, I would need to feed it, leave it out on the counter covered with a paper towel and and elastic band, and it will be ready to be used in about 2-4 hours depending on the temperature of your house.   

There are many delicious recipes that you can incorporate your starter in, such as crepes, pizza, cookies, bread, muffins, rolls, cakes, pies, tortillas, pretzels, biscuits, donuts, bagels, croissants, crackers and so many more.  

Do not over think the process, just do it and you will see how sourdough starters are resilient and low maintenance.  Trust me, if I was able to get my starter active in two weeks, so can You!

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you during the process. 

Mason Jar
Organic All Purpose Flour
Sourdough Artisan Bread


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