About a year and a half ago, I became interested in bread making. My first attempt was a basic bread recipe, using packets of yeast. All I noticed was the taste of the yeast, and I was a bit put off by it. I began to look into sourdough bread making, which involves using a starter instead of packets of yeast. I had always enjoyed sourdough flavor, but was fascinated when I began to read about the process of creating a sourdough starter. I found that it was a lot easier than I thought to create my own starter, and I was able to begin baking bread that I could be proud of.
The original recipe for the basic sourdough starter can be found here. I found a few modifications needed to be made to make it a “true” sourdough starter. Below is my method for creating a basic sourdough starter.
Organic, Unbleached All Purpose Flour
Glass container with non-reactive lid
Combine 1/2 c. Flour with 1/2 c. Warm Water until well mixed. Scrape the sides of the container and cover. I recommend covering with plastic wrap and poking a few small holes in the top to allow gas to escape, and to allow any natural yeast in the environment to be incorporated. You may also loosely cover it with a towel. Place in a warm place (the top of the refrigerator, in the oven with the oven light on…I kept mine in the laundry room, as it was always warm in there). Let sit for 24 hours.
You may start to see small bubbles on the surface of the starter. This means things are moving along! Add another 1/2 c. Flour and 1/2 c. Warm Water and mix well. Scrape the sides, cover, and let sit for another 24 hours.
Now you should be seeing more bubbles, and the starter will begin to rise. It’s okay to get excited…I was amazed that the starter was rising without any help from commercial yeast! Add 1/2 c. Flour and 1/2 c. Warm Water and mix well. Cover and let sit for another 24 hours.
Same as Day Three.
Days Five through Seven
Between days five and seven, you will notice your starter is beginning to look like a risen, wet dough. You will see a matrix of bubbles throughout, and will start to notice that wonderful sourdough smell (I would describe it as a sweet, “beery” smell). It is now ready and “active” to be used in any sourdough bread recipe.
Never use all of the starter in a recipe. Make sure you save a small amount, and replenish it with 1 c. Flour and 1 c. Warm Water. If you are not ready to use it yet, you can loosely cover your container with the lid and keep it refrigerated. To feed it, discard 1 c. of the starter, add back 1/2 c. Flour and 1/2 c. Warm Water, and mix well. It is recommended to feed your starter every one to two weeks, but I must admit I am a forgetful person. I usually feed it every two to four weeks, and it is still going strong! You can keep your starter refrigerated indefinitely as long as you feed it well (mine is going on two years)!
Note: As the starter sits, you will notice a clear to gray colored liquid on the top. This is perfectly normal. It will have a lovely “beery” smell to it. I usually mix it back in, and add a little less water when feeding it so that my starter isn’t too “soupy.”
If you start to notice a “cheesy” smell, or a pinkish hue to the starter, that means that bacteria have taken over (the yeast have lost the battle). You will need to throw it out and start over.
I did not include a recipe for sourdough bread since I use my starter to feed other whole grain starters that I make. I am not a big white bread eater, so prefer to use whole grain flours in cooking. I plan to post recipes for these whole grain sourdoughs at a future date, but it is not too late to go ahead and get started, er, with your starter (hardy har har)!