This simple and easy-to-follow method is ideal for anyone eager to learn the easiest way to create a sourdough starter. Soon enough, you’ll be treating your loved ones to the most delightful homemade sourdough bread, pizza, bagels, and much more!
Picture a jar filled with a bubbly sourdough starter, showcasing bubbles on the top and sides.
We’ve been baking sourdough bread using this exact recipe for several years now, and the sense of accomplishment and pride we felt when we pulled our very first loaf out of the oven is unforgettable!
We quickly discovered that not only can we bake wholesome, tasty bread for our family, but we can also transform all our favourite yeast bread recipes into sourdough!
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A sourdough starter is a dynamic mix of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, essential for making bread rise. To create it, you mix flour and water, allowing the combination to ferment.
As time passes, the environment’s natural yeasts and bacteria, along with those in the flour, start to nourish the mixture. When baking, a portion of this active sourdough starter is added to the dough to facilitate rising.
Sourdough bread boasts a unique and intricate flavour profile that’s hard to rival. Its distinct taste comes from the natural fermentation process, imparting a tangy, slightly sour quality.
Beyond flavour, the fermentation in sourdough aids digestion for some individuals sensitive to gluten, although it doesn’t eliminate gluten from the bread.
How Long Will It Take?
Making a robust and lively sourdough starter typically takes between 7 to 14 days, influenced by various factors, with the crucial one being the temperature of your kitchen.
Sourdough starters thrive in warmth, ideally around 75°F (24°C). However, it’s still possible to create a sourdough starter in a cooler setting.
A quick note: I successfully created my starter in a kitchen that was 68°F (20°C) without any issues. It just required a bit more patience, taking around 10 days before I could start baking with it.
Believe me, the effort invested in this process is entirely worthwhile. Once your sourdough starter is up and running, it will consistently reward you with delicious bread for years to come.
What you’ll need
Flour and water mixture:
The initial step in creating a sourdough starter involves preparing the flour mixture used to nourish the starter.
Combine 6 cups of all-purpose flour with 3 cups of whole wheat flour and store the mix in a container with a tightly sealed lid.
Note: While you can create a sourdough starter with just all-purpose flour, adding whole wheat flour gives the starter an extra boost in the fermentation process.
For your starter, you can use bottled water, filtered water, or most tap water. If using tap water, remove chlorine by filling a bottle with tap water and letting it sit uncovered for 24 hours before use.
Tools you’ll need
Creating a sourdough starter requires a few essential tools (affiliate links).
- Container: Use a pint-sized mason jar, a weck jar, or a food-grade plastic container to hold and cultivate the starter.
- Cover: Whether it’s a lid or a breathable cloth like a cheesecloth or a kitchen towel, covering the container allows air circulation while keeping contaminants out.
- Rubber Band: Use a rubber band to mark the initial level of the starter during feedings. This helps you track how much the starter has risen.
- Kitchen Scale: An invaluable tool for accurately measuring the weight of flour and water in precise ratios.
- Spoon or Offset Spatula: Handy for stirring and thoroughly mixing the ingredients.
- Digital Thermometer: Useful for monitoring the ambient room temperature where your starter is kept.
Now let’s proceed to make our sourdough starter
Step-By-Step Instructions on How to Make a Sourdough Starter
To cultivate a healthy sourdough starter, aim to feed it consistently at the same time each day, choosing either morning or night based on your schedule.
Mix flour and water
- Combine 1 cup of the flour mixture with ½ cup of water (120g flour + 120g water).
- Stir thoroughly until all the flour is fully mixed, leaving no dry clumps.
- Cover the container loosely with a lid or a breathable cloth secured with a rubber band for airflow while keeping contaminants out.
- Place the container in a warm spot.
- After 24 hours, stir the mixture to incorporate some air.
- You should observe initial bubbling or signs of activity.
Day 3-7: discard and feed daily until active
- Starting on day 3, daily discard most of the starter (all but 2 tablespoons) and feed it with ½ cup flour and ¼ cup water (60g flour + 60g water).
- Mix thoroughly until well combined.
- Repeat this process daily until your starter becomes active, and bubbly, and doubles in size after each feeding.
- Once your starter reaches this point, it’s ready to use in recipes.
Tip: If your starter seems slow after the 4th day, add 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 teaspoons of water into the jar 12 hours after feeding to give it a boost.
How Do I Know When the Sourdough Starter is Ready?
Knowing when your sourdough starter is ready for baking involves considering a few key factors. Here’s what to observe:
Consistent Rise and Doubling:
Your starter is ready when it consistently rises and doubles after several consecutive feedings.
An active starter will display small bubbles on the surface and sides of the container.
A mature starter will have a pleasant, slightly tangy, and mildly fermented aroma.
Texture and Consistency:
The texture should generally be airy and fluffy.
The starter should pass the “float test.”
How to Perform a Float Test
Performing a float test is a straightforward method to assess your sourdough starter’s readiness before baking.
- Take a small amount of your active starter.
- Drop it into a bowl or glass of water.
- If the starter floats on the surface, it indicates sufficient gas production from the fermentation, signifying it’s active and ready to leaven bread.
If the starter sinks or only partially floats, it needs a few more days of feeding. Perform the test again after additional feeding.
How to Maintain a Sourdough Starter
After initially setting up your starter, I suggest maintaining a daily feeding routine for the first two weeks. Consistent daily feedings during this period will enhance the growth of yeast and bacteria, resulting in a robust and active sourdough starter.
For more in-depth guidance on maintaining your sourdough starter, including feeding schedules, temperature control, and troubleshooting, I’ve written an article.
This resource provides valuable insights and practical advice to ensure your sourdough starter remains healthy and vibrant, ensuring successful baking every time. Check it out for a comprehensive guide to keeping your sourdough journey on track.
How do I mix the flour and water?
Combine the flour and water in a non-reactive container, stirring until there are no dry pockets. A wooden or plastic utensil works well.
How often should I feed my starter?
In the initial stages, feed your starter every 24 hours. As it becomes active, switch to twice daily feedings, maintaining the 1:1 flour-to-water ratio.
What signs indicate that the starter is ready to use?
Look for bubbles, a rise and fall in volume, and a slightly tangy aroma. The “float test” is useful: drop a small amount of starter into water; if it floats, it’s ready.
What if my starter develops an unpleasant smell?
Initially, sourdough starters can produce unusual odours. If it smells like rotten eggs or mould, discard it and start anew. A healthy starter should have a pleasantly tangy aroma.
CHECK THESE OUT: