How to make a sourdough starter in little as ten days. A sourdough starter can be used in all kinds of baked goods, breads, and other recipes. When cared for properly, it can last a lifetime.
Have you been bit by the sourdough craze? Maybe you tried to make a starter and it just didnt work out. Maybe your nervous to give it a shot.
That’s why I'm here!
I started my sourdough journey in July of 2019 (pre pandemic baker!) and haven't stopped since. I have helped so man people get a starter of their own going as well as conquer that first loaf.
And I can help you.
It took me multiple attempts to get my starter active as well as make my first loaf so I’m here to say, it’s not always easy. But it is well worth it.
I started in July, but didn't make my first successful loaf of bread until Christmas. So it took me almost 5 months to make that first loaf of bread.
I have complied all my wins, and failures, and have a technique that I hope helps cut out all that time (and flour) I wasted.
I have made multiple starters and using the method here I had one going in 10 days. My first one took almost 4 months.
Let’s take a look first at what a starter even is before we dive in to making one.
What is a Sourdough Starter?
The quick definition, it is a leaven for baked goods.
What is a leaven? A leaven is what gives rise to baked goods. It can be instant yeast, baking soda, baking powder and a sourdough starter. It what takes dough or batter to a fluffy and soft treat.
But what is it really?
Starters are a mix of flour and water that has fermented over time, and host a live culture, that can be used to give rise to breads and other baked goods.
It collects the wild yeast and microbiomes in our environments, trapping it inside the flour, and bringing it to life.
Basically we are creting a live environment inside the flour mix.
This ecosystem is what gives beautiful rise to bread and other baked goods. It has been done for centuries and still works today.
If you are interested in more of the actual science behind what is happening Serious Eats has a great article breaking it all down.
A sourdough starter has even been found to be easier to digest with some people. The reaction that takes place breaks thing down that our bodies have a hard time to digest. It also doesn't require any sugar to make it active.
So many commercial bread products have loads of sugar and other additives that sourdough just doesn't need. Making it better for our bodies.
Because we feed and care for a starter that means it can live a long time. How long can a starter live? There are claims that some sourdough starters have been passed down for generations, and are over 100 years old!
As long as they are cared for properly, they can last a lifetime.
What Can You Do With a Sourdough Starter?
There are endless possibilities for that starter.
First off is that classic loaf of sourdough bread.
Sourdough bread calls for very simple ingredients and only uses flour, water, salt and the starter. It requires zero yeast, no sugar or dairy, and a longer proofing time.
All resulting in the best and freshest tasting bread.
In addition to bread, there is along list of things you can use that starter in.
Some recipes take time to rise and others require no time. Get all my recipes that use a sourdough starter.
Equipment and Ingredients
Digital Scale. The best way to measure out the ingredients. Cup measurements are not as accurate.
2 glass bowls, containers or jars. I like to have two bowls so the starter can be transferred to a clean one. While some prefer to use a jar, I just find a bowl so much easier to use.
Danish Dough whisk. Not necessary but definitely makes it easier. A wooden spoon can also be used.
Flour sack towel or tea towel: you want a towel to cover the bowl. It needs to be light enough to let in the thing we want, but heavy enough to keep out the things we don't.
Ther eare only two ingredients needed to make a starter.
Flour and filtered Water
A note on the flour.
The type of flour is up to you. I use unbleached all-purpose flour but bread flour can also be used. I did not see success with bread flour but have many people do.
All-purpose just works the best for my environment. If you are using all-purpose, make sure it is unbleached.
Whole wheat flour: To get a starter going I do recommend using whole wheat flour for the first day only then after that switching to all-purpose or bread. This is not necessary but I did find when starting with whole wheat it just took off faster.
Very little equipment and ingredients are needed to kep a healthy starter.
Tips, Tricks and Important Info
Making a sourdough starter is a very simple idea and process. While it requires a little bit of time, it is not difficult at all.
I have made a few starters, some were major fails and the other was a quick success. The process that I share was the fastest method.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Measure the ingredients in grams. Cup measurements are not accurate and one cup of water is not the same as one cup of flour.
- Keep a 1:1;1 ratio. This means you want the same amount of water, flour and starter by weight in grams.
- Keep the bowl clean. I like to use two bowls or jars to keep my starter in a clean jar to help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
- Keep it in a warm dry place.
- Store it away from where you prep food. We only want flour, water and the natural environment to affect our starter. If it is around your cooking area, other ingredients might make its way in.
- Do not put starter in the sink/drain! Make sure when you discard you are throwing it in the trash. When a starter is exposed to air it can become really hard and stick to things. This can cause a blockage in your drain.
- Do not cover with a tight lid. This can cause the gasses to build up and can end up shattering the jar.
- Keep the container covered with a light tea towl. I also like to use a flour sack towel. If the towl is too heavy it wont allow the things in that we need.
How to Feed a Sourdough Starter
To get a good active starter it is importan to keep it on a good feeding schedule, especially in the beginning.
How do you feed a starter? When first starting out, it is so important to remove half (and toss) before feeding with fresh flour and water. This will give that growing culture new food to feed on. Only making it stronger.
For example: Remove half, weigh what is remaining and then feed it. So if you have 100 grams of starter you will want to feed it 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water.
Some sourdough bakers will feed by how it feels. This has never worked for me and has left me with an underperforming starter. I swear by the 1:1:1 ratio but do what feels right for you.
Why do we discard? Half will need to be tossed each time because if we didnt it would grow out of control. Because we are keeping such a small amount there isnt that much that needs to be tossed each time.
Just the frist week we will want to throw it away.
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
Let’s get started! Pun intended.
Take a clan bowl and place on a digital scale. Set it to gram measurements and make sure it is zeroed out. Add in 100 grams of whole wheat flour and 100 grams of filted water.
Mix it well, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours. Thats it!
After 24 hours this is what it should start to look like.
It now needs to be fed. Remove half of the starter, leaving about 100 grams.
Add in 100 grams of your flour choice. Can be all-purpose or bread flour.
Pour in 100 grams of filter water.
Mix, cover and set aside agin for another 24 hours.
This is what it will start to look like. Much different than day 2. You may even start to notice some bubbles.
After another 24 hours, repeat the same feeding process from day two.
Remove half (keep around 100 grams), add 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water. Mix, cover and rest 24 hours.
As we move into day 4, the cultures are starting to come alive, be more active and need more food. It may even start to smell a bit. That is normal.
From day 4-10 it will need 2 feedings a day. One in the morning and one at night.
By day 4 it will start to look a lot more alive. It may even have some bubbles.
This is when you will want to move to two a day feedings.
Morning: Discard, feed, and cover.
Evening: Discard, feed, and cover.
On day seven you will no longer need to throw the starter away! Instead of tossing in the trash, add it to some morning pancakes instead.
If you do not want to use it, then continue to throw away.
Is it Growing?
By day 7-10 you should start to see some growth in your starter. Using a wet erase marker, or rubber band, mark where you starter is before you feed it.
Check back in 6-8 hours and see if it has grown at all. If it has that means it is alive and active and can added to baked goods without the help of another leaven.
You will have a strong starter when it has doubled or tripled in size in that 6-8 hour time.
After 8 hours you may notice that it starts to defeat and go back down.
This is normal. I just means it consumed all the food and energy and lost that baking potential. No worries just re-feed and watch it grow again.
Once it deflates and goes back down, you now have what is called discard. Learn all about sourdough discard and how to use it.
How do you know when a starter is ready to make bread? Take a glass of water and drop in a scoop of starter. If it floats it's ready! If it sinks to the bottom continue the feeding process.
Still Seeing No Growth?
If you are not seeing any growth after 10 days do not worry! Some starters just take longer to get going. There are somethings you can try before throwing in the towel.
- Move back to once a day feedings.
- Move to a different area of the house. I once tried keeping it in my pantry and it nearly died. It did not survive well in there. Try different areas of your kitchen or even house.
- Find a warmer location. The ideal temp for a sourdough starter is around 75 degrees. If it is too cold, you may not see any growth.
You can always reach out for help! I love helping people get a starter going and want to do the same for you. You can join my Facebook community or simply send me a message.
Join the Community! Join my sourdough starter and baking Facebook group to get tips and baking ideas.
Sourdough Discard Recipes:
Other Sourdough Resources:
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
- 100 grams Whole Wheat Flour Optional
- 100 grams Unbleached All-Purpose Flour Or Bread Flour
- 100 grams Filtered Water
- On day one take a clean bowl and place on a digital scale. Set to grams and make sure it is zeroed out.
- Add 100 grams of whole wheat flour and 100 grams of filtered water.
- Mix well, cover with a towel and set aside for 24 hours to rest.
Day 2 and 3
- After 24 hours, remove half of the starter, leaving about 100 grams.
- Add 100 grams of all-purpose flour, or bread flour, and 100 grams of filter water.
- Mix, cover and set aside.
- On days 4-10 repeat the same feeding process but twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night.
- By day 7, the portion of the starter that is removed can be used in discard recipes.
- By day 7-10 you should start to see some growth.
- If it is doubling in size it may be ready to be added to bread.
- Take a glass of water and drop in a scoop of the starter. If it floats, it is ready.