A simple method for capturing your own wild yeast. This sourdough starter recipes uses only flour and water and is ready in approximately seven days.
So you’ve read all about the benefits of sourdough bread, and you are ready to bake your own. Only one thing stands in your way… the sourdough starter. It seems very mysterious. It has to be fed. And what’s the discard? And how do you even go about making one?
Fear not. Let’s go over what you need, what you’ll do each day, and what your starter will look like at every stage.
???? Ingredients you’ll need
- All purpose flour
- A one quart or larger container
- A breathable piece of cloth, such as a tea towel
- A rubber band
Let’s get started
Day 1 and Day 2
Day 1 and day 2 are all about getting the flour and water mixture to start fermenting.
The first step is simply to mix flour and water together. We are going to start with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water.
Ideally, for this step you will use rye flour or whole wheat, because they will start to ferment faster. But it’s absolutely not necessary, and I wouldn’t go buying that flour if you don’t see yourself baking with it regularly. I used regular all purpose flour for my starter that is now many years old, as well as for this one that I made as an example.
As far as the type of water, tap is water is fine. If you have heavily treated tap water, you may want to try bottled water.
Mix the flour (1/2 cup) and water (1/3 cup) and stir them thoroughly. I use a butter knife.
Cover the jar with a breathable fabric such as a cotton or linen tea towel and fasten it around the jar with a rubber band. Set the new, baby starter somewhere cozy where it can start to ferment. It still needs air circulation, so I would not recommend the oven or microwave. Right on the counter is best.
Leave the jar alone for 24 hours and come back the next day. It might not look much different. That’s fine. Mix it up, and feed it with another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water. Stir, cover with the cloth, and leave the jar alone. The fermentation will happen soon.
On Day 3, things start to get crazy. Your starter has come to life! It will look gross, separated into layers, and might not smell so great either. That’s good! It means its alive.
Stir it up until all the layers are combined. Now that we have this active bubbly creature, we are going to move on to the next phase. We are going to start with a fresh jar and fresh flour and water, and use this fermented flour to make our starter.
Pour out 1/2 cup of the starter, and pour it into clean jar. Add 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour and stir it well. Cover it with the tea towel, just like before, and set it aside.
Unfortunately, the rest of the old jar is not good for much. Just toss it in the trash.
Strengthening the starter
Okay! The rest of the process is easy. This jar is your starter. In the next few days we are building up its strength. Right now it might be stinky, but in a few days it will start to be sour and the bubbling activity will increase by the day.
On day 4, we increase the feedings to twice per day. So in the morning, feed your starter 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour.
Then do that again in the evening.
Now of course we can’t just keeping feeding it flour and expect it to fit in the container. So we have to discard some every day. Before you feed in the morning, mix it up and discard 1/2 cup of starter. If your jar is small you may need to discard more. It can either go in the trash or you can use it in one of these recipes.
As each day passes, it should become more bubbly, more sour smelling, and stronger. After day 7, it should be mature!
How to see if it’s ready
There are two methods you can use to see if your homemade sourdough starter is ready to bake with.
The first is the float test. Just scoop a few tablespoons of starter out and see if they float when dropped in a glass of water.
The second test is to see if it doubles in volume 8 hours after a feeding. To check this, put a rubber band on the jar to mark the level its at after a feeding, Check back after 8 hours to see if it doubles.
It fails these tests after seven days, that’s perfectly normal. Keep feeding twice a day and keep testing. It won’t be much longer.
Now that I’ve finished the sourdough starter recipe, what’s next?
Well, first of all, you can start tapering down the amount of flour you feed your starter now that you are maintaining your starter, not creating it. If you notice that is starting to separate by its next feeding, that just means you’ve tapered down too much and it needs more flour.
I know you’re going to want to start baking artisan breads right away. But I urge you not to. Even though your starter may pass the float test, a more mature starter (at least 30 days old) will give you much, much better results.
Right away, you can start baking with your sourdough discard, using one of these delicious recipes that use unfed sourdough.
When the starter is a few weeks old, branch out into recipes that rely on your starter entirely. You can bake everything from tender sourdough sandwich bread to sourdough burger buns to sweet cinnamon sourdough to bread to yes, the complicated artisan sourdough boules.
But if you want the easiest way to get a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread, try this ultra simple sourdough recipe first (pictured below!). It’s my favorite.
Sourdough starter FAQs
Don’t I need rye or whole flour?
Nope. If you want to start with one of those for day one and day two, it can help the starter get off to a faster start. But it’s not necessary.
What about pineapple juice? Yogurt? Milk?
Nope nope nope. Don’t need them.
Shouldn’t I weigh the ingredients?
A scale can be very convenient. But you don’t need one. Sourdough is hundreds of years old, before the era of digital scales. If you are weighing your feedings, you will want 60 grams of each flour and water.
What type of container is best?
At least 1 quart large, with a lid that is easily removed, and make sure its clear so you can keep an eye on it. My favorite is a plain old wide mouth 1 quart mason jar.
Why is my starter separating?
It’s hungry! Give it an extra feeding or two. This should correct itself after a little more food.
What do I do if I forget a feeding?
No big deal, just keep feeding.
Why do I have to discard on days 4-7?
Two reasons. If you don’t, the starter will become uncontrollably huge and it won’t fit in the jar. Second, it will need MORE flour to feed it, the bigger it gets. Think of it like a child. Little baby needs a little meal. A big teenager needs a big meal. Keep it a manageable size and it eats a manageable amount of flour.
Why does my sourdough starter smell like vomit?
I don’t know, but this happens to EVERYONE and it’s GROSS. It will go away by day 6 and become more of a sour smell. Don’t worry!
???? Want to print out the instructions?
Homemade Sourdough Starter Recipe
- 5 cups of all purpose flour divided
- 5 cups of filtered water divided
- Combine 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup of water in a one quart jar and mix thoroughly. Cover with a breathable fabric such as a cotton tea towel and secure with a rubber band. Set in a draft free place.
- The next day, stir the starter and add another 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cups water. Stir to mix. Re-cover and set aside again.
- On the third day, the starter should look bubbly and may have separated into layers. Stir everything back together, then pour 1/2 cup of the starter into a new, clean jar. To this new jar, add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour and stir well. Cover with the same breathable fabric and set aside.
- On day 4, increase the feedings to twice a day. Feed 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour morning and night, stirring well each time. Once a day, you will need to discard 1/2 cup of starter, maybe a bit more, depending on the size of your container.
- Repeat step 4 on day 5, day 6, and day 7.
- At the end of day 7, check to see if the starter is ready for baking. It should be visibly bubbly and have a sour smell. A few tablespoons should float in a glass of water, and/ or you should be the volume of the starter double 8 hours after a feeding.