Sourdough bread is AMAZING. The flavour, the texture, the smell… The best thing about sourdough is that it is easy to make a sourdough starter from scratch.All it takes is patience and a little know-how. Even then the only real trick is to making a really great loaf of bread is to make sure that your starter is happily bubbling away before you bake with it.
Fun Sourdough Facts
Before you jump right into making your own sourdough starter, here are some fun facts:
- The flavour and properties of your sourdough are based on the local strains of yeast and bacteria. This variability in yeast influences the flavour and leavening time, which is why every region of the world has its own type of bread. Some areas have famous strains (Montreal, San Francisco) but most places should be able to make a decent sourdough starter. However, poor air quality might result in a bad tasting, or under active culture. In that case I recommend following a different method to make a quick and easy sourdough starter.
- If you don’t feel like taking the three to five days to start your own starter you can buy one. However, within 24 hours your local strains of yeast and bacteria will have taken over the party. So it’s not worth spending money on a particular heirloom starter, as your local yeasts will out compete the heirloom ones within a very short time.
- You can leave the starter in your fridge for up to a month without feeding. It will develop a brown liquid called hooch which you should pour off before feeding. It will take a few feedings to make your starter “happy again” but it will revive.
- If you treat your sourdough like a pet and feed it regularly you will keep your starter happy and should be able to bake with it continuously without a lengthy reviving process.
- Sourdough has a long history. It is depicted in the artwork of ancient Egypt. And before the advent of modern heating, people in northern climates used to keep their sourdough warm in the winter by taking it into bed with them.
Sourdough Feeding Advice
If you plan on making sourdough bread regularly, then it’s a good idea to give your culture a name (we call ours Gilbert) and feed it regularly.
Feed your culture equal parts of water and flour. It is best to do it by weight (eg. 1 oz culture will eat approximately 1 oz flour and 1 oz water. However, you can just guestimate and do it by volume, adding flour until it is the consistency of a thickened sauce.
If you keep your sourdough at room temperature it will need to be fed at least every 12 hours to keep bubbling happily. In the refrigerator it will need to eat at least once every 5 days to keep bubbling happily.
Here’s the top of a bubbling starter.
The bubbles are best seen from the side.
Here’s what the sourdough starter hooch looks like after a few weeks in the fridge. It can even get darker than this, and still be OK to use. However, if you aren’t making sourdough bread weekly, then I recommend making your culture from scratch each time. It usually only takes 3-5 days to create a new starter, which is about how long it would take to revive an unhappy starter.
How to Make Sourdough Starter From Scratch
It’s easy to make a healthy sourdough starter from scratch. All it takes is patience and a little know-how. Here is everything you need to know to make a bubbling and delicious sourdough starter.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: Approximately 1/2 cup 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Sourdough
- Cuisine: Traditional
- 1 oz flour (approx. 3 tbsp)
- 1 oz chlorine free water (2 tbsp)
- Create your starter by mixing the flour and water in a glass container. Mix it by hand and loosely cover with tea towel and leave in a warm spot. (Above the fridge works well.)
- Check the starter daily and mix vigorously with a fork to incorporate air. It should start former bubbles by the end of day 2.
- Once it has started forming bubbles you need to feed the starter daily. Add 1 oz of water and 1 oz of flour, and mix vigorously to incorporate air.
- Within 4-5 days you should have an active, bubbling culture. Then you are ready to bake bread!
- Check out the Sourdough Archives page for recipes for bread, waffles, biscuits and more.
- If you end up baking a lot of bread, then I recommend getting a digital scale (affiliate link) that has a zeroing function.
- It can be difficult to maintain a starter the first few times you make bread. It takes a while to build up the right yeasts and bacteria in your house. Here’s an alternative method for anyone struggling with the traditional method.
- The exact ratio of water to flour will depend on whether you’re using white, spelt, rye, etc. The goal is to make a thick, fully hydrated mix, but it shouldn’t be stiff. It will become more liquidy as the yeasts and lactic bacteria start to break down the starches.
- I don’t believe in wasting sourdough starter, which is why I only start feeding my starter AFTER it has started to bubble. However, if you find yourself with excess starter, then I recommend making a batch of sourdough biscuits.
- See the sections above for more advice on maintaining a sourdough starter.
Keywords: feeding, hooch, vegan, dairy free, egg free, simple, easy, homemade