A simple sourdough starter recipe for you, because when it comes to baking there are few things more satisfying than making sourdough bread from your own sourdough starter. Many people have said when they see my sourdough loaves they’d love to be able to make their own sourdough but are intimidated or don’t have the time. No excuses. Here’s how to make a sourdough starter the easy way.

I’ve been baking sourdough bread for over a year now, so I know the frustration of sourdough starters not bubbling up like they do in the photos by professional bakers that you see on social media. I’ve made sourdough loaves that didn’t rise and made better frisbees than toast – even if you could cut through them. I’ve tried every method of kneading the dough, from no-kneading to intense kneading to gentle folding and stretching the dough.

Now that I have a very stable sourdough starter (often called by its French name levain) that allows me to consistently make good loaves of sourdough bread, I thought I’d show you how I arrived at my final sourdough starter making method. But this is just a starting point for my sourdough adventures as this is really just a simple white sourdough starter fed by wholewheat and white bread flour.

There are many more things to learn – how to score the loaves better, how to increase hydration to get an airier crumb (the interior texture of the bread), and the list goes on.

But it all starts with the starter, so to speak. Making a simple sourdough starter is easy, but here are my best sourdough baking tips to get your started, that will help you in the long run.

Simple Sourdough Starter Recipe –  How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Your Sourdough Starter Kit – The Essentials

Let’s start with the essential sourdough starter equipment you will need:

Your Sourdough Starter Container

I like to use these air tight glass canisters, which are essentially mason jars with a metal seal clamp. However, I remove the metal clamp pieces and remove the seal from the lid. That way I can leave the lid on and still allow air flow to feed the starter.

The reason for this is because the only time you want a perfect tight seal is when storing the sourdough starter in the fridge. You can simply use cling wrap for this. The reason for removing the metal clamp pieces is that sourdough starter is like a slow-setting glue and it sets like cement if it’s not cleaned off immediately during the process of feeding your starter and making a sourdough loaf. You’ve been warned!

Weigh your mason jar and write down the weight. This will come in handy when judging how much sourdough starter is left in the jar. While most recipes tell you how much starter to remove, sometimes you might want to know how much starter is left.

More Sourdough Baking Equipment

I keep all my sourdough baking equipment in a large stainless steel mixing bowl and my flours in a specific container. I use a tiny ladle that holds exactly 30 grams of flour. I use a large plastic chopstick to mix the flour and water. And when baking, I use that stainless steel mixing bowl as it can be easily cleaned after working the dough. I have a flour sifter that I use exclusively with my rice flour for dusting the loaves, the bench, and the banneton baskets.

A Good Baking Scale is Essential

A baking scale that measures exactly down to the gram is what you need. If you’re in a country that still uses Imperial measures, now’s a good time to convert to something more sensible when it comes to sourdough baking – particularly if you’re going to be making multiple sourdough loaves at once. Get a scale with a big base too, so that you can read the weight when you have a huge bowl on it to weigh out your dough.

Use Filtered Water

Many countries have a fluoridation program for their tap water. Sourdough bakers will tell you that fluoride (and chloride) can retard the dough from rising. So, just to be safe, I always use bottled or filtered water to feed my sourdough starter and make my bread dough. Better to be safe than sorry and it eliminates one problem your bread could have when it comes to rising.

Getting Started – Temperature and Humidity

I often get asked about the ambient temperature and humidity and specifically, as I live in tropical Cambodia, how I can make sourdough in a climate that is so humid and hot. Answer is: things just happen faster.

A lot of sourdough starter and bread recipes assume an ambient temperature of around 21˚C. My ambient temperature where I cook and bake is around 27˚C. Now, is that good for working with shortcrust or puff pastry? Hell no. But it doesn’t stop me from making bread. Although the kitchen gets awfully hot while baking because the oven is cranked to full.

If you’re in an environment where your ambient temperature is less than 21˚C, things will happen at a slower rate, from the starter activating more slowly, to the dough being slower to get to the right tension for baking.

Let’s get starter-ing…

Simple Sourdough Starter Recipe –  How to Make a Sourdough Starter

For wholewheat flour I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour (don’t confuse it with their Whole Wheat Pastry Flour).
For bread flour I use Gold Medal Unbleached Bread Flour.

My day by day, step by step 7-day process for making the sourdough starter:

Sourdough Starter Day 1

50g wholewheat flour
50g filtered water

Place the flour and water into a clean mason jar and stir together until fully combined.
Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

Sourdough Starter Day 2

Add to the first day’s starter:
75g wholewheat flour
75g filtered water

To the sourdough starter, add 75g wholemeal flour and 75g water. Stir together until fully combined.
Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

Sourdough Starter Day 3

Discard 100g of sourdough starter and add:
100g filtered water
100g wholewheat flour

Add the flour to the starter and mix in the water. Cover and leave overnight. If there’s no activity yet, don’t panic. Baking is about patience.

Sourdough Starter Day 4

Discard 150g of sourdough starter and add to it:
100g filtered water
100g wholewheat flour

Add the flour to the starter, add in the water, and stir until fully combined. Cover and leave overnight. The starter should now smell a little sour with small bubbles appearing on the surface.

Sourdough Starter Day 5

Discard 200g of sourdough starter and add:
150g filtered water
150g bread flour

Add the flour to the starter, add in the water, and stir until fully combined. Cover and leave overnight. The starter should appear active and full of tiny little bubbles.

Sourdough Starter Day 6

The starter should be quite active now and be full of bubbles and have a slightly sour aroma that’s not unpleasant. If the starter appears really active, you could try a test loaf with the discarded starter. I usually can’t help myself!

Discard 250g of sourdough starter and add:
200g filtered water
200g bread flour

Add the flour to the starter, and mix in the water. Cover and leave overnight.

Sourdough Starter Day 7

After a week of feeding your sourdough starter it should now be very active and full of bubbles. The starter should double or triple in size around 6-8 hours after feeding. (Note that the warmer the atmosphere, the faster the starter will rise.) If so, the starter is now ready to use. If not, continue the feeding schedule from day 6 until you achieve this result. Note that the starter will drop back down after around 12 hours.

When making your sourdough bread, keep in mind that you always need to retain some sourdough starter to be fed after the starter is used to make bread. If making several loaves, calculate the amount of starter you need for the batch and ensure that you have enough left over to keep your starter active.

How to Maintain Your Sourdough Starter

How to maintain your sourdough starter depends on how often you intend to bake. Your sourdough starter is a living thing and needs to be fed – how often you feed your sourdough starter depends on how often you intend to bake, and at what temperature you keep it.

If you’re planning to bake a loaf every couple of days, follow a daily feeding schedule. If you’re baking a loaf a week for the weekend (and here’s an idea as to how you can use it), you can place the starter in the fridge for up to 10 days. Although I know some bakers who have successfully revived a starter after a month away.

Daily Feeding

My personal daily sourdough feeding routine for a mature starter is to discard most of the current starter so that I have 100g left, and then add 100g of flour (often a mix of wholewheat and bread flour) and 100g of filtered water. A lot of American bakers use the discarded starter to make pancakes, but as I don’t eat pancakes, I make pizza dough with the starter.

Refreshing from the Fridge

This stage can be confusing for some people, but it’s really about working backwards from when you want to take that finished loaf out of the oven. First, I like to proof the final shaped loaf in its banneton overnight. So if I want that loaf on a Sunday morning, it needs to be in the fridge on Saturday.

That means you take the starter out of the fridge on Friday, feed it Friday night, and leave it out on the bench overnight. Discard and feed again on Saturday morning. Use what you need for your bread, refresh, and put it back in the fridge on Saturday. Mark the date. To be safe, feed it again in a week’s time.

A Final Note

In many ways, making sourdough is a little like making fresh pasta. In the beginning it feels like a lot of work. But it’s not really once you gain confidence in how the starter should look and smell, as well as how much time it takes to rise – and how much it rises – to be able to be confident that your bread will get the famous ‘oven spring’, the big rise of the bread in the oven in the first 20 minutes of baking.

My next post is a beginner’s guide to how to make your first sourdough loaf

Simple Sourdough Starter Recipe –  How to Make a Sourdough Starter

A Simple Sourdough Starter Recipe. Copyright © 2020 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Simple Sourdough Starter Recipe

When it comes to baking, there are few things more satisfying than making your own sourdough bread from your own sourdough starter. Some people think it’s complicated, but here's my simple sourdough starter recipe.
Prep Time: 6 days
Total Time: 6 days
Course: Baking
Cuisine: French
Keyword: sourdough, starter, baking, boule, wildyeast, bread, sourdoughstarter sourdoughbaking, naturallyfermented, highhydrationdough, fermentedfoods, artisinalbread, artisinal, fermented, yeast

Equipment

  • Mason Jar
  • Baking Scales

Ingredients

Sourdough Starter Day 1

  • 50 g wholewheat flour
  • 50 g filtered water

Sourdough Starter Day 2

  • 75 g wholewheat flour
  • 75 g filtered water

Sourdough Starter Day 3

  • 100 g wholewheat flour
  • 100 g filtered water

Sourdough Starter Day 4

  • 100 g wholewheat flour
  • 100 g filtered water

Sourdough Starter Day 5

  • 150 g bread flour
  • 150 g filtered water

Sourdough Starter Day 6

  • 200 g bread flour
  • 200 g filtered water

Instructions

Sourdough Starter Day 1

  • Place the flour and water into a clean mason jar and stir together until fully combined.
  • Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

Sourdough Starter Day 2

  • To the sourdough starter add the wholemeal flour and filtered water. Stir together until fully combined.
  • Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

Sourdough Starter Day 3

  • Discard 100g of sourdough starter and add the flour to the starter and mix in the water.
  • Cover and leave overnight. If there’s no activity yet, don’t panic. Baking is about patience.

Sourdough Starter Day 4

  • Discard 150g of sourdough starter and add the flour and the water to the starter and stir until fully combined.
  • Cover and leave overnight. The starter should smell a little sour with small bubbles appearing on the surface.

Sourdough Starter Day 5

  • Discard 200g of sourdough starter and add the flour and the water and stir until fully combined.
  • Cover and leave overnight. The starter should appear active and full of tiny little bubbles.

Sourdough Starter Day 6

  • The starter should be quite active now and be full of bubbles and have a slightly sour aroma that’s not unpleasant. If the starter appears really active, you could try a test loaf with the discarded starter. I usually can’t help myself! Discard 250g of sourdough starter and add the flour and the water and stir until fully combined.
  • Cover and leave overnight.

Sourdough Starter Day 7

  • The starter should now be very active and full of bubbles. The starter should double to triple in size around 6-8 hours after feeding – note that the warmer the atmosphere the faster starter will rise. If so, the starter is now ready to use. If not, continue the feeding schedule from day 6 until you achieve the above result.
  • When making your sourdough bread, keep in mind that you always need to retain some sourdough starter to be fed after the starter is used to make bread. If making several loaves, calculate the amount of starter need for the batch and ensure that you have enough left over to keep your starter active.

How to maintain your sourdough starter

  • How to maintain your sourdough starter depends on how often you intend to bake. Your starter is a living thing and needs to be fed – how often depends on how often you intend to bake – and at what temperature you keep it.
    If you’re planning to bake a loaf every couple of days, use a daily feeding schedule. If baking a loaf a week for the weekend, you can place the starter in the fridge for up to 10 days – although I know some bakers who have successfully revived a starter after a month away.

Daily Feeding

  • My personal daily feeding routine for a mature starter is discarding most of the current starter so that I have 100g left. I then add 100g of flour (often a mix of wholewheat and bread flour) and 100g of filtered water. A lot of American bakers use the discarded starter to make pancakes, but as I don’t eat pancakes, I make pizza dough with the starter, see the recipe here.

Refreshing from the Fridge

  • This can be confusing for some people, but it’s really about working backwards from when you want to take that finished loaf out of the oven. I like to proof the final shaped loaf in its banneton overnight, so if I want that loaf on a Sunday morning, it needs to be in the fridge on Saturday. That means you take the starter out of the fridge on Friday, feed it Friday night and leave out on the bench overnight. Discard and feed again on Saturday morning. Use what you need for your bread, refresh and put back in the fridge on Saturday. Mark the date – to be safe feed it again preferably in a week’s time.

Do let us know if you make this sourdough starter recipe and how it turns out for you. If you’re on Instagram, please tag us, as we’d love to see your sourdough loaves, and feel free to leave any questions or comments, below.

End of Article

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