The Complete Sourdough Starter Guide
In this Complete Sourdough Starter Guide, you’ll learn how to make Sourdough Starter, diagnose and fix problems that might occur, and discover how to maintain your starter to keep it bubbly and strong.
And this couldn’t be easier! You don’t need a scale, a thermometer, or a proofing box. All you need is all-purpose flour and water. So let’s get started!
No Scale Required to Make Sourdough Starter
People have been making sourdough starter for thousands of years. And many of them never had a scale to weigh their ingredients. So if you don’t have a scale, don’t worry. You can do this. I never want a lack of equipment to stand in the way of anyone being able to make sourdough starter—or any nutrient dense food for that matter.
So if you don’t have a scale, how do you know you have the right amount of flour and water in the correct proportions? It’s easy. Instead of putting your measuring cup into your flour, dip a clean spoon into your flour and use the spoon to fill your measuring cup. This will give you approximately the same amount of flour by weight as your measuring cup full of water. Is it 100% exact? No. But it doesn’t matter. It’s close enough.
Let’s Start Our Sourdough Starter
The first thing you want to do is get a bowl or a jar to mix your starter. To the vessel that you choose, add your flour and water and stir well to make a slurry. Cover the bowl or jar loosely, and leave it in a warm place between 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is basically room temperature.
I started with a half cup of flour and a half cup of water, but you can use any amount you want, as long as the flour and water are in the same amounts. This makes for a 100% hydration starter. I find this type of starter is easiest for beginners to have success.
When Day Three Arrives
After having left your starter-in-the-making for two days, you are now ready to feed it. You’ll want to remove half of the mixture from your bowl (this is known as “discarded sourdough starter”), and you’ll want to feed what is left in the bowl with the same proportional amounts of water and flour that you started with. In my example, I use one-half cup of flour and one-half cup of water. Next, I stir it, cover it, and let it rest for 12 hours.
After 12 hours, you’ll want to repeat the process all over again. And you will continue to do this every 12 hours until your starter is bubbly and frothy. This process can take as little as 7 days or as long as 10 or more days.
Is It Time to Bake Sourdough Bread?
Once your starter is bubbly and frothy, you’re ready to bake bread. But keep in mind that a new sourdough starter is often not as strong as a mature starter. And by mature, I mean a starter that has been alive for a long time.
You can still bake bread with your young starter, but you will find that over time, as your starter matures, the rise of your bread will improve.
With your starter ready, you can now bake a nice round boule of sourdough bread. As a beginner, I highly recommend that you try my Fast No-Knead Sourdough Bread since it has a short rise time and a mild flavor. This can be very helpful if you and your family are new to the taste of sourdough bread as you are making the transition form a processed foods kitchen to a traditional foods kitchen and incorporating more traditional foods into your diet.
As you become more experienced at baking sourdough bread and want to try a recipe with a long rise time, visit my How to Make Sourdough Bread Using a Foolproof Starter post for a step-by-step video and printable recipe.
What If Something Goes Wrong with My Sourdough Starter?
OK, what if after 7 days or even longer, you see no activity in your starter? What if you starter smells like nail polish remover? What if you stored your starter in the refrigerator and a black liquid formed on top? Not to worry!
All of these things can happen, and all can be remedied. Be sure to check out my Complete Sourdough Starter Guide video, where I diagnose these problems and more at the 12:20 mark.
And if you have any problems or questions that I have not addressed in the video, please leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer your comment and problem solve right along with you.
More Sourdough Recipes
For what to do with all your Sourdough Starter, watch the Discarded Sourdough Starter Recipes playlist. To learn more about how to make sourdough, visit one of the blog posts below:
- How to Make a Foolproof Sourdough Starter
- How to Make Sourdough Bread Using a Foolproof Starter
- No Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe – FAST and FOOLPROOF
- Sourdough Spelt Bread – Step by Step Fast No-Knead Recipe
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The Complete Sourdough Starter Guide
- All-purpose flour
- Non-chlorinated water
- Using a teaspoon, spoon all-purpose flour into a ½ measuring cup.
- Add flour into a bowl or jar.
- Add a half cup of water to the flour, and stir well to make a slurry.
- Cover the bowl loosely, and allow to rest in a warm place between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. (This is room temperature.)
- On the third day, remove half of the starter-in-the-making, add ½ cup flour and ½ cup of water to the remaining mixture, and stir to incorporate. Cover bowl loosely and allow to rest for 12 hours.
- After 12 hours have passed, repeat the process of removing half of the starter-in-the-making, adding a ½ cup flour and a ½ cup of water to the remaining mixture, and stirring to incorporate. Cover bowl loosely, and allow to rest for 12 hours.
- Continue this process every 12 hours until the starter becomes bubbly and frothy. This process can take as little as seven days or as long as 10 days or more. Once the starter is bubbly and frothy, it is now ready to use to bake sourdough bread.
- If you bake regularly and want to leave your starter on the counter, feed it every 12 hours as outlined above—discarding some of the starter and feeding it with fresh flour and water.
- If you do not bake regularly, you can seal your starter in the bowl or a jar and refrigerate it. You will still want to feed it once per week, repeating the process outlined above—discarding some of the starter and feeding it with fresh flour and water.
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