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Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better for You and How To Start One

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How To Start a Sourdough Starter

There are three main ways to start a sourdough starter: borrow, buy, or trap.

Borrow

My favorite method of acquiring sourdough is definitely from a friend. If you can find someone with a healthy, active sourdough starter who is willing to part with some then you can be baking as soon as the next day! Sourdough is a joyful and loving hobby and most sourdough bakers will be happy to share that passion with a beginner.

Buy

You can also purchase a dried starter from many different sources. My first starter was originally given to me as a gift from my husband before we were married. Little did he know how important that gift would be to our health! There are some really awesome choices for sourdough starter on the market and I will list a few below that I personally trust.


Trap

If you want to get super authentic you can start your own starter by trapping wild yeast off of wheat flour, fruits, herbs, or vegetables.

To start a starter with flour you will want to use organic, freshly milled flour if that is available. Flour that still has some of the hull will help you start a vigorous starter quickly.

Organic whole wheat or rye flour is a good choice for starting a vigorous starter. Rye flour tends to have plenty of wild yeast and bacteria and (in my case) makes a sweet-smelling ferment.

Again, any organic flour will work, but those that are milled with the hull start sourdough cultures faster.

A seven day old rye starter made with freshly milled organic flour.

A seven-day-old rye starter made with freshly milled organic flour.

Sourdough starter that is active and fresh makes wonderful artisan bread!

Homemade Sourdough Starter

Yield: 1 sourdough starter baby
Prep Time: 14 days
Total Time: 14 days

Easy instructions for trapping your own wild yeast and bacteria strains to make a 100% hydration sourdough starter. This process takes fourteen days to complete so plan accordingly. You will end up with a sourdough starter that can be used for baking breads, cakes, tortillas and more!

Ingredients

Instructions

Day 1

Mix 100g of flour (2/3c) and 100g (1/4c) of water into a paste. Store it in a clean locking lid jar with the rubber seal removed. Keep your jar in a draft-free place at room temperature. This is the beginning of your starter!

Day 2 -7, feed your starter once a day.

Remove 100g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 50g (1/3c) of flour and 50g (1/4) of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

  1. By day seven you should be seeing some signs of activity. The starter should be bubbling, smell fermented (slightly sweet, sour, or alcoholic). You may even see it rise after feeding. 
  2. If there is mold, off color, off smell and little to no activity do not continue the feedings and please see my troubleshooting guide in the body of this article.

Day 8-14, feed your starter twice a day.

  1. Morning: Remove 100g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 50g (1/3c) of flour and 50g (1/4) of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.
  2. Evening: Remove 100g of starter (half) from the jar and replace it with 50g (1/3c) of flour and 50g (1/4c) of water. Stir well and store it at room temperature.

Day 15, your starter should be ready to bake with!

    Notes

    • Some people have found that their starter is ready to bake with by day 7. I add an extra 7 days of double feedings to insure that the starter is powerful, active and ready for all the baking projects! 
    • Keep in mind, Sourdough is as unique as you are. Results may vary!
    • To build your starter up prior to baking just add a larger amount of flour and water to the last feeding. If you need 250g of starter, add at least 125g each flour and water!
    • All cups and spoons measurements are approximate, please weight your ingredients for accuracy!

    Gluten-Free Sourdough Guides

    Whole New Mom – Super Easy Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter

    Fermenting For Foodies – Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter 

    Page Guide

    Page 1. Intro
    Page 2. What Is Sourdough?
    Page 3. Bread Terminology
    Page 4. Why Eat Sourdough?
    Page 5. Tools
    Page 6. Starter Recipe
    Page 7. Fresh Starter vs. Discard
    Page 8. Starter Hydration & Feeding
    Page 9. Favorite Recipes
    Page 10. Troubleshooting Sourdough
    Page 11.  Starter Insurance Policy
    Page 12. Using Stale Bread
    Page 13. Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss
     

    Sarah

    Sunday 7th of August 2022

    Hi Courtney!

    I’m very new to the sourdough world and am doing some reading before I fully commit. With your starter recipe, what size of glass container do you use? Some have said it can more than double in size... I want to have a big enough jar but not too big... Also, would a plastics twist lid work? I’m thinking it would breathe very well?

    Thanks for being such a thorough sourdough resource for this newbie!

    Butter For All

    Thursday 11th of August 2022

    Hi Sarah!

    Welcome! Typically I use a quart jar or larger. I like to have lots of starter on hand for many baking projects. But it really depends on how much you want to keep. You can always switch containers if you need to make more or less. You are right, a plastic screw on ball jar lid works great! I also like locking lid jars with the seal removed. You'll have to keep me posted on your progress!!

    Happy Baking,

    Courtney

    Annie

    Saturday 21st of May 2022

    Hi Courtney! Thank you for explaining all this. Is there a place where I can just buy this same sourdough-type bread from instead of making it myself??? I get a very inflamed joint when I eat gluten-containing bread, so I'm hoping this sourdough will fix the problem.

    Thank you, Annie

    Butter For All

    Friday 3rd of June 2022

    Hi Annie!

    Do you have any local sourdough bakeries? Many times store bought sourdough will be soured with vinegar. But a lot of traditional bakeries still produce long-fermented bread. I'm happy to help you locate something if you provide me with your location!

    Courtney

    Ellen

    Friday 18th of February 2022

    Hello again! Can purchased sprouted wheat (lindley mills) be used in 1. Starting a starter and/or 2. Feeding the starter.

    Thank you.

    I love your site! Ellen

    Ellen

    Monday 21st of February 2022

    @Butter For All,

    Hi Courtney! Thank you for your reply.

    I completely understand what you are saying.

    I have been very impressed with your quick responses.

    Thank you!

    Butter For All

    Monday 21st of February 2022

    Hi Ellen!

    Thanks for the kind words!

    So sprouted wheat can be used in the entire sourdough process BUT it doesn't make any gluten structure so the bread will be very dense. It is best to use a combination of bread flour and sprouted flour if you want the bread to rise and have the flavor of the whole wheat. Because it's rather expensive, I personally use sprouted wheat for quick bread, cookies, and pastry. Things where it wouldn't be appropriate or are too difficult to ferment. I let the fermentation process take care of the un-sprouted flour in my bread recipes. Hope that makes sense!

    Hope you have a wonderful sourdough journey!

    Courtney

    Ila Kaiser

    Sunday 5th of December 2021

    I am diabetic and wondering how to calculate the carbs and fiber for the sourdough breads. Can you help?

    Butter For All

    Sunday 12th of December 2021

    Hi Ila,

    So, unfortunately there is no definite way to calculate carbs for sourdough. The longer the bread ferments, the less carbs it has. As the yeast and bacteria eat up sugars the bread gets more sour. So a really sour sourdough, that has been fermented for 24+ hours will be the best for you. I would personally eat a small amount and then test blood sugar to see how the long-fermented bread affects you.

    I hope this is a little help! Take good care!

    Courtney

    Donna

    Monday 15th of November 2021

    I’m on day 5 of my rye starter. Day 2 it almost doubled in size! Day 3 almost no activity. Day 4 it hasn’t risen but I can see a few bubbles! Is this normal? Should I continue to do the daily feedings or is this batch a lost cause? Thanks

    Butter For All

    Monday 22nd of November 2021

    Hi Donna!

    Don't toss it! This is totally normal. At first the yeast go crazy, then they mellow out as the bacteria get going, over the next few weeks they will balance out and harmonize into a lovely starter! Hope I caught this comment in time!

    Best,

    Courtney

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