Sourdough bread is AMAZING. The flavour, the texture, the smell… The best thing about sourdough bread 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 to making a great loaf of bread is to make sure that your starter is happily bubbling away before you bake with it.
Everything you need to know about sourdough starter
1. Creating a Sourdough Starter from Scratch
Though lots of places sell sourdough starters, within 24 to 48 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.
The best way to get a healthy starter is to create it from scratch and take a few weeks to build it up. By creating a good starter from scratch you will actually be improving the strains of wild yeast and bacteria in the air of your home.
Not only are the wild yeasts and bacteria perfect for baking bread, they’ll also give you a good dose of probiotics for your skin and in your lungs.
A recipe for making a sourdough starter from scratch is at the bottom of this post.
2. Sourdough Feeding Advice
Feed your culture equal parts of water and flour. It is best to do this by weight (eg. 1 oz culture will eat approximately 1 oz flour and 1 oz water per day.)
However, you can also guestimate and do it by volume, adding flour until it is the consistency of a thickened sauce. Sourdough starter is extremely flexible and forgiving. We never measure when we feed our sourdough starter and we’ve been baking bread with it since the early 2000s.
If you keep your sourdough at room temperature it will need to be fed at least every 24 hours to keep bubbling happily. In the refrigerator, it will need to eat at least once every 5 days.
If you plan on making bread regularly, then it’s a good idea to treat your starter like a pet and feed it regularly. Then you should be able to bake with it continuously without a lengthy reviving process.
3. Sourdough Hooch
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.
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.
If you aren’t making sourdough bread monthly, then I recommend making your culture from scratch each time. Once you’ve built up the right strains of yeast in the air of your home, it usually only takes 3-5 days to create a new starter. That happens to be the same amount of time it would take to revive an unhappy starter.
4. Sourdough Discard
I’ve never discarded sourdough starter…
It seems like a huge waste, and I’m really not sure why sourdough discard is a thing.
Here is how you can avoid throwing away sourdough starter:
- Feed your starter only when needed. You’ll know your starter is hungry because it will smell sour. You don’t need to feed your starter if it’s not hungry.
- Store your starter in the fridge when you’re not baking to slow down the fermentation.
- Use your excess starter to make things like pancakes, granola bars or sourdough cobbler.
- If you still have too much starter then make these sourdough buns which will use up 2 cups of starter.
5. 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, air pollution may result in a bad tasting or underactive culture. In that case, I recommend following a different method to make a quick and easy sourdough starter.
- Sourdough has a long history. It is even depicted in the artwork of ancient Egypt.
- 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.
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
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 oz flour (approx. 3 tbsp)
- 1 oz chlorine-free water (1.5 tbsp)
- Create your starter by mixing the flour and water in a glass container. Mix it with a fork and loosely cover with a tea towel and leave it in a warm spot. (Above the fridge works well.)
- Check the starter twice a day and mix vigorously with a fork to incorporate air. It should start forming bubbles within 2 to 7 days (depending on your air quality, see above for details).
- 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, of feeding you should have an active, bubbling culture. That means 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 to make feeding easy.
- 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. See the section above for information on how to feed your sourdough starter and avoid sourdough discard.
Keywords: feeding, hooch, vegan, dairy free, egg free, simple, easy, homemade, discard, no discard, probiotic