To make any of the sourdough based-recipes you will need to have a sourdough starter. Whilst you can buy it online these days, it really is unnecessary as you can easily make your own at home. It only takes two ingredients – white bread flour and water. After less than a week of feeding it, you will not only be able to make your own freshly baked sourdough bread but also embark on a journey of sourdough buns, pastries and cakes (see some great recipes in our Sourdough category). As a matter of fact, I’ll go as far as to say – YOU WILL NEVER NEED TO BUY YEAST AGAIN!
There are many sourdough starter recipes, most of which require you to discard the majority of your starter in the process. It’s not in my nature to throw away food, be it cheap white flour. I have only made 3 sourdough starters from scratch in my life, all three different. And I am sharing the recipe of the starter that worked best for me. Whilst you’re left with a lot of active starter at the end, you can then bake your first loaf of sourdough bread, feed half of the rest and use what’s left in recipes that require unfed sourdough discard a few days later.
Making your Sourdough Starter From Scratch
Day 1: Mix 50g of flour with 50ml of tepid water in a jar (ideally a see-through glass jar, so you can see your starter bubbling later in the process). Make sure your flour is well incorporated and leave partly-covered at room temperature for around 24 hours.
Day 2: Mix 50g of flour and 50ml of water together and then incorporate it into yesterday’s mixture. Leave it semi-covered at room temperature for another 24 hours.
Day 3: Mix 50g of flour and 50ml of water together and then incorporate it into yesterday’s mixture. Leave it partly-covered at room temperature for another 24 hours.
Day 4: Depending on the temperature of your room, you may start seeing some small bubbles in your starter or some foaming on the surface. Once again, mix 50g of flour with 50ml of water and incorporate into yesterday’s mix. Leave partly-covered for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 5: Feed your starter with another 50g of flour and 50ml of water, leaving it for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 6: At this point, your starter should be rather active: it should have bubbles you can see in the body of the mixture and some foam on top. If there isn’t much activity, feed your starter again until it’s active.
Your starter is ready to be used to make your levain and your very first sourdough! But you will need to look after it to keep on making this delicious type of bread (which will only get better with a more mature starter).
To make sure it’s ready, mix 1 part starter: 2 parts flour: 2 parts water and leave at room temperature for 6 hours. If within that time it doubles or even triples, you’re good to go!
You will now need to maintain your starter to carry on baking delicious bread (an article on the maintenance of your starter here). Don’t worry though, whenever you need a break, you will be able to store it in the fridge and revive later. For long-term storage, you can freeze your sourdough starter too.
But for now, have a look at our simple White Sourdough Bread recipe and if you try it, let us know what you think!
Factors that Affect Sourdough Starter:
Making your sourdough starter will be affected by numerous things, like temperature and humidity of the environment, yeasts in the air, and the flour that you use.
- Yeast and bacteria like a warm environment, so to grow a healthy starter you will need to keep it at 20-25 C.
- Keep it clean! I heard about starters growing mould and other disgusting things. To avoid that, when you are feeding your starter each day, pour yesterdays mixture into a bowl, mix with flour and water and then pop into a new clean jar.
- When you feed your starter each day, it is important to weigh the ingredients, rather than go by volume to give enough food for your starer.
- Keep your starter semi-covered so that yeasts in the air have access to it!
- If your tap water is high in chlorine, it may hinder fermentation. Filtered water may work better in this case.