The “Baking Great Bread at Home“
Sourdough Starter Guide
Hello my favorite Carboholics! I’m Henry Hunter, the group administrator of “Baking Great Bread at Home” on Facebook. You might already know me as the founder of Henry’s Bread Kitchen, where we’re passionate about all things bread.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of answering countless questions from our group members about sourdough starters. That’s why we have put together this comprehensive guide, designed to accompany you on your sourdough journey and help you create your own starter from scratch.
Believe me when I say that your sourdough starter is the life force behind exceptional bread. Without a healthy and active starter, achieving greatness in your baking endeavors becomes a real challenge. But fear not! Creating and maintaining a starter from scratch may require patience, but the satisfaction of achieving that perfect oven spring is more than worth it. So, with that said, I wish you the best of luck on your quest for sourdough starter success!
Note: When making Sourdough bread, you are working with active living organisms. Wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. So the bread you’re making is alive. Treat it kindly.
It can be very temperamental with multiple elements affecting the process and final product including temperature, environment, and fermentation activity. The timing in this recipe is based on a room temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If your temp is colder, then your process will be slowed down so you can adjust the times accordingly. If it’s warmer, the process will speed up so adjust accordingly.
Baking is an intuitive process and this should be used as a rough guide in conjunction with the skills and knowledge you gain.
How to Create a Sourdough Starter
Completely From Scratch
– Any type of flour will work but it’s best to stay consistent. You can switch up your flour at any point without harming your starter but try to feed your starter the same flour for at least 2 days before baking.
– Filtered water is best for your starter to avoid chemicals like chlorine which can slow down fermentation but tap water will certainly still work for your starter.
– Any jar will work but it’s nice to have a wide-mouth glass jar so you can see the activity of your starter
– One day I will invent a utensil just to mix my starter every day, but in the meantime, my favorite method is to use a sturdy chopstick or butter knife.
Use a glass jar or non-reactive container preferably with a plastic or glass lid since metal will rust over time. Make sure that the container you choose is large enough to hold your starter as it continues to grow throughout its lifetime. I would recommend a jar with a 1-quart capacity at best or a 12-ounce jar at worst. Once you have your jar picked out, give it a good wash with warm water and soap to get rid of any dust or bacteria.
Use equal parts of any flour of your choosing (I use King Arther) and water (I like to use 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour or 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour) and mix thoroughly with a chopstick or knife being sure that there are no dry spots of flour in your starter. Place a rubber band around the outside of the jar to mark where your starter begins. This will come in handy when it grows and the bacteria starts to come alive.
Cover your starter effortlessly with its lid. You don’t want to make it too airtight but you also don’t want any dust or unwanted particles to fall in either. The ideal temperature for keeping a healthy starter is around 68-72F/ 20-22 C. (See “Troubleshooting Your Starter”) below for how to care for a starter at different temperatures.) This will give you the most consistent results so find a place in your house that would be best to house your starter.
What to look for:
You should see a few small bubbles after 24 hours. If you don’t, do not worry, just keep feeding!
Whether or not you see bubbles add an additional feeding of 50 grams water and 50 grams flour. Cover effortlessly and place it back in its spot that is at the ideal temperature of 68-72 F/ 20-22C.
What to look for:
At the end of day 2, you should start
seeing more bubbles on the surface of your starter, still, no sour smell at this point since the bacteria is just starting to develop.
Discard half of the starter and add an additional feeding of 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour.
What to look for:
At this point, you should have a nice CO2 bubble from the natural yeast colony that is now multiplying in your starter! Still probably not much smell at this point!
Only discard some starter if you need to make room in your jar. If not, continue feeding your starter equal parts water and flour but now do it twice a day. Once in the morning when you wake up and once at night.
What to look for:
You will continue to see that colony of
yeast grow with more and more bubbles but at this point, there’s a good chance your starter will start to rise. However, don’t be so concerned about your starter rising, it’s more about seeing the bubble activity.
Day 5 & 6:
Now that you are feeding your starter twice a day. You will most likely need to be removing around half of the starter each time you feed it to make room for the fresh feeding and its rise.
What to look for:
You should be seeing more rise around this time along with starting to smell some sourdough notes as the bacteria continues to multiply and develop.
Congrats, you’ve made it to one week! At this point, if your sourdough starter is rising and smells nice and sour, you can go ahead with some bread making. I can’t guarantee great bread results at this point since your starter is still very young but you should still get some bread.
Day 8 – 13:
Continue feeding your starter twice a day for maximum starter strength and great sourdough bread results.
When to use your starter?
There are several signs to look for when determining whether your sourdough starter is mature enough to bake with:
1. Active Bubbles: A mature starter will have lots of active bubbles throughout the mixture, indicating that the yeast is active and producing gas.
2. Rise and Fall: The starter should double in size or more after being fed and left at room temperature, and then start to collapse as it runs out of food. This indicates that the yeast is healthy and active.
3 – Aroma can be a little deceiving for newbies and overthinkers. A good strong starter, depending on biome, can vary in smell. Opening it gives one smell but when you pull it out, I’ve heard some people complain their smells like an “egg farted” and I’ve had to explain that it’s normal.
4. Taste: A mature starter will have a tangy, slightly acidic taste. It should not taste overly sour or have any off-flavors.
5. Time: Depending on the environment, a starter can take anywhere from 5 days to a few weeks to mature. Be patient and consistent in your feedings to give your starter the best chance to mature.
6. Float Test: A mature starter should float when a small amount is dropped into a bowl of water. The gas produced by the yeast during fermentation will cause the starter to float, indicating that the yeast is active and healthy.
7. To perform the float test, take a small amount of your mature starter and drop it into a bowl of room temperature water. If the starter floats, it is ready to be used in bread baking. If it sinks, it may need a few more feedings to fully mature. Keep in mind that the float test is just one indicator of readiness, and should be used in conjunction with the other signs mentioned above.
When your starter exhibits these signs, it should be ready to use in baking bread. It’s important to remember that each starter is unique, so it’s best to rely on these signs rather than a strict timeline.
After two weeks of consistent feedings, you should have a nice strong starter ready for some serious bread-making.
Troubleshooting Your Starter
Higher temperature in your house?
If you live in a hotter climate, around 72-80 F/ 22 – 28 C as I do, you can still maintain a starter at these temperatures! However, it will activate much more vigorously and you will probably need to feed it twice a day to keep it alive.
Lower temperature in your house?
Anywhere between 60-68 F/ 15-20 C is also fine as well, but remember, the activation of your starter will take much longer, possibly 2 – 4 hours more before full activation, so be patient!
Tired of feeding your starter every day? You can always place your starter in the fridge to slow down the fermentation if you aren’t planning on making bread. Just be sure to give your starter a fresh feeding before placing it in the fridge. Make sure to still feed it once a week while it lives in the fridge to maintain a healthy starter.
Ready to make bread again?
When ready to make bread again, take the starter out of the fridge and feed it twice a day for two days in a row to acclimate it back to room temperature and “bring it back to life” for best baking results! Day 1 Day 2 Day 4
So you’ve made your starter and you are ready to bake incredible sourdough bread at home?
Check out our Facebook group, “Baking Great Bread at Home” for the most comprehensive and fun bread baking group on the internet! https://bit.ly/3srdSYS