The Best Sourdough Starter Guide You’ll Ever Need
Create your own sourdough starter from scratch, in the comforts of your home with this simple guide.
If you’re into a healthy diet but can’t live without bread, sourdough is a savory and nutritious alternative to conventional white bread. Sourdough is gentle with your blood sugar levels, and this is why diabetic patients and anyone who needs to monitor their blood sugar levels are passionate about it.
The digestion is much easier thanks to the lower levels of phytate which makes it much better than regular bread, and it’s made with store-bought yeast (the same kind that bakeries use for sliced bread & bread rolls). Store-bought yeast reacts with the gluten and is responsible for the rising of the dough by consuming the sugar and producing carbon dioxide and ethanol, which gives it the fluffy texture we all love.
Sourdough bread uses a starter which is a combination of yeast and lactobacilli in a symbiotic colony. The yeast works just like the store-bought options, by transforming carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and alcohol, but the lactobacilli converts the ethanol into lactic acid, giving the distinct sour taste, hence the name.
All you need to is a thin paste made of flour and water that you will feed everyday to keep the natural fermentation process thriving. It is homemade yeast in its wildest form. The best thing about it is the simplicity: again all you need is flour, water and a tiny bit of time and discipline everyday.
It tastes better, looks better and it allows you to make a young, European style crusty bread that will make you look like a professional baker and impress family and friends.
Tools & Ingredients
You will need a glass vessel for fermentation, Mason jars are great, but you can use pretty much any glass jar with ample space and a loose fitting lid.
A food scale is paramount, they are inexpensive and easily sourced, your food scale will help you get the perfect amounts of ingredients for a perfect outcome. Another good thing to have is an instant read thermometer, because the starter is very heat sensitive and you can kill it if the water is too hot, and obviously, a good spatula.
You can use any flour brand. Just pick up your favorite one! Contrary to popular belief, your sourdough doesn't capture anything from the air. The flour itself contains everything necessary to get the yeast started. Make sure it is unbleached whole grain flour, organic rye is lovely, but all purpose flour works great too. Just don’t use bleached flour, because it won’t ferment properly.
1. Day One
Keep in mind that sourdough starter takes time, and the best way to make sure everything goes right is with a daily, step-by-step guide throughout all the seven days.
Yes, it is a week long process, but after it’s done you will have sourdough bread for a long time, and it doesn’t take much time from your day either. About five minutes a day and you’re all done!
First thing you must do is check the weight of your jar to accurately measure the ingredients. Take a note and pour a hundred grams of your favorite flour. Stone ground rye flour is great. Add 150 grams of lukewarm water at 85°F and vigorously mix everything together with your spatula until complete incorporation. All the flour must be hydrated with water without any dry clumps at all.
Close the jar with a loose fitting lid. Don’t ever use a tight fitting lid because the fermenting inside may turn the jar into a mini bomb. Leave it at cupboard temperature for 24 hours and get ready for day 2.
2. Day Two
You might be able to see some bubbles in your mix and that is a great sign of the activity going on in the jar, but if you don’t see anything, worry not. Just keep going.
It’s time to do your first feeding, which is both important and easy to do. Throw away some of the old mature starter, and leave just a little in the bottom, add fresh flour and water like day one, and incorporate. This will replenish the starter with all the yeasting bacteria. Leave 70 grams of yesterday’s mix (that’s why is important to take note of your jar weight at the beginning). Add 50 grams of stone ground rye flour and 50 grams of unbleached all purpose flour and 115 grams of lukewarm, 85°F water. Stir everything up like day one and put your loose fitting lid on and you’re done with day two.
3. Day Three
There will be some rise and activity, but if you don’t see any just keep going, that is normal. Just repeat the same thing you did on day two, and you’re done for another 24 hours of yeasting.
4. Days Four & Five
It’s exactly the same as day three, but with 100 grams of water instead of 115 grams. Same process: remove some old dough, feed it and set aside for another 24 hours. Repeat.
5. Days Six & Seven
Do it all over again, with minor changes: on the 6th day, you reduce your amount of starter to 50 grams and on the 7th day, reduce the starter left in the container to 25 grams.
If you did everything correctly, your starter is active and having good rise and falls. Now, just turn the “repeat” mode on and set it to “day 7” and you’re good to go forever.
If you’re on day 7 and things are not very good yet, just keep doing it. It will happen sooner or later. The important thing here is to keep feeding it! Do not let it die. This is like a living animal, a wild yeast beast cultivated from scratch to become your very own sourdough starter. As long as you feed it everyday, it will stay alive indefinitely.
Even if you forget to feed it for a day or two, don’t throw it away, it will be fine. Just resume normal feeding and it will come back again in a couple of days.
You can feed it every 12 hours if you like, that’s even better, but not needed. Once every 24 hours is totally fine. While it might look tedious to do this over and over everyday, once you get the hang of it, it’s not a big deal. All it takes is five minutes, with minimal clean up.
You can use this starter for any kind of bread, and even other recipes. Get creative, have fun and please, don’t kill it!