Make your own Sourdough Starter

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Are you looking for the easiest sourdough starter recipe? Then look at this! Making a sourdough starter from scratch is pretty straightforward, but it takes a little commitment and patience.

I am also new in the sourdough world, but I would like to share the recipe that I used to start my sourdough starter and some tips and tricks on freshening it up and keeping it alive.

Sourdough works both as a leavening agent and flavor to baked goods, and it takes no more than 5 minutes to make. Afterward, let it take care of itself on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator if you do not use it that often.

What is Sourdough?

Sourdough is a culture of microorganisms that acidifies your dough. There occurs a balance between lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, which together provide lift force and plenty of flavor to your bread. With its low pH, the leaven has a long shelf life. Bread baking is thus a chemical process. Therefore, you must give the microorganisms in the leaven water and flour to continue to multiply.

A sourdough starter is actually a bit like having a pet. It requires attention, love, and must be looked after and cared for to survive. Sourdough likes warm temperatures and good food (flour), so it has something to grow from.

Sourdough Recipes

A sourdough starter is most demanding at first, and then it becomes easier and easier to keep alive. A starter lives on water and flour, so if you go on vacation, it can stay for weeks in the fridge without love and food. Alternatively, you can lend it to a sourdough babysitter. 😃

Benefits of Sourdough

The first benefit is that it cuts down on the need to buy the commercial yeast. Especially now that we have this COVID-19 lockdown, many grocery stores are running out of yeast; making your sourdough starter gives you the ability to bake bread on your own without using commercial yeast.

There are also some health benefits on eating sourdough bread:

  • Most of the benefits come from the wild yeast in the sourdough starter. They break down the wheat elements, making the sourdough baked goods much easier to digest than commercially baked goods.
  • Sourdough bread’s lower gluten content and makes it easier to tolerate for individuals sensitive to gluten.
  • They are higher in folate, contain more antioxidants, and helps improve mineral absorption.

How to make Sourdough Starter

Making a sourdough starter is super easy. All you need is a container, unbleached flour, and tap or filtered water.

Check out this recipe video for Sourdough Bread for Beginner

But before getting a starter, you need:

1. Type of flour to use

There are lots of flour options for making a sourdough starter. The main thing you want to avoid is bleached flours. This simple sourdough starter recipe uses regular, everyday all-purpose flour, but you can certainly make sourdough using rye, whole-wheat, gluten-free flour, or any other kind of flour.

If this is your first time making a sourdough starter, I would recommend starting with all-purpose flour or bread flour.

I used both all-purpose flour and rye flour for my sourdough because here in Denmark, and we like to eat darker bread. I used a flour mixture consisting of 75% all-purpose flour or bread flour and 25% rye flour.

If you want to use rye flour for your sourdough starter, you can use this recipe: 75 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour, 25 grams rye flour, and 100 grams lukewarm water. But for this tutorial, I will use plain all-purpose flour.

2. Type of water to use

Water that’s high in chlorine can delay fermentation. Chlorine prevents yeast and good bacteria from growing. If you’re living in a city that uses chlorine, before starting making a sourdough starter, fill a large jug with tap water and let it sit out uncovered overnight to allow any chlorine to disappear. Alternatively, you could use bottled or distilled water.

3. Tools for making the starter

  • A kitchen scale because it is necessary to measure ingredients fairly accurately (I used my digital kitchen scale.)
  • A bowl to mix the sourdough, flour, and water
  • A tall, transparent plastic or glass container that can hold approx. 1-liter (Don’t use any metal or any reactive container). TIP: You may want to have a couple of extra containers. After a few days, the edges may start to look dry and crusty. I also recommend using a container with straight edges and wide-mouth.
  • A tablespoon, for scooping out discard.
  • A lid, plastic film, or cloth
  • Silicone spatulas. I used big and two small, firm spatulas to do my feedings.
  • rubber bands
  • pen and notebook (or the note on your phone)

The temperature of your house is also important when creating a sourdough starter. Because the colder your home, the longer it will take for the starter to grow and become active. Find a warm spot (20 degrees Celsius or 70F) for the best results. I stored my starter inside my microwave oven or sometimes on top of our fridge. If you have a thermometer, you can use it to test the temperature of your starter.

It can take a long time to study the exact processes and microorganisms in a leaven or sourdough. Still, the practical process of making a leaven or sourdough is straightforward: You take equal parts of water and flour and mix it.

  1. Use 50 grams of wheat flour (I used all-purpose flour or bread flour) and 50 grams of lukewarm water.
  2. Mix it well in a small transparent container (such as a jam glass or plastic bucket or container).
  3. Cover the container with a loose-fitting, because it is important that the sourdough can breathe. Leave it on its own for 2 to 3 days on the kitchen table. Remember to stir in it a few times a day.

Check your sourdough starter after a few days. It should start to bubble and smells sour. If nothing has happened, let it stand for a few more days. If there is no activity after a week, then you must discard it and start again. It may, among other things, because there are not enough microorganisms present in the flour.

If, on the other hand, your sourdough is starting to look alive, then you are on the right track. It is not uncommon at this point that the sourdough will develop a rather powerful and unpleasant odor that may be reminiscent of a seriously stinky cheese or perhaps very acidic like vinegar, Don’t worry, it won’t smell like that. When there are clear bubbles and a changed scent, then it’s time to start feeding the sourdough.

If you don’t want your sourdough starter to get very sour, discard about 75% of the sourdough and add 25 grams of starter ( discard the rest or give to your friend) + 50 grams flour + 50 grams lukewarm water and stir well. The sourdough should have a consistency like a thick pancake dough. This process, which we can call feeding or refreshing, in which most of the sourdough is discarded and new flour and water is added, is repeated once a day.

The process of cultivating your first sourdough starter only requires about 5 minutes a day for 1 to 2 weeks. That’s it.

Feeding or Refreshing the Sourdough Starter

It is necessary to feed our starter to survive. But we need to discard most of the starter and feed or refresh it with new flour and water.

But don’t worry, the discarded starter is not wasteful. Actually, you can use them to make pancakes and bake other baked goods. Remember, the discarded starter is not active and can not be used to bake a loaf of bread. We use the discarded starter as a flavor enhancer.

Check out our recipes for Sourdough Discard to avoid wasting it.

Step-by-step instructions

Here is the feeding schedule I used for my sourdough starter, adapted by me after reading many sourdough blogs.

Day 1: Make the starter (starting in the morning or at night)

You will need:

  • 50 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 50 grams lukewarm water

Tools:

  • a kitchen scale
  • a mixing bowl
  • a spatula
  • a lid, plastic film, or cloth

Procedure:

  1. Place a mixing bowl in your kitchen scale and turn it on. Add 50 grams of all-purpose flour and 50 grams of lukewarm water.
  2. Use a spatula to stir vigorously until smooth and there are no lumps.
  3. Clean the side of the bowl with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  4. Leave the bowl on the kitchen counter for 4 hours, uncovered, so that the wild yeast bacteria found in the air can find there. It’s best to maintain your starter at room temperature around 20 degrees Celcius or 70F, though a little higher or lower won’t hurt anything.
  5. Then loosely cover the container and place it somewhere warm for 24 hours. Before you go to bed, remember to stir your starter all the way to the bottom, then loosely cover the container again.

TIP: Looking for a warm spot? Place your starter on a baking sheet inside the oven (off) with the light on for a few hours. Or inside a microwave with the door close and the light on.

Day 2: Rest again for another 24 hours

Take a look at the starter – it may have a bit discolored on top, which is totally normal. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good. The bubbles mean that wild yeast has started making themselves at home in your starter. If you don’t see any bubbles yet, don’t panic, many factors such as your kitchen’s temperature cause your starter to be slow to get going.

Tool:

  • a spatula

Procedure:

  1. Take a look at your sourdough starter.
  2. Stir the mixture (make sure also to stir the bottom).
  3. Clean the inside of the container with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  4. Then loosely cover the container and place it somewhere warm for 24 hours. Before you go to bed, remember to stir your starter all the way to the bottom, then loosely cover the container again.

Day 3: Feed the starter (morning)

Today, you should start seeing and smelling a little bit of a change. The starter will most likely have a few bubbled in it and might smell a little sour and fruity. That’s good. That means some wild yeast have moved in and are starting to make themselves comfortable. Now it’s time to start feeding your starter twice a day so that the yeast has enough to yeast.

Ideally, you will do each feeding about the same time every day (I do my morning feeding around 9 am). You can feed your starter once or twice a day, but feeding twice a day makes a huge difference in your starter’s health.

But before we start feeding the starter, we need to measure your plastic or glass container’s weight holding your starter. I use the same container again and again.

My plastic container weighed 155 grams, and I maintain 50 grams of starter daily, so 205 grams is the number I need to remember for feedings. Write down your figure in a paper or a note on your phone. This number is important because you will discard enough of your starter each day so that there are only 10 grams (or however much you want to maintain) left in the container. 

You will need:

  • 50 grams sourdough starter
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 50 grams lukewarm water

Tools:

  • a kitchen scale
  • a transparent plastic or glass container that can hold approx. 1-liter
  • 1 – 2 spatula(s)
  • a rubber band
  • a lid, plastic film, or cloth
  • piece of paper and a pen or your phone notebook

Procedure:

  1. Take a look at your sourdough starter.
  2. Stir the mixture (make sure also to stir the bottom).
  3. Feeding or refreshing the starter: Turn on your scale and place the container you will use to hold your sourdough starter. Weigh the container and write down the figure on a piece of paper or your phone notebook. Example: My container weighs 155 grams.
  4. Then in your container, weigh (add) 50 grams sourdough starter (discard/throw the rest so that you can reach the desired weight of your container (mine is 155grams) + starter (mine is 50grams) that you calculated when you created your starter. My scale should read 205 grams).
  5. After you have discarded to reach your desired weight, zero out your scale again, and add equal amounts of flour and water – add 50 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour and 50 grams lukewarm water.
  6. Stir thoroughly until smooth and no dry clumps of flour.
  7. Clean the inside of the container with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  8. Mark the level with a rubber band. I recommend placing a rubber band around the container at the initial level after you feed the starter. This will give you a good idea of how active the state is from day-to-day.
  9. Cover loosely, then place it in a warm place. If you have time, you can stir your starter every 4 or 8 hours.

Day 3: Feed the starter (evening before you go to bed)

You will need:

  • your plastic or glass container with sourdough starter
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 50 grams lukewarm water

Tools:

  • a kitchen scale
  • 1 – 2 spatula(s)
  • a tablespoon, for scooping out discard
  • a small bowl for discard
  • a rubber band
  • a lid, plastic film, or cloth
  • piece of paper and a pen or your phone notebook

Procedure:

  1. Take a look at your sourdough starter.
  2. Stir the mixture (make sure also to stir the bottom).
  3. Feeding or refreshing the starter: Turn on your scale, then place your container (with sourdough starter) on it. Using a tablespoon, scoop some sourdough starter out of your container and discard/throw away the rest (see Notes below) so that you can reach the desired weight of your container + starter that you calculated before your first feeding. (Mine needs to decrease to 205 grams, so I take out the starter until my scale reads ‘205’).
  4. After you have discarded to reach your desired weight, zero out your scale again, and add equal amounts of flour and water – add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water.
  5. Stir thoroughly until smooth and no dry clumps of flour.
  6. Clean the inside of the container with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  7. Mark the level with a rubber band. I recommend placing a rubber band around the container at the initial level after you feed the starter. This will give you a good idea of how active the state is from day-to-day.
  8. Cover loosely, then place it in a warm place. If you have time, you can stir your starter every 4 or 8 hours.

SOURDOUGH STARTER DISCARD: You will need to discard some of our sourdough starters to keep the ratio of flour and water consistent, so you will not end up with a gallon of the starter when you only need a cup or two for most baking recipes. You can throw discards away, but you can also use this discard to make another starter, share with a friend, or save it for cooking and baking. I keep mine in an airtight container of discard in my fridge for making pancakes, biscuits, and other baked goods.

QUICK TIP: After Day 3 and 4, stops the activity in the sourdough, and it falls to rest for a few days. You may think it is dead or bad; it is not. It is also quite normal in the process.

Day 4 to 10: Subsequent feeding (morning and evening)

On the morning of Day 4 – you can see on the images below that my starter is almost active. This is evident by all the bubbles on top and the sides of my container. It has also risen some overnight.

Today, we will use the same morning and evening feed and discard procedure. Repeat these steps until you have a strong starter.

Notes: Keep your starter in a warm place. The cooler temperature will slow down yeast growth.

You will need:

  • your plastic or glass container with sourdough starter
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 50 grams lukewarm water

Tools:

  • a kitchen scale
  • 1 – 2 spatula(s)
  • a tablespoon, for scooping out discard
  • a small bowl for discard
  • a rubber band
  • a lid, plastic film, or cloth
  • piece of paper and a pen or your phone notebook

Procedure:

  1. Take a look at your sourdough starter.
  2. Feed your starter the same way as the first feeding.
  3. Continue feeding your starter every 12 or 24 hours until it doubles in volume every 8 to 12 hours, has a pleasant, yeasty smell, and passes the float test (check below how to perform the float test.) Once it passes the float test, your starter is ready to be baked with.

Feed and Discard: Day 4 to 6

Sourdough Starter Day 5

On the morning of Day 5 – you can see that the starter is nice and bubbly, which is active. But the wild yeast still needs to multiply to give the starter the boost it needs to raise bread.

And today, I made some Ube (Purple Yam) sourdough crumpets using my unfed sourdough starter 😋 , and they were so good. I ate them with ube halaya on top. 😉

Sourdough Starter Day 6

KEEP STIRRING, FEEDING, AND DISCARDING

On the morning of Day 6 – I can see that my starter is showing consistent activity. It also has a pleasant sour smell building up – closer to a pleasant, yeasty sourdough starter. The texture is more like a pancake batter and is almost double in size after feeding last night.

This is our last day before performing the ‘float test.’ So, I can’t wait for tomorrow and already dreaming of baking a lovely round boule loaf.

Sourdough Starter Day 7

FLOAT TEST

On the morning of Day 7 – I can see that my starter is so bubbly and puffy.

I decided to see if my starter would pass the ‘float test’ to see if the starter is ready for bread baking.

I performed a ‘float test’ by dropping a starter’s teaspoon into a glass with lukewarm water (or room temperature). And my starter passed! It starter floats on the top of the water to indicates that it is ready to bake.

If your starter does not float, don’t worry. Keep the same procedure and feeding schedule until the starter passes the float test.

Yehey, my Sourdough Starter is now ready!

Once my sourdough starter passed the float test, I feed my starter daily. I varied the time of the feed and how much I fed is based on whether or not I was going to be baking with it. But basically, I fed it equal weights of all-purpose flour and water.

Before feeding

You will need:

  • 50 grams sourdough starter
  • 25 grams all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 25 grams lukewarm water

How long does it take to make a well-established sourdough starter?

The whole process of getting your starter established can take anywhere from 5 to 10 days. Just keep feeding it until it gets very bubbly and doubles in size. Sourdough starters also get better over time.

Be patient and use your eyes, nose, and the float test to determine if your starter is ready!

How temperature affects the sourdough starter

If your kitchen is too cold, my trick is to put my sourdough starter inside our oven or microwave oven. But don’t turn on the oven and remember to shut the door to keep in the heat. 

If the ambient is too hot, then the fermentation process will speed up, and your starter may need more than one feeding a day. Signs that the ambient room temperature is too hot:

  • sourdough starter is water 24 hours after feeding
  • there is a separation of the water and flour in the container
  • there has a few bubbles on top after 12 hours but is not rising after day 4

If these happen, then it means that your sourdough starter is hungry. Give your starter a second feeding, but do not discard any starter on the second feeding.

How do you know when it’s ready to bake bread?

By day 7, I am sure you are more than ready to get a loaf of bread in the oven. The main signs to look out to know if your starter is active and ready are the bubbles on the surface or sides of the jar, and your starter has risen in height.

Another way to find out if your starter is ready is to perform a ‘float test.’

On Day 7, feed your starter in the morning and let it ferment until it’s doubled in size, about 4 to 8 hours. Fill a clear glass with room temperature water, then gently drop a tablespoon of starter into the water (DON’T STIR YOUR STARTER, GENTLY SCOOP 1 TABLESPOON). If your starter float, then you are ready to bake some sourdough bread.

If the starter drops to the bottom of the glass, this is a sign that your starter needs a few more days of feeding before it can be used for baking. All you need to do is to wait, practice patience, and keep going.

How to keep your Sourdough Starter alive

The sourdough starter is now up and running, and you should keep refreshing every day to keep it alive. You forget to feed a single day; don’t worry, it will not kill your starter. Just continue the day after, as you usually do.

After a few days, it will behave fairly stable as you feed it. The first few hours after feeding, it will grow and then collapse again. Try to keep track of this process and get to know the rhythm of the starter. Also, smell it at different times. If it has been a long time since the last feeding, the scent will be strong and acidic, while it is more mild and grainy shortly after feeding.

QUICK TIP: A sign that you are not feeding your starter enough is if you find it developing ‘hooch,’ a runny liquid on its surface regularly. If this is the case, increase the amount of flour and water you are feeding it by a little.

The exact amounts of flour and water are not essential – some prefer a thinner sourdough than others, but these amounts given are a good starting point. Likewise, some leave their sourdough starter for long periods without fresh it up with new flour and water; they work with a more powerful starter – there is no one right way to work with sourdough.

But many factors will influence the taste and smell of the starter.

  • The type of flour has a lot to say, and it is best to be consistent in the types of flour with which you feed your starter.
  • The temperature in the kitchen also plays a significant role. On hot summer days, an extra refreshment or feeding may be needed not to get too sour. Again, it would help if you used your senses to work with the sourdough.

Sourdough starter reacts differently in different environments and will give different baking results depending on how you treat it.

Once your sourdough starter has reached a steady rhythm with regular feeding, it is ready to be used for baking. If you know that you should not use the starter for the next while, you may want to put it in the fridge. It can easily stand for a few weeks without being refreshed. When you want to start baking again, you take it out and start your refreshment rhythm like before.

Keeping your starter at room temperature

If you want to bake with your starter throughout the week, you will want to keep it at room temperature and feed it once a day.

A missed day here and there won’t hurt an established starter, but if you starve it too long, it will die. If you forget a day, feed your starter twice in 24 hours before using it for baking.

Keeping your starter in the fridge

If you only want to bake 1 or 2 times a week, I recommend storing your starter in the fridge. This cuts down on how much you have to use to feed it. Just remember to take it out of the refrigerator, let it get warmed up a little, feed it, and put it back in the fridge. Or let it rise for about 8 to 12 hours at room temperature and use it in your recipe.

Feeding: Feed your starter at least once a week or two. Take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 1 hour. Stir thoroughly and discard some of the starters and feed with 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water (or however much you need for your recipe).

You can either let the starter sit until it doubles and passes the float test (to use in a recipe), or just let it sit for 30 minutes and stick it back in the fridge.

Preparing for baking

Something to keep in mind when you are feeding your starter is how much you will need in your recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for 100 grams of starter, you will want to feed it with 50 grams of four and 50 grams of water. This will give you enough starter to use in your recipe, plus enough leftovers to keep and maintain.

Don’t freak out if your recipe requires you to use up almost all your starter. You can get it going again with the container’s scrapings, feed it and wait; you will see. After you feed your starter, you will need to wait until it has risen and passed the float test before you use it.

If you try this recipe, please rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing from you! You can also follow me on InstagramFacebook, and YouTube to see what I am getting up to.

You will need:

  • 50 grams of all-purpose flour or bread flour, or any wheat flour can be used to make a sourdough starter
  • 50 grams of water lukewarm

Equipment

  • digital kitchen scale
  • mixing bowl
  • spatula
  • clear container (glass or plastic)
  • a lid, plastic film, or cloth
  • rubber band
  • pen and paper or note in your phone

Procedure:

DAY 1: MAKE THE STARTER

  1. Place a mixing bowl in your kitchen scale and turn it on. Add 50 grams of all-purpose flour or bread flour and 50 grams of lukewarm water.
  2. Use a spatula to stir vigorously until smooth and there are no lumps.
  3. Clean the side of the bowl with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  4. Leave the container on the kitchen counter for 4 hours, uncovered, so that the wild yeast bacteria found in the air can find there. It’s best to maintain your starter at room temperature around 20 degrees Celcius or 70F, though a little higher or lower won’t hurt anything.
  5. Then loosely cover the container and place it somewhere warm for 24 hours. Before you go to bed, remember to stir your starter all the way to the bottom, then loosely cover the container again.

DAY 2: LET THE MIXTURE REST

  1. Take a look at the starter.
  2. Stir the mixture (make sure also to stir the bottom).
  3. Clean the inside of the container with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  4. Then loosely cover the container and place it somewhere warm for 24 hours. Stir the starter every 8 hours and before you go to bed, remember to stir your starter all the way to the bottom, then loosely cover the container again.

DAY 3: FEED THE STARTER (MORNING)

  1. Take a look at the starter.
  2. Stir the mixture (make sure also to stir the bottom).
  3. Turn on your scale and in your container, weigh 50 grams sourdough starter – discard the rest.
  4. After you have discarded it to reach your desired weight, zero out your scale, and add equal amounts of flour and water – add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water.
  5. Stir thoroughly until smooth and no lumps.
  6. Clean the inside of the container with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  7. Mark the level with a rubber band. I recommend placing a rubber band around the container at the initial level after you feed the starter. This will give you a good idea of how active the state is from day today.
  8. Cover loosely, then place it in a warm place.

DAY 3: FEED THE STARTER (EVENING)

  1. Take a look at the starter.
  2. Stir the mixture (make sure also to stir the bottom).
  3. Turn on your scale and in your container, weigh 50 grams sourdough starter – discard the rest.
  4. After you have discarded it to reach your desired weight, zero out your scale, and add equal amounts of flour and water – add 50 grams all-purpose flour and 50 grams lukewarm water.
  5. Stir thoroughly until smooth and no lumps.
  6. Clean the inside of the container with wet kitchen paper or a clean spatula.
  7. Mark the level with a rubber band. I recommend placing a rubber band around the container at the initial level after you feed the starter. This will give you a good idea of how active the state is from day today.
  8. Cover loosely, then place it in a warm place.

DAY 4 TO 10: SUBSEQUENT FEEDING (MORNING AND EVENING)

  1. Feed your starter the same way as the first feeding.
  2. Continue feeding your starter every 12 or 24 hours until it doubles in volume every 8 to 12 hours, has a pleasant, yeasty smell, and passes the float test (see notes).
  3. Once it passes the float test, your starter is ready to be baked.

Notes:

  • Before we start feeding the starter, we need to measure your plastic or glass container’s weight that will be holding your starter.
  • Looking for a warm spot? Place your starter on a baking sheet inside the oven (off) with the light on for a few hours. Or inside a microwave with the door close and the light on.
  • After Day 3 and 4, stops the sourdough activity, and it falls as to rest for a few days. You may think it is dead or bad; it is not; it is also quite normal in the process.
  • Place a rubber band or piece of masking tape around your container to measure the starter’s growth as it rises.
  • Float test: On day 7, feed your starter in the morning and let it ferment until it’s doubled in size, about 4 to 8 hours. Fill a clear glass with room temperature water, then gently drop a tablespoon of starter into the water. If your starter float, then you are ready to bake some sourdough bread.
  • If your starter is not ready on day 7, it is okay. Just continue to feed your starter daily and be patient. 
  • In keeping with tradition, you can also name your sourdough starter. My starter is called Mathilde.
  • Discarded started can be used in other recipes like pancakes or give to a friend.
  • Storage options: If you often bake, store your state at room temperature, and if you plan to bake only once in a while, store it in the fridge (feed it 1x every 2 weeks).

Hate throwing out the starter? Here is my list of discard recipes:

 

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