Yes... my sourdough starter now has a name.
He shall now be known as Dominic Baguetto. Yes. Just like our fastest and most furious friend Mr. Toretto himself, my sourdough starter rises and falls quickly and with lots and lots of fury.
The easiest way to get started with sourdough is to... obviously use someone else's starter! I've passed on many jars of my own starter to friends and family (one of which is named Clint Yeastwood 😂). Message us with your best sourdough names! We'd love to hear them :D
You can also buy starter online (I'd recommend King Arthur's starter) or you can always ask your favorite local bakery if they'd be willing to share a few tablespoons!
If you're starting with someone else's starter, then just skip the first section of this recipe here.
Creating your starter from scratch
Mix the following ingredients together in a clear jar or bowl until it forms a thick lump-free batter. Make sure the container is large enough that your starter has space to grow.
Your starter should be a 1:1 weight ratio of flour to water. Mark the height of your starter in your container so you can watch it grow.
Note: if your kitchen is pretty chilly then I would use warmer water. Similarly, if your kitchen is super warm, do not use warm water since it'll make your starter way too active too fast.
Second Note: I'd highly recommend getting a cheap digital scale because the cup measurements aren't perfectly accurate and that weight ratio is really what ensures your starter has enough food to last until the next day.
Note: If you're feeding your starter something like rye or wheat flour or other heavier flours, know that they absorb more water than a lighter flour like all purpose flour. The resulting starter may be thicker than what you sometimes see on the internet. This. Is. Normal.
Cover loosely with a kitchen towel, lid or anything really. You want some air to get in but not too much. Let it sit at a warm temperature for 1-2 days. Check on it every now and then. You might notice a dark crust developing on top, but that's totally normal.
Feeding your starter
Once you see those glorious bubbles starting to form, you're finally in business. From here on our, try and maintain a regular feeding schedule as much as possible. It'll help you understand when the yeast is perfectly ripe and make your bakes much more predictable.
You'll only need to save a small amount of your starter, but you also don't need to throw out the discard. Whenever in the recipe I say to discard a portion of the starter, I'm really just storing it for future non-bread related use sometime later that week. I save mine in a jar in the fridge and use them every so often to make crackers. See my recipe here.
Mix the following ingredients together in your handy dandy clear container, cover and let it rest at room temperature for another day.
Note: This recipe will make 1 rustic loaf of bread. If you want to make 2, then you can double the ingredients accordingly.
I usually seal it a little more tightly after these feedings. Here's what my starter looks like:
Repeat this step for about 1-2 weeks until your starter is rising and falling at more regular intervals.
My starter usually gets this active when I leave it in my apartment during the day.
This is what mine tends to look like before I use it (~6-8 hours after feeding):
Kickstarting your starter
Each time you bake a loaf of bread, you should be remembering to keep somewhere around 75g (between 2tbsp to 1/2 cup) of starter aside to maintain your starter. You'll need to feed it the same ratios described in step-2.
After you're confident that your starter is rising and falling at a more consistent rate (as mentioned before that should take at least 1.5 weeks), you can just stick this fed starter in the fridge right away.
Maintaining Your Starter
Once a week, you'll want to create levian and bake or at least feed your starter some fresh flour. Don't worry if you're going on vacation or just happen to forget. You can really push it to 3 weeks if you HAVE to but I'd highly recommend using/feeding your starter weekly.
If you end up needing to push your feeding for 2-3 weeks, I'd recommend doing daily feedings for a few days before you actually use the starter. It might need a little more to revive the yeast activity.
Check out this post for how to bake your first loaf!
Tips, Tricks, & Learnings
- Be patient. Everyone's kitchen is different. Some are warmer. Some are cooler. Some get more sunlight during the day. Some may even be exactly like my kitchen. You never know. It's important to learn how your sourdough lives and breathes in your environment. Which takes time and observation. I promise once you've figured out the timings and temperatures that work for you, this process is a lot quicker.
- Your starter is pretty forgiving. You can leave it in the fridge and forget about it for weeks. As long as there's no weird pink or orange mold or streaks growing on top, you can always revive it.
- No, you don't need to feed your starter daily once it's active.
- You don't have to throw out all that extra sourdough discard. I tend to collect it in a jar and over the course of the week I usually end up with around a cup or so that I can use to make sourdough crackers! If you need other ideas, King Arthur flour has a bunch of ideas of what you can make!
- It's probably a good idea to keep a little bit of starter as a back up in the back of your fridge if you're forgetful like me. Just in case! I will neither confirm nor deny whether I have used my backup because I forgot to keep some starter aside when making levian.
- Use a clear jar or container to store your starter. It helps you see exactly how much your starter has grown since it's last feeding. Doesn't hurt to put a rubber band or draw a line with permanent marker so you can really keep track.
- It does definitely help to have a kitchen scale for measuring out bread ratios. I've tried to provide cup equivalents for my bread recipe but you'll have to feel and eyeball it and figure out if the consistency is correct.
- The people at King Arthur flour know their stuff. They've got posts and posts about troubleshooting your sourdough starter and they're much smarter than me when it comes to being a sourdough parent. Check them out here
I know that seems like a lot but I promise it's not that bad!
Honestly sourdough is fascinating to read about. I recommend checking out the King Arthur bread blog. for all sorts of goodies.
I'm also always down to gush over sourdough so feel free to message me at @cookinginpjs on instagram.
Here's some resources to help troubleshoot your loaf: