Once you’ve tasted the classic and crunchy sour taste of sourdough artisan bread, you’d never want to let go. Sourdough has a depth of intense natural flavor that just can’t be found in something made quickly from a packet of yeast. Making and feeding sourdough starter is a straightforward process from the first day of the life of your starter.
A sourdough starter isn’t necessarily the dough itself, it’s just the leavening you need, like your yeast, or activator, but in its natural wild form. Sounds pretty amazing right? With only two ingredients and some basic kitchen tools, from the comfort of your home, you can make sourdough starter from scratch!
Some tips to know before making sourdough starter
When you want to make a sourdough starter at home, there are some few tips you need to hold onto to get the best out of it. Your starter is like a baby (or way better), so, bear it in mind that you are a parent, “feeding” your baby when it’s hungry, and creating favorable conditions for it to grow and live happily. Avoid feeding your starter with water that’s high in chlorine or chloramine content, as it can kill microbes, hence, impending fermentation. Distilled water or spring water is the best when it comes to creating the perfect sourdough starter.
Never use self-rising flour! It contains baking soda and salt, adding these ingredients to your starter will hinder with fermentation, leaving you with a big lump of hard flour at the end. You wouldn’t want that, would you? From experience, sourdough starters fed with unbleached all-purpose or rye flour are remarkably resilient and rise exceptionally well offering a pleasant mildly sour flavor.
Once you keep these at the back of your mind, you can make an excellent sourdough starter, and you can maintain and keep alive for years.
Unfortunately, most of us urbanites may not have a sourdough starter recipe passed down to us from exceptionally talented bread-baking ancestors. But, as is the case, making a fresh batch of sourdough starter is quite easy. All that is needed to be done is to add water to standard flour and wait for nature to run its course.
What Utensils are required?
Listed below are the ideal utensils for making a sourdough starter. Steer clear of any experimentation on your part.
For beginners, measurements are very important and to maintain consistency, a digital scale is necessary. Before purchasing a kitchen scale, ensure that it shows numbers clearly, is easy to clean, sturdy, lightweight and can hold weight. More so, find a digital scale that can measure at least 5 pounds.
Weck Glass Jar
Purchase 2 Weck jars. They are ideal for this purpose because of their narrow opening. Due to this reason, it is easier to stir in it. Apart from that, with no clips and rubber seal, it is easy to trap an adequate amount of heat and moisture inside.
Remember to purchase glass jars as it is more convenient to monitor activity inside them. These high-quality jars are inexpensive and easy to find everywhere. You can use them for a variety of purposes in your daily routine, too.
Any small spatula is more than enough for feedings. More so, it is easy to clean it using a sponge under running water.
For this process, an instant-read thermometer is ideal as it assists in constant monitoring of the starter and checking if it is in the desired range for raising the amount of fermentation activity.
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7 days feeding sourdough starter process
Mentioned below are two methods to go about it. It all depends on your individual baking needs:
You can make sourdough starter Plain Flour and Water
This is unarguably the best sourdough starter recipe and easiest for that matter. Take 100 grams of filtered water, 50 grams of standard flour and 50 grams of whole wheat flour and mix them in a glass jar. Now cover the opening with a piece of cloth and stir the mixture at least twice a day. Subsequently, when a few days have passed, the mixture will bubble itself. After it bubbles, initiates to refreshing/feeding it regularly.
In this process, it is time to refresh the starter. Take two tablespoons from the mixture and discard it. Now add 50 grams of fresh water and 50 grams of flour to the existing mixture. The process needs to be repeated twice or thrice a day. Keep the starter refrigerated; this negates the need for feeding the starter repeatedly. Still, feed it once a week, and the starter should be unrefrigerated for a day before it is time to bake.
Whole wheat sourdough starter
If you are looking more to the health benefits of sourdough bread, another widely used sourdough starter recipe is that involving whole-grain flours. The recipe is a mashup of rye, whole-wheat and any form of available flour. Wild yeast is still available far and wide. For the beginners, however, it is recommended that a standard flour should be used because its behavior is rather predictable. But for experts looking out for variety, the whole-grain flour offers an avenue to differentiate. Another unique option is to keep a standard starter batch and mix it with rye or the whole-wheat flour and feed the mixture accordingly.
This advanced sourdough starter recipe merely requires water and flour in equal amounts, a ratio of 1:1 to be precise. This ratio is versatile for baking. In ideal cases (beginner and advanced), a usually ¼ cup of the existing starter is scooped out and feed the starter with a new intake of flour and water. After the recipe is done with, it is time to feed the starter yet again with water and flour, but in equal amounts.
Dos and Don’ts of Making it
As the case with any perishable edibles, any standard sourdough starter could be contaminated and becomes completely unusable. In a case where color streaks appear inside the starter, it is thoroughly contaminated and must be discarded. Apart from this, when brown liquid is floating atop this starter, it should be poured off. However, this liquid has no effect on the starter itself. It merely means that the 1:1 ratio has not been properly followed or the starter has not been adequately fed in between. But these household starters are quite resilient and with proper care, regain their original state.
Sourdough has remained a vital component of most bakers’ kitchens and households. Now, this art can be replicated right in anyone’s kitchen and one may tweak it to as per their needs. Lastly, making the sourdough starter is also as much of an art as it is a science. The methods explicated here may vary because it is tentative. However, the tried and tested methods highlighted here are no less good than others.
It takes about 5-7 days to make and learn how to feed your sourdough starter. Once the culture is stable, it will last indefinitely as long as you feed it regularly.
The 7-day Process of Making a Sourdough Starter
- 25 grams whole wheat flour
- 25 grams all-purpose flour
- Let’s start this process. Take an empty jar and fill it with 150 grams of water and 100 grams of whole-grain flour. Mix it well into the jar.
- Stir this mixture vigorously and ensure that it is kept in warm temperature (preferably from 26°C to 29°C). Wait for 24 hours and avoid sunlight.
- There may be or may not be some amount of fermentation activity. An initial surge of clear activity is standard which dwindles on day 3. However, the mixture is not ready to be baked yet. It is advised that stick to the process and it will deliver the desired results.Take out 75 grams from the existing mixture and add 125 grams of water, 50 grams of rye and 50 grams of standard flour. Maintain the temperature at 80°F(26°C). Mix well and keep it for 24 hours.
- Some results might be visible in the morning as bacteria start to take hold. Usually, the activity disappears and then reignites later on. Nonetheless, stick to the schedule and the process starts soon enough by itself. If it drags considerably, heats up the water to 80°F (26°C). Take the clean and place it on the scale. Now take out 75 grams of the existing mixture from yesterday and add 50 grams of standard flour and rye flour each along with 125 grams of water. Stir the mixture well, cover this jar and wait till 24 hours.
- This is the day where the two recent additions begin to show healthy signs. During the morning, signs of fermentation begin to show up. There are bubbles scattered left, right and center. The mixture’s level may have risen and fallen a bit. Feed the start again as done just yesterday. Add 125 grams of water and 50 grams of rye flour and standard flour heats. Now mix it thoroughly, cover it and now wait for 12 hours again. After 12 hours, discard some portion of the mixture, feed it again and wait for another 12 hours.
Day 5 & 6
- Continue the same process as on day 5 and 6 (keep refreshing using the same ratio, at least twice a day). The fermentation process speeds up.
- On day 7, repeat the entirety of the process mentioned above. After this, the starter’s height varies quite a lot, as it rises and falls each day. It is a clear indicator that it is now viable for baking. In case the starter still struggles to rise up to your expectations, keep feeding the starter in the same amount for a day more. Be patient. The starter develops strength and flavor over the course of next week.