You can always buy a super old sourdough starter on eBay, but if you have a little bit of patience, there’s nothing more satisfying than growing your own sourdough starter from scratch. All you need is 5-7 days (depending on the temperature in your home), some flour, and some water. That’s it!
When I was learning how to make my own sourdough starter, this flow chart really helped me out and gave me a clearer picture of the whole process.
So here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Get a 1-quart (or 1-litre) jar and weigh it. Write the weight down somewhere where you’ll be able to find it easily.
- Add 160g white wheat flour and 40g wholewheat flour to the jar. Pour 160g of water in. Stir well. Cover with a towel or kitchen paper and leave to ferment. Stir three times during the day to aerate.
- On day 2, 24 hours later, remove some of the flour and water mixture leaving just 100g inside (it will be easy to calculate considering that you know the weight of your empty jar). Add 160g of water and whisk it very well to dilute the starter mixture in the liquid. Add 160g of white flour and 40g of wholewheat flour again, stir well, and leave to ferment. Stir to aerate 2-3 times during the day. By the end of the first 48 hours, you should start seeing bubbles. If you don’t see them yet, just keep removing the excess and feeding until you see them.
- Keep removing excess and feeding daily with the same amounts of flour and water until the mixture starts expanding. In my case, it happened on the 3rd day, but it’s extremely hot where I live! If your temperature is cooler, it will take longer.
- Once the mixture starts doubling within less than 12 hours, it’s time to change to a feeding proportion of a mature starter. Leave only 50g of the starter, discard the rest, add 160g of water, whisk well, add 160g of white wheat flour and 40g of wholegrain flour, and stir to incorporate. If this mixture with less starter manages to double within 12 hours, you’ve got a winner! If not, just keep feeding it like this until it does.
- Feed the starter like the above (step 5) twice a day, morning and evening, to make it extra strong and active. Or if you really can’t wait, you can try to make your first sourdough bread in the meanwhile. If it comes out right, great! If not, keep feeding it until it becomes fully active.
That’s it! At this point your sourdough starter is fully active and ready for baking bread.
Maintaining Sourdough Starter
I prefer to keep the starter in the fridge between my baking sessions. In this way, I don’t have to waste flour to feed the starter, it saves me time that I would otherwise spend feeding it twice a day, and the starter is very healthy and happy in the fridge.
Once you feed it, wait until it starts developing bubbles on the sides and starts growing. When it grows by around 30%, place it in the fridge and keep it there until the next time you want to make bread. It will keep growing slowly in the fridge until it reaches its full potential (doubles in size). If you make the next batch within 3-4 days, simply take the starter out of the fridge and make bread with it straight away.
However, if you leave a little more time between your baking sessions, feed the starter around 8-12 hours before you want to make bread (it depends on how warm it is where you live, in my case it’s 8 hours) and wait until it reaches the highest point (or doubles). That’s when it’s ready to make bread. If you wait until it starts going down, the bread will be considerably more sour.
After using the sourdough starter up for the bread, discard any excess until only 50g remain, add the water, whisk well, add the flour, stir everything, and again wait for a few hours until it starts growing and then chuck it in the fridge until the next time. Maintaining the sourdough starter in this way is so effortless!
If you don’t like discarding the excess (I know I don’t), you can always make sourdough pancakes or cookies with it. They’re delicious!
You should never wash the jar between feedings. The yeast and bacteria in the sourdough will protect the jar from any mould contamination. If you ever see mould in your jar, you have unfortunately killed your starter and that’s the only time when mould can grow on the walls of the jar. If you follow the maintenance routine, it will never happen.
This is all I wanted to teach you about making your own sourdough starter from scratch at home. Hope yours grows strong and healthy, and enjoy your sourdough bread making!
Here’s my secret sourdough bread recipe if you want a divine loaf of bread that also happens to be low FODMAP.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!
Lots of love,