Katy maintains a 3-year-old sourdough starter and uses it for as much bread, muffin, and pancake baking as she can!
Quick Sourdough Starter Recipe
This is a simplified sourdough starter recipe that you can easily make at home. Learning about sourdough can be intimidating, so I've created this quick reference that will get you oriented in no time.
Although the process of making the starter is very easy, you do need several days (a minimum of four) before it's ready to use. Your wild yeast needs time to eat and grow.
|Prep time||Ready in||Yields|
- 100 grams whole wheat flour
- 100 grams (100 mL) water
- Combine flour and water in a glass bowl. This is now your "starter."
- Loosely cover and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature or slightly warmer.
- Discard all starter except 100 grams. Add in the ingredients again (100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water).
- Repeat steps 2–3 until starter is frothy (typically 4–7 days).
Making a Starter From Scratch
Following this recipe will allow you to make a starter from scratch. You're starting with just flour and water—no commercial yeast.
How Can You Make a Starter Without Yeast?
The answer is that natural, wild yeast moves in on its own! Your starter provides the food (flour) and water to sustain it.
The yeast consumes the flour through fermentation. That's why this process takes many days, the yeast has to grow and get established.
Why Do You Discard Most of the Starter?
The yeast in your jar grows so much it needs to be cut back. The level will actually double in a happy starter after it's fed. Discarding the mixture reduces the amount of yeast to compete for resources and then you're adding in more food when you feed it.
It also makes room for the food you're adding in. Your starter would get huge if you didn't discard as much as you put in!
While the process of building your starter is very simple, there are some additional considerations that will make a big difference to healthy yeast:
Do not store in an airtight container. If it's in a jar, don't tighten the lid.
The yeast in your starter needs oxygen to continue to grow. Also, the gas produced by the yeast needs to be released. So you want to allow airflow but still protect the starter from dust and dirt in the air.
A good solution for covering a starter without cutting off airflow is to use a tea towel. Or simply place the jar's lid on it without screwing it down.
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Cooler temperatures slow down yeast production. If your starter isn't happily bubbling, a cool room could be the cause.
Find an area in your kitchen that is consistently at least 75 degrees F. Try on top of the fridge or under a light.
Metal interacts with the yeast and stunts its growth. Don't use metal spoons or bowls when preparing or mixing your starter.
What Kind of Flour?
I recommended whole wheat flour in my recipe for two reasons:
- Whole wheat has more nutrients for the yeast to start with.
- It gives a more complex taste.
Do you have to use whole wheat? Definitely not. You can use rye or even all-purpose flour.
Once your starter is established, you can always change to another type of flour. Just start feeding it with a new variety.
Storing Your Starter
Glass jars or crocks make great containers. Make sure the lid is loose.
When to Refrigerate
Remember when I mentioned temperature is related to yeast development? If we lower the temperature of an established starter, the yeast growth is slowed.
Purposefully lower the temperature of your starter by putting it in the fridge and you won't have to feed it as often!
Room temperature starters should be fed every 1–2 days, and refrigerated starters need it just once a week.
What to Make With the Discard?
Once your starter is established you'll realize you're throwing away a lot of starter every day! What can you do with it?
The discard is what bakers use to start sourdough bread. The amount you the recipe calls for might be more than you would normally discard. When that happens, feed your starter more the day before. Keep the water and flour weight ratio the same.
You can also use starter as a yeast alternative in anything. Anything you would bake with yeast, use your starter instead. It's filled with active, wild yeast. The flavor will be much richer!
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