How to Make A Sourdough Starter

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How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Making a sourdough starter might be a bit scary to some people. But there is no need to be frightened of a little flour and water. That’s right all you need is flour and water to make a sourdough starter that you can keep going for years and years. At the time of this writing my sourdough starter is 2 years old.

 

Step by step photos and instructions on how to make sourdough starter with nothing but flour and water

How to make a Sourdough Starter with Step by Step pictures

I set out to write this blog post on making a sourdough starter about three weeks ago. I sent out a tweet mentioning sourdough starter. Some of my twitter followers responded. They were very interested in learning how to make a starter. I wasn’t surprised.

Sourdough bread is very popular. Some people have great success. Others do not.

Sourdough baking can be a lot of trial and error.

To start with some people never get past getting a decent sourdough starter going.
Others have no problem at all. They get their starter going and they bake perfectly risen sourdough bread. Then they post beautiful pictures of those perfect loaves and along comes someone like me or even you.
You and I want to bake some of those perfectly risen, beautifully formed loaves of bread also. But our first attempt at a starter is a total failure. Maybe you or I try again. I know I did. It actually took me 3 or 4 attempts to get my starter going. I read everything online. I saw all those gorgeous loaves of bread and thought to myself. What is the problem? I can’t even get a starter going. How am I going to bake those delicious loaves of sourdough bread with out a starter?
If it happened to me I figured it probably happened to plenty of you also.
I’ve actually been thinking about writing this post for well over a year now. I visualized the photos and thought about how I would write the post. There are a few options on how to write it. Did I want to write this post from the technical aspect? Explaining all the how’s and why’s of a sourdough starter? No I decided. If your interested in that aspect of a sourdough starter there are plenty of websites out there that can do it much better then I can.
So I decided to just give you the how to version of starting a sourdough starter.
 The day after my tweet I started a new batch of sourdough starter. I took step by step photos. My photos actually turned out okay. They do what I want them to do…show what it looks like as your starter is developing.
On to the next phase of this blog post…. photo editing.  I wanted to add text to each photo so you, the reader could visually see what each step looked like in the growing of a sourdough starter.
So what happened? Three times I spot typos after the fact. Not until after I have saved each set of photos do I spot the typos. It’s my fault. Each time I was working with the photos I was rushing.
I was getting so mad at myself and frustrated that things were not going the way I hoped that I could not finish writing this blog post. I started and stopped three different times.
Like a lot of people my age I am helping with the grandchildren. I don’t have as much time for the cooking, photo taking and blog writing as I need. So when I make mistakes because I am rushing I get very angry at myself.
When I sat down yesterday to attempt to write this post yet again I had a rare hour or two without any grandchildren running around. It was then that I decided this post would be written then or not at all. I also decided to give up on adding text to some of my photos. I didn’t want to do that but I decided I wasn’t going to take a chance of getting frustrated all over again.
So here we go. I wish you luck in your sourdough starter adventure should you decided to take it.

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

There are only three things that you will need to grow your own sourdough starter

  • Flour
  • Water, distilled or untreated
  • Patience

The first two ingredients are fairly easy to come by. The third is a little harder to have but it will only take 3 days to get a sourdough starter going.

Once it is going your good to go. It will live for a very long time as long as you occasionally feed it. Whether you’re going to be baking with it or not it will need to be fed at least once a month.
I bake with mine about once a month. The rest of the time it lives in the refrigerator. Sometimes I pull the container out and give it a feeding. Other times I only feed it right before I plan to bake with it. I’ve gone a month or two without a feeding and it always comes back to life the minute I stir a bit of flour and water in. Sourdough starter is very forgiving.

sourdough starter, how to make a starter
Day One
Photo 1 & 2 : Add a 1/2 cup of distilled or non chlorinated water to a 1/2 cup of flour.
Photo 3: Stir with a wooden chopstick or other non metallic item.
Photo 4: Cover the jar with a coffee filter or a piece of cheesecloth. You do not want to cover your starter with an airtight cover.  You may also leave it uncovered all day then cover it overnight.
Keep your container in a warm area of your home. You don’t want  cool air from an air conditioner duct to blowing down on it. You can put it on top of a warm appliance like the refrigerator.
Day Two
sourdough, sourdough starter


First thing in the morning feed your starter 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of water. 4 or 5 times through out the day feed your starter with the tablespoon ratio.
day 2 starter, sourdough

sourdough starter day 2 after a feeding

 

This is about 2 hours after the first feeding on the 2nd day. See the bubbles forming? Already this sourdough starter is living and breathing.

 

how to make sourdough, starter,

This is the second day after a couple of feeding six hours later.

 

Day 3


Feed it 1/4 or 1/3 cup of flour and the same amount of water so you have a good amount of sourdough. Most sourdough recipes call for 1 – 2 cups of starter. You want to have some starter left over.On the third day continue to feed it throughout the day. If you plan to bake with your sourdough starter right away increase the amount of flour per feeding so you will have about 2 cups of starter.

After using the amount for your recipe feed the remaining starter 1/2 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of water to start building the amount of starter back up.

You can put it in the refrigerator about an hour after that feeding.

sourdough starter

Sourdough Starter Success

Three days of feeding a new sourdough starter. Sourdough starter success!
The type of flour you use will make a difference in how fast your starter develops. I was using King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour. If you’re using a rye or whole wheat flour your starter may look different and will smell different then a starter using all-purpose flour.
If a layer of liquid develops overnight in your container of starter this is what’s know as hooch. Some people stir it in but I pour it off. It doesn’t matter either way.

One of my most favorite recipes to use with my starter is a recipe for a Sourdough Focaccia I found a few years ago. It is so good that I will forever keep a batch of starter going just so I can bake this focaccia.


Another great sourdough recipe is this recipe for Sourdough Waffles from King Arthur








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Comments

  1. says

    Deb

    Your welcome! It's not that much of a commitment once you get your starter good and active. If your going to be gone more then a week on vacation I would suggest waiting until you come back.

  2. Deb says

    Thanks for the step by step tutorial. I have wanted to start-the starter, but wonder if I can be consistent in it's care. It quite a commitment! Perhaps after I return form vacation?

  3. says

    I just spoke of my now deceased awesome, SD starter, on my blog, which I had for 3 years. I made it using Nancy Silverton's grape starter method. I neglected 'him', unintentionally, and 'he' couldn't be revived. Think it's time to start a new one, especially with the cooler months coming up :) Bread baking time!

  4. says

    Lisa
    I am sorry to hear about the passing of Herbie, your starter! I would be so sad if I lost mine. I tried the pineapple starter recipe and it never worked for me. I've read about the grape one but never tried it. I'm not sure why the pineapple one didn't work. Plain old flour and water did the trick.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. Rachael says

    Just need to confirm, when we feed the starter, do we stir the flour and water in or let it just sit on top?

  6. Tara says

    Thanks for this post! I found it on Pinterest. It is very easy to follow, which I greatly appreciate. :) My only question is…when you put it in the refrigerator, do you still cover it with a coffee filter? (Sorry if I overlooked the answer to his question.)

  7. Donna Smith says

    My husband is diabetic and I try to bake with brown rice flour or other flours that have low carb readings. Will the starter develop with them? I know that store bought sour dough bread has a low carb and sugar reading. Help with the diabetic diet.

    • says

      Donna

      I wish I could help but I have never tried making a starter with anything but a regular flour. I’m sure I have seen recipes for gluten free sourdough. I bet if you searched on google or Pinterest you could find a gf sourdough starter to try.

  8. Allison says

    Found you on Pinterest! Question: once you take it out of the refrigerator and feed it do you leave it out before you use it? Or do you just feed it and make bread?

  9. Kristin says

    Hi!
    This is a great tutorial, thank you for sharing.

    This is my first time attempting sour dough and my starter doesn’t seem to look like yours.

    I’m on day 3 and there are no bubbles in my starter. I’m using a whole wheat flour though, could that be why?

    I plan to make some bread with it tomorrow, so I guess I’ll find out then if it’s edible. :)

    • says

      Kristin

      I have never used whole wheat flour to make a sourdough starter. If your starter does not have any bubbles it may not be strong enough to rise your bread. You could keep feeding it longer. Is it cold in your house? If so put it close to a heat source. On top of the refrigerator would work.

      You could also start another batch using all purpose flour. Once it is nice and active you could convert it to a whole wheat starter by feeding it with whole wheat flour. Good luck!

    • Wendy says

      I have 3 different starters going now ( I started my first batch back in Jan and did loose 1 to mold firs to of the month so on my 4th one since then) and have found each one works different and the longer it goes the better it gets. I also have tried many different things I have found online. One of mine I started with rye flour and pineapple juice and then after the first week switched to rye flour and water for feedings. My last start I started on April first with wheat flour and water and it was very sourdoughy within 5 days of starting it. Where the first ones I started in Jan took over 2 months to start making breads that had a sourdough taste. I also found were some took longer to really start going up to like 7 days before making my first breads with them. I have also found wheat or rye flours once they really get going make my starters more active than white flour. Oh another trick I found that has helped get them going when slow is covering with cheese clothes and placing in the open kitchen window (on days that aren’t to cold) to help catch more natural yeast in the air. I will be whipping up my next loaf of bread tomorrow. I also keep track which starter I use each time so I use them all equally.

      • says

        Wendy

        It sounds like you are a very dedicated sourdough lover. I never could get the pineapple juice trick to work for me. Some people leave their sourdough starter on the counter all the time. I’ve never done this myself but I bet those starters are really active. Thanks for stopping by. Happy baking!

        P.S. if you are on Pinterest you should check out my Sourdough Recipes board. You will never run out of recipes to make using your sourdough starter.

  10. says

    Sourdough starters are called Hermann in Germany. A good way to ensure his survival even during long periods of absence is spreading Hermann generously amongst friends who can then help out with his revival, if need be. Thank you for the wonderful doughtorial!

    • says

      Laura

      Thank you for the great information on starters and Germany. I love to learn about German traditions since 3 sets of my great great grandparents came to the US from Germany. My maiden name is Braun.

  11. KAO says

    Great article. I tried to make a starter last fall – did not make it – I made it in mason jar with cheescloth but now I realize that the lid ring I held the cloth on with is metal – may have been the issue?? Anyway, when the stater gets going – how much do you feed at the monthly feeding of the flour / water??
    Thanks

    • says

      KAO

      Once it gets going and I need to feed it before I use it I will feed it about 4 times a day adding 2 tablespoons of flour and enough water to that it is easy to stir. You can remove about half the starter before feeding and dump it or start another batch or even feed it a few times and bake with it that day.

  12. Claudia says

    Hi Arlene! Thank you for such amazing recipe i always wanted to try the starter but I was confuse about it, ur recipe open my eyes to sourdough bread! I just wanted to ask you, when you keep your starter in yje fridge do you put a lid on the container? Or the coffee filter still? And you mention once in the fridge you feed it only once a month but do you take it out of the fridge the day you plan on using it and feed it for a while before actually use it? Or you can use ot right from the fridge? Thank u so much for sharing! God bless you.

    • says

      Hi Claudia

      You are so welcome! You can store the starter in the fridge with a lid or with a coffee filter over the top and a rubber band to keep it in place. When I plan to use my starter I usually take it out the day before and start feeding it. When I first take it out of the fridge I’ll add some water to the jar and stir well than add about a tablespoon of flour. If your jar is full before your first feeding you will need to make room by removing some of the starter. Then every couple of hours I will add a bit of water and a heaping tablespoon of flour. I’ll do this all day. I usually give it one last feeding before I go to bed. By morning my starter is nice and active and ready to bake with.

      You can actually go longer than a month without a feeding but it will take longer or more feedings to get it good and active again. Happy Sourdough bread baking!

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