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May 31

Your Foolproof Sourdough Starter

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Bread makes life better, it's as simple as that. There is truly no suitable replacement for it, and while store-bought bread gets the job done, nothing can replace the warm, fluffy, deliciousness of freshly made baked goods coming right out of your oven at home. If you are ready to grow your own sourdough starter, you've come to the right place. Get stoked! 

The most exciting part about making your own sourdough starter is that you have to care for it to get results. Once your starter is “alive,” you will need to feed it every day to keep it happy. If it bubbles and smells sweet, you have been a good caretaker! If not, take notes and try again. Perfection takes time. 

Although it takes 5-7 days to make a sourdough starter, it is a fun activity and will leave you with a substantial amount of product to make LOTS of delicious recipes down the road! 

If you are an avid bread maker, or would like to become one, using a sourdough starter will make your bread recipes taste drastically better, feel easier to digest, and have better texture than breads made with commercial yeast. It will also make you feel more accomplished in your baking skills, which is a win! 

Preparation: 45 minutes
Total time: 6 days 

What You'll Need


To make your Sourdough Starter, you'll need:

  • 1 heaping cup (120 grams) Whole Wheat or Rye Flour 
  • ½ cup (120 grams) room temperature water
  • 4 cup mason, glass, ceramic or stoneware jar

To feed your Sourdough Starter, you'll need:

  • 1 heaping cup (120 g) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ cup (120 g) room temperature water

Steps:

I like to make a chart so I don’t forget to feed him/her/it (give it a name, if you like).

Day 1:  In the morning or evening, mix 1 heaping cup (120 g) of whole wheat flour with ½ cup (120 g) room-temp filtered water in a 4-cup mason jar (really any large glass, ceramic or stoneware jar will work). Using a fork, stir well, and make sure you’ve incorporated all of the flour into the water. Cover your jar with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap, and fasten with a rubber band. Let your new baby sit at room temperature (70° - 80°F) for 24-36 hours. The colder your home is, the longer your starter will take


Day 2:  Check your sourdough starter after 24 hours have passed. *It is a good idea to set an alarm or write yourself a note so you don’t forget about it. At this point, you may see some bubbling, or no activity at all. If you don’t see any activity happening yet, let your mixture sit for up to 36 hours. At some point between 24-36 hours, when you start to see bubbling, you will discard half of your starter, leaving approximately ½ cup (4 oz) of starter in the jar. At this point you will add 1 cup (120 g) of white bread flour and ½ cup (120 g) filtered water to your jar. Mix well with a fork to incorporate everything. Cover your jar and allow it to sit for another 24 hours at room temperature. 


Day 3:  When day three rolls around, you will start feeding 2 x a day, morning and evening, as far apart as your schedule allows (ie. 9 am and 9 pm). At each feeding, you will discard all but ½ cup (4 oz) of the starter. Add 1 cup (120 g) of your white bread flour, and ½ cup (120 g) room-temp. filtered water to your jar. Cover, and let rest for another 12-14 hours (depending on how warm your house is). 

*The key here is so feed your starter when it looks hungry (after the bubbles peak and start to go down). You will see marks on the inside of your jar showing where the bubbles peaked. Feeding 2X a day is a guideline, but if your starter hasn't peaked by the next feeding time, wait until it looks hungry.  


Day 4:  Feed again, 2 times, roughly 12 hours apart. Each time, remove all but ½ cup of your starter, and feed with 1 cup white bread flour and ½ cup water. REPEAT the same each time. 


Day 5:  By this day, your starter should hopefully be close to doubling in size. REPEAT the same feeding procedure, morning and evening. 


Day 6:  Today, you will feed your starter ONLY ONCE, but discard all but ⅓ cup of your starter, and add your same 1 cup flour and ½ cup water. Mark your jar and notice that (hopefully) 4-6 hours later, your starter will be about double in size! Let it sit for another 8 hours at room temp.

Now, you are probably ready to get on with it and make some damn recipes already! Before getting too excited, do a FLOAT TEST. Take a small spoonful from the top of your starter (do not mix it up) and plop it in a glass of water. If it floats, you are ready to start baking!

If your starter has not doubled in size or failed to pass the float test, don’t lose hope, and continue to feed your starter for a few more days, following the same steps until your mixture is ready. 

Keep your starter in the fridge in a jar, sealed with a lid. Make sure to feed a reserved amount of ⅓ - ½ cup of starter once a week (feed with the normal 1 cup flour, ½ cup water). 

Tips & Tricks:


*If you see liquid at the top of your starter, that is a good sign and means it's alive! You can stir it in, or discard it. Seeing liquid usually means your starter is hungry.

*Keep in mind all sourdough starters are different. It is a living, growing thing, and will act as such! See what your starter might need (or not need) by simply observing it daily. 

*If your house is not between 70°-80° F inside, you can keep your starter somewhere that creates more heat, like the top of your fridge or above an oven. If you can't reach this warm temp, your starter will just take a bit longer. 

*Remember, you can always skip a feeding if your starter isn't active and hasn't peaked. It is better to wait; overfeeding can cause your starter to become lethargic. 

*If your starter isn't complete and you need to take a break from daily feeding, put your starter in the fridge for up to a week, then start the feeding cycle again.  

*Using filtered or bottled water will create better results. The chlorine in tap water can inhibit the growth of your starter. Room temperate water helps fermentation start quicker. 

*Once your starter is finished, instead of discarding before feeding, you can save the discards and start baking, or share your discards with a friend! 



 

Please let me know if you have any questions, and have fun with this! Don't be discouraged if something doesn't go right. It is quite hard to kill a starter once it has gotten underway, and if you care for it over time, you will be rewarded with great results.

Happy baking! 

Kristina


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About the author

Kristina is a world-traveling foodie whose mission is to explore and recreate the most delicious cuisine. While still an avid traveler, Kristina has taken culinary refuge in the great country of the Czech Republic. When she isn't nannying or exploring the beautiful city of Prague, she's sharing her favorite recipes on the web.

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