Learning how to make your own sourdough starter from scratch isn’t difficult, but it is going to need your attention a couple of times per day every day for at least a week. Be sure to start this process when you have the time to devote to it, or it will never set up properly. If you have always wanted your own sourdough starter and just do not have the time or the patience to grow one yourself, you can always purchase one here.
Before I get into HOW to make your own sourdough starter, I want to tell you WHY you should. Old fashioned sourdough baking is a lost art! Our culture has become so used to instant gratification, that very few people will ever get to experience the joy and appreciation that comes from kneading your own dough, waiting for it to rise, and smelling it bake in the oven. There is something special about taking the time to bake something as simple as a loaf of bread for your family.
There are also many health benefits to eating sourdough bread. Old fashioned sourdough bread is much easier to digest than store bought breads, which makes sourdough a great choice for people who are gluten intolerant. Researchers believe that the sourdough fermentation process may actually lower the glycemic index of carbs. This also makes sourdough bread a healthier choice for diabetics. The fermentation process is creating good bacteria that acts as a probiotic and prebiotic, so it is actually a gut healthy food.
How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter From Scratch
Are you ready to make your own sourdough starter from scratch? It really is super easy, but you have to pay attention to it for a while. There are a lot of articles out there that all say the same thing. They tell you to use equal amounts of flour and water when you are starting and feeding your sourdough. Some people will tell you to use measuring cups, while others will tell you to use a kitchen scale to literally weigh out your flour and water. I promise you that it does not need to be that technical.
Have you ever made waffles? Then you can do this! We are about to mix up some flour and water that closely resembles a super thick waffle batter. Imagine this if you can: Thicker than waffle batter, but not as thick as marshmallow fluff. HAHA. How is that for technical?!
Gather Your Storage Container
Your container that you use is going to be super important. I started out with a glass jar and I hated it because the shape of the jar made it impossible to easily scrape the sides. You want something that is about the size of a sugar canister, but it needs to be perfectly round and cylinder shaped. The one that I use is almost exactly like this one. It is easy to scrape the sides, and it is large enough to allow my starter to rise and double in size when I feed it.
It is also very helpful to have a long jar spatula like this one. This jar spatula is designed to scrape the sides of your canister. This is very helpful when you are working with flour and water which will become sticky and pasty.
Add The Ingredients
Now that you have your sourdough crock or kitchen canister that you are going to store your sourdough starter in, it is time to add the ingredients. Like I mentioned earlier, we do not have to be technical. For me equal amounts of water and flour did not work. I needed to add less water than flour. I threw away soooooo many failed starters before I finally figured out this trick. So save yourself the disappointment and try it my way first.
STEP ONE: Add one cup of Unbleached, All Purpose Flour. I actually use an organic unbleached flour, but you do not have to. It does, however need to be unbleached.
STEP TWO: Add 3/4 cup of filtered water. Tap water is probably not going to be the best option because it will contain traces of chlorine bleach which will kill the fermentation process. So I use a Berkey Water Filter System in my home for ALL of my filtered water needs. All those plastic bottles that we were going through drove me crazy, so I finally invested in a Berkey. Best purchase of 2019. Hands Down! If you do not have a Berkey then filtered water from the grocery store will work just fine.
STEP THREE: Stir the flour and water mixture with your jar spatula until the lumps are smooth and you have the consistency of a super thick waffle batter. If you need to add a little bit more water, DO IT! I told you we weren’t going to get technical here. It is soooooo much easier to just eyeball it. You want it thick, but still easy to stir.
STEP FOUR: Place a kitchen towel over the top of your canister and let it sit for at least 12 hours. Do not place an airtight lid on top or the fermentation processes may make it explode.
Now We Will Start Feeding Your Sourdough Starter
Now that you have added a cup of flour and ALMOST a cup of water, you have your starter started. CONGRATULATIONS! But let’s go ahead and give your starter a name because you are going to need to feed it almost as much as you do your kids. I call my sourdough starter Bella. I literally named her Bella. HAHA. What will you name yours?
After your flour and water has had about 12 hours to sit and ferment, it is time to feed her. Start by stirring your starter to remove any air that might be present. Every single time that you feed your starter, you are going to remove some of the starter and throw it away (we call this discard) and then you are going to add more flour and water. So get a measuring cup and let’s remove about 1/2 cup of the starter you previously mixed together. Then add 1/2 cup of unbleached All Purpose flour and more water. Remember not to add too much water. We still want it to be thick thick waffle batter. Then wait another 12 hours and do it again!
Get Into A Routine
I usually feed mine as soon as I wake up in the mornings, and then again before I go to bed at night. You are going to need to feed your starter like this for the first four days. Then for the next three days after that you will want to feed your starter at least once a day.
Days 1 – 4: Feed starter twice daily
Days 5 – 7: Feed starter once daily
You will begin to see it bubbling on top. This is good. Bubbles are good. HAHA. This means that the fermentation process is happening. By day seven you should also notice that your sourdough starter is growing. As you feed your starter it will literally double and sometimes even more than double in size in your canister. This is how you know your starter is setup properly. Once your starter is ready you can begin using the sourdough discard to create yummy recipes rather than throwing it away! One of our favorites are my sourdough pancakes!
In the photo above, you can see the blue line on the jar. That is the level at which my starter began. By day seven when I had finished feeding it for seven days, you can see how the sourdough starter expanded during a feeding. You want to see it growing in size when you feed it. It will stir back down to where it started, but bubbling up and expanding is what you want to see during feedings once it is established. You will not see this in the very beginning.
Now It Is Time To Bake
Once you know your starter is setup properly it is time to bake. Most recipes will call for either 1/2 cup or 1 whole cup of starter. So if you remove 1 cup of starter from your canister, make sure you are replacing it with 1 cup of flour and more water. Every single time you remove starter, you will want to take that opportunity to feed your starter.
How To Store Your Starter
Once your starter is setup properly you can store it one of two ways. You can either store it on your kitchen counter like I do (because I bake regularly) or you can store it in the fridge. If you decide to store it in the fridge, make sure you allow it to come to room temperature before feeding it, and make sure you feed it before your bake with it. I have more detailed instructions about that in another article I wrote for people who actually purchase their starter from me rather than making their own from scratch. Just keep in mind that the suggested feeding schedule in that particular article is not the same that I am discussing here. The reason is because when people purchase starter from me, they are purchasing a starter that is already setup but needs a wake up after being shipped. That is not the case for you if you are trying to create your own starter from scratch.
Got questions? I’d love to try to answer them for you. Just leave me a comment below and I will answer. If you are successful in setting up your starter, I’d really love to hear from you! And be sure to watch this site for super easy sourdough recipes, because I’m all about the easy ones.