Sourdough is pretty popular and I’ve been looking into it as well. Before you can bake your first loaf though, you’ll need a sourdough starter. It’s very easy to make your own starter and all you need is flour, water and a little time.
What exactly is Sourdough?
Sourdough is a small amount of dough that has a lot of cultivated yeast and bacteria. Instead of adding yeast, you take some of this sourdough and mix it into the bread dough. The process takes a little longer than using yeast, but you will end up with a slightly sour note that creates a wonderful flavor.
I love bread and sourdough is a great way to make your bread fluffier. A great side effect is that your bread won’t mold as fast as pure yeast bread, so it will stay fresh for a longer period of time.
The first thing you should do is name your sourdough starter. Some say it’s bad luck if you do not name it. So let me introduce you to my starter, “Sophie”.
Tools & Equipment
- Drinking glass or mason jar
- Plastic wrap
- Rubber band
Flour: take a look at the protein content of your flour. It should contain at least 11% protein. For me all-purpose flour was not a good choice. Use wheat, rye, spelt or any other whole grain flour. The point is to get a nice environment for the bacteria and yeast to grow.
Feeding: feed your starter every 24 hours, preferably at the same time. If you notice that after a few days nothing happens, meaning it is not rising and has only few bubbles, then you can start feeding your starter every 12 hours. If that doesn’t help either, you may want to change the flour. Don’t throw the starter away, because usually your starter is not dead, but just less active and changing the flour should help.
Discard: do not throw away any of the starter that you no longer need. Due to daily feeding and depending on how long it takes your starter to be ready for use, you will build up quite a bit of it. That’ s normal. Store it in a jar in the fridge and then bake a discard starter bread out of it.
Step by Step Guide – How to Make Sourdough Starter
All you need is time, flour and water. Once you finished you can start baking your own sourdough bread.
Day 1: take a mason jar and add 50g of flour and 50g of water. Stir well until you get a homogeneous mixture. Place the jar somewhere in your kitchen and cover loosely with plastic.
Day 2: take 50g of the dough from day 1, place in a new jar. Add 50g of flour and 50g of water and mix until fully combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature.
The Following Days – My Experience
Repeat this process every day until your dough doubles in size within 5 hours. Then your sourdough starter is done and you can bake your first sourdough bread.
Day 3-6: All-purpose Flour
I used all-purpose flour at the beginning. I fed my starter for 5 days and I could see bubbles on the surface, but after the 2nd day the dough did not rise in the jar. Therefore I decided to change the flour.
Day 7-14: Whole Wheat Flour
On day 7 I started feeding my starter with whole wheat flour. From day 7-9 I noticed a lot of bubbles and it did rise well, but still didn’t double in size within 5 hours.. From day 10-14 I could still see bubbles, but again the problem that the dough did not rise much. So I changed the flour one more time.
Day 15-17: Rye Flour
On day 15 I started feeding my starter with rye flour. This was a good decision because my dough directly doubled in size within 5 hours that day. To make sure my starter was really ready, I fed it for 2 more days. I had the same result on the following days, meaning my starter “Sophie” is ready to use.
Storage: if you do not need your sourdough starter / mother dough, cover it with plastic wrap or a screw lid and place in the fridge. This will slow down the activity of the bacteria and yeast. You may notice some liquid gathering on top of your mother dough, this is usually lactic acid and alcohol. Just remove it, feed your dough again and you should be good.
My Summary for Sourdough Starter
Temperature: in my kitchen the temperature was about 23°C / 73°F. If it is colder, it may take a little longer for the mother dough to be ready. If it is warmer, it can take less time.
Water: the temperature of the water should be somewhere between 20°-30°C / 68°-86°F. This is the ideal temperature for the yeast and bacteria.
Time: it took me 17 days and 3 different flours to get my starter ready to use. Depending on what flour you use, it may go faster or take longer. TIP: don’t give up and if nothing happens for days, change the flour and keep going.
How do I maintain and activate my Sourdough Starter?
if you do not need your sourdough starter keep it in the fridge and feed it once a week in the ratio 1:1:1 (mother dough, flour, water). After that, put it back in the fridge.
Your starter needs to be activated again. To do this, take it out of the fridge 2 days before you want to bake a loaf of bread, for example, and feed it in the morning and evening in a ratio of 1:5:5 (mother dough, flour, water). Your sourdough starter should be able to double in size at room temperature within 5 hours of feeding.
How to use my Starter?
There are endless possibilities to use your starter. You can use it everywhere where you normally use yeast. Just try it out.
A final note: if you let your dough rise at room temperature, use about 20% starter based on the total amount of flour in your recipe and if you do an overnight rise in the fridge, reduce the amount to about 10%. Some ideas to start with:
- Cinnamon Rolls
For Day 1
- 50g rye flour
- 50g water
From Day 2
- 50g dough from the previous day
- 50g rye flour
- 50g water
- Take a mason jar or a drinking glass and add 50g of flour and 50g of water.
- Stir well with a spoon until you get a homogeneous mixture.
- Place the jar somewhere in your kitchen and cover loosely with plastic. This way the dough won't dry out, but some air will still get in for the bacteria and yeast to become active.
- Take 50g of the dough from the previous day and put it in a new jar.
- Add 50g of flour and 50g of water and mix with a spoon until everything is well mixed.
- Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Repeat this process every day until your dough doubles in size within 5 hours. Then your sourdough starter is done and you can bake your first bread. If you don't want to start baking right away, place your sourdough starter in the fridge.