Happy Sourdough Sunday!
Okay, so I know there are about 10 million sourdough starter tutorials on the internet and this one may just seem like one more. However, while most sourdough starter recipes are roughly the same, they are also surprisingly...all a little bit different. I think that’s because, while there might be differences in method, the chemical process remains the same: water + flour + yeast triggers fermentation of the sugars in the flour. There may be variations in the exact types of flour and the quantities used, but the underlying principles remain the same.
So this is my approach to sourdough starter, and like everything I do, I try to make it simple and easy.
But first, why make a sourdough starter?
For me, the reasons are simple: Sourdough bread is delicious! I usually bake 100% whole wheat bread, and I find that the fermentation process helps to soften the wheat, resulting in softer and chewier bread. Most importantly, making sourdough bread helps to support our Zero Waste Lifestyle. Of course, baking other types of bread at home also supports Zero Waste, but with sourdough, you don’t even need to buy packaged yeast to bake your bread.
That said, if baking bread just isn’t your thing, don’t feel like you HAVE to bake your own bread to go Zero Waste. There are many ways to source bread without baking it yourself. You can find a local bakery that will allow you to carry away loaves in your own bread bag. Your store might sell loaves in compostable paper instead of plastic bags.
But if baking is something you enjoy, and you’re interested in learning to bake sourdough, then creating a starter is a great way to begin. Besides, there are tons of other ways to use sourdough starter besides just baking bread!
So without further ado, here is my Simple Sourdough Starter Recipe & Instructions:
You will need:
125g* whole wheat flour (around a cup) four separate times (500g total)
125g* water ( a little over a half cup) four separate time (500g total)
A very clean glass or stainless steel jar large enough to hold your starter as it expands (I currently use a Weck jar like this one, but you can use whatever you have handy)
*Because environmental factors can affect flour measurements by volume, measuring by weight is the most accurate method for baking bread. I use an inexpensive food scale like this one and it works just fine.
Day 1: Measure and mix together the flour and water in the jar thoroughly. Cover the jar loosely and set it in a warm place in your kitchen. Wait. Let the wild yeast do its thing for a day.
Day 2: You probably won’t see too much happening today, if anything at all. It’s possible you won’t see anything at all. Some people do a round of discarding and feeding on Day 2. However, I like to leave things alone for another day. Wait some more.
Day 3: You should be seeing some bubbling and activity today. Discard all but 100g of starter. Feed with 125g of flour and 125g of warm water. If your starter seems ripe enough (has a fermented or cheesy smell to it) you may be able to use your discard for a sourdough discard recipe today, like this recipe for Super Simple Sourdough Crackers. Otherwise, compost the discard.
Day 4: Things should really be bubbling now. Your starter should be getting into a somewhat predictable pattern of rising and bubbling and then settling back down. Stir your starter. Discard all but 100g (compost or use the discard). Feed your starter with 125g of flour and 125g of warm water. Give it a name (optional, but fun).
Day 5: Congratulations! You’ve made a sourdough starter. The starter should be active enough to bake a loaf of bread. If you’re ready to bake a loaf, do one more round of discarding and feeding and then wait for your starter to bubble and rise (about 6 hours). From there, follow the instructions in your recipe.
If you aren’t ready to bake yet, discard all but 100g, feed with 125g of flour and 125g of water, and place your starter in the fridge.
To maintain your starter, feed it at least once a week by removing it from the fridge, discarding 250 g (about 1 cup), and feeding with 125g of flour and 125g of water.
The exact quantities you choose to discard and feed your starter can differ. This starter requires a 1:1 ratio of flour and water, so if you decide to increase the amount of flour to 200g, then you would increase the water to 200g. If you needed to reduce the amount of flour, you would reduce the water by the same amount.
If your starter develops mold, turns a strange color (such as pink or orange), or develops a foul smell, it means it has become tainted and, unfortunately, you need to start over. An alcoholic or cheesy sort of smell is totally normal. You’ll know when your starter has gone bad because it will not smell pleasant. While I hate to waste anything, food safety is really important, and it is best to compost and start over than to make anyone in your family sick.
Your starter might develop a liquid or “hooch” at the top. This is totally normal. It’s the alcohol that develops as part of the fermenting process. Just stir it into your starter. “When the hooch develops, it’s a sign your starter might want to be fed. The only exception to this is if your hooch gets pink or orange streaks in it. Then you’ll want to start over.
If you forget to feed your starter for a week or two, don’t panic. As long as your starter hasn’t developed any of the alarming signs listed above, you can probably resurrect it with a couple of extra feedings and a few days out on the counter.
And that’s it! I’m no master baker, but if you’d like a simple whole wheat sourdough recipe to go with your starter the internet is full of amazing and talented home bakers with fabulous recipes. Check back for my 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread and other recipes (coming soon)!