Sourdough starters can be made using yeast, potato, or simply flour and water, like this recipe. The starter is made simply by exposing flour and water to the natural microorganisms in the air and in the flour. It takes time to develop, but the result is a unique and delicious ingredient that can be used to make homemade bread without commercial yeast, as well as a plethora of sourdough-flavored baked goods. As an added benefit, sourdough breads do not go stale as fast as non-soured breads, and some people find that they are better for digestion.
Throughout the process, it is best to weigh the ingredients using a kitchen scale for accurate measurements. The starter takes several days to develop and requires attention each day. Once some of the starter is used, the rest can be kept in the refrigerator and fed so it will continue to grow.
Click Play to See This Sourdough Starter Recipe Come Together
- 4 ounces (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour (daily)
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) bottled unchlorinated water (daily)
Gather the ingredients.
On the first day, you will make the initial starter. Weigh the flour and water for accurate measurements.
Combine the flour and water in a 2-quart glass or plastic container. You will want to use a container a bit larger than you would anticipate to allow for the extra space needed as you feed the starter throughout the week. Stir until smooth.
Cover the container loosely with a lid, plastic wrap, or a clean towel. You want to protect the ingredients, but you don’t want the container to be airtight. Place the container somewhere in the house where it is warm, ideally around 70 to 75 F. Let it sit for 24 hours.
On the second day, you might not notice much change in the mixture. Discard half of the starter (you can throw it away or save it for a discard project). Feed the starter with another 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. Mix until smooth, cover, and place in the same warm spot for another 24 hours.
By the third day, bubbles will start to form on the surface of the sourdough starter and it will look larger in volume. It will have the consistency of a thick batter and you might notice a slightly sour smell. Once again, discard half of the starter and feed it with another 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. Mix until smooth, cover, and place in the same warm spot for another 24 hours.
On the fourth day, the sourdough starter will appear very bubbly with both large and small bubbles. The sour aroma will be even more noticeable and stronger. Once again, discard half and feed the starter with another 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. Mix until smooth, cover, and place in the same warm spot for another 24 hours.
By day five, your starter should be ready to use. It will be very bubbly with the signature sour smell. At this point, you don’t need to bulk up the starter anymore, and it is time to start either using or discarding half of the starter.
To maintain the starter, remove half of the starter from the bowl. (This is necessary to continue to maintain the 1:1 ratio of flour and water to the starter. It also keeps the amount of starter at a manageable size for home cooking use.) Half will be used for a recipe and the other half will be fed with another 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. Once again, mix until smooth, cover, and place in the same warm location. If you plan to continue to use the starter within a few days, it can be left out at room temperature and you can continue discarding half and feeding it daily.
Use the other half of the starter to make your favorite sourdough recipe.
If you want to wait longer before you use your starter again (meaning you bake weekly or monthly), it can be stored in the refrigerator. In this case, feed the starter with 8 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. The result will be a thicker batter that will help maintain the yeast over longer periods of inactivity in the refrigerator.
Store the thick starter in the refrigerator with a loose-fitting lid. When the starter is stored in the refrigerator, it only needs to be fed once a week (with 8 ounces flour and 4 ounces water) rather than every day.
- If you live in a warm climate or you are making the starter during the heat of summer, it can ferment quicker and be ready to use in fewer than five days. Refrigeration will slow down the process.
- If your kitchen is cold and you're having trouble finding a warm enough spot, you can wrap the container in a blanket or even a heating pad to maintain the 75 F.
- The starter needs to bubble and rise in the container; if it doesn't increase in size, it means the starter is not viable and needs to be fed more often.
- If you are storing the starter in the refrigerator and it is not rising, bring it to room temperature and continue to feed it. It can take several feedings before it begins to bubble again.
- If your starter begins to smell funny or turns an off-color, it is time to throw it out.