How to Make Sourdough Starter
All great sourdough bread recipes begin with a sourdough starter recipe and this easy starter is no nonsense! Making your own sourdough starter is so simple and it’s almost impossible to ruin. Keep it in the fridge to use in so many classic sourdough recipes.
Easy Sourdough Starter
Everyone’s baking bread right now….and buying puppies. I guess the things that seem to take a ton of time and patience are finding their way into homes to keep us busy. My secret is, I’ve always loved baking bread and keep a Sourdough Starter in the fridge for bread emergencies.
And I bring home random animals way too often.
My family doesn’t know that this starter is what I throw into things that need a bit of tang and a quick rise when I’m out of yeast. So, the yeast shortage right now is no problem because you’re, basically, making your own yeast at home when you make a sourdough starter. And it couldn’t be easier to make.
Making sourdough starter from scratch isn’t fussy or complicated. It all begins with flour and water…..and a little bit of time. That’s it. Easy Peasy!
What is Sourdough Starter?
Before you could buy a commercial active dry yeast in a jar or packet at the store, there was wild yeast. Wild yeast can be found just about anywhere like in your flour or in the air. But it must be cultivated into a form that’s suitable for baking and to do that, you create a sourdough starter.
A sourdough starter is simply a combination of water and flour that’s been allowed to hang out for a few days on your counter or other warm place. After a day or so, bubbles will begin to form in the starter and that’s when you know the yeast is becoming active.
To keep things moving along, you feed your starter water and flour for the next several days until the mixture becomes light, bubbly and puffy. Once it reaches that stage, it’s ready to be used.
Wild yeast is finicky when it comes to storage, it likes to be kept at cooler temperatures and in an acidic environment. It’s also is much more leisurely when it comes to rise….in that it takes much longer to proof breads.
How To Make It
Although I touched on this a little bit in the last paragraph, making sourdough starter from scratch is super simple to do. The type of flour you use is going to help get things moving more quickly or slowly depending on what you choose.
Wheat flours tend to move things along at a faster pace but since specialty flours are not readily available to everyone, I’ve tested this starter recipe with just about every flour you can imagine.
My favorite sourdough starter recipe begins with a combination of 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour. Whisk the two together in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
Add 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the flour and stir until no flour is left. The dough will look thick and paste-like. Don’t worry, this is normal and it will literally transform in just one day or less.
Cover your jar or bowl and allow to sit in a warm location, ideally over 70˚F is best, covered with a towel or plastic wrap for 24 hours. (Sometimes, I’ll keep my sourdough starter on top of my dryer while it runs to help speed things along.)
The next day, check to see if your starter has bubbles and has doubled in volume. If it looks the same, cover and allow to sit for another day.
Once your starter has doubled in volume and has a lot of bubbles forming, it’s time to feed.
How To Feed Sourdough Starter
Now that the starter has created some movement and developed those happy bubbles, you have to keep it happy by feeding it.
To feed your starter, you will first remove 1/2 of the starter and discard it. Now, when I say discard it, I actually put it in another container and use it for other recipes like pancakes or waffles or muffins, crackers and biscuits. We, also, LOVE these pretzels…they’re crunchy and addicting.
So, you’re not actually throwing it away but you do need to discard half the starter in order to move forward with feeding your starter.
Once you’re removed half the starter, you can now feed it by adding 1/2 cup flour (at this point, I use all-purpose flour only) and 1/4 cup water. Stir the mixture to combine thoroughly and cover with a towel.
Allow the starter to rest another 24 hours.
Repeat this process of feeding your starter each day for 3-5 more days until the starter is super bubbly and billowy and light. At this point, it’s ready to use for a freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread!
What is the best flour?
You can use any flour for your starter that is made from a grain. So, rice flour, wheat flour, rye flours, spelt flour, barley flour, sprouted flour and bread flour will all work well. You can make gluten free starter by using a gluten free flour like rice flour.
I haven’t tested it with most of the listed flours like rice flour so you may need to do a bit of research before going down that path.
How to Maintain Your Starter
- You can safely store your starter in the refrigerator in a container.
- Pick a feeding day and stick to it.
- Remove the starter from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for a few hours before feeding it. Feed it 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. Allow to sit overnight until bubbly then return to the refrigerator.
- You can leave your starter in the refrigerator for longer periods of time but you will need to allow it to rest at room temperature for a few days to revive it. Feed as normal and you should be back in business.
- You can successfully FREEZE sourdough starter by adding twice the flour at a regular feeding and then wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw at room temperature and rest in a container for several days to wake it up. Then, feed as directed.
This easy sourdough starter recipe can be used in so many recipes and I love the easiest ever sourdough bread recipe. If you don’t want to wait for your starter to grow and you have actual yeast in your house, you may want to try this easy Brioche Bread recipe or our favorite White Bread. Both have been on repeat for the past several weeks.
How To Use Your Sourdough Discard
While you feed your starter, you’ll have a bit of discard to tend with. You can toss it or you can save it in a container in the refrigerator to use in recipes.
Here are a few of our favorites:
You could also use this starter as a substitute for yeast in these easy Brioche Buns to give them a tangy flavor that’s so not common in a buttery brioche.
Get the Recipe: How to Make Sourdough Starter
- 1/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour, or other whole grain flour
- 5 lb All Purpose Flour
- 1/4 cup water, room temperature
- In a wide mouth 4 cup jar or bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup wheat flour with 1/4 cup All Purpose flour until thoroughly combined.
- Using a fork, stir in the water until no dry flour is remaining. The mixture will resemble a thick dough or paste that's a little on the dry side.
- Cover loosely with the lid or plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot in the kitchen (ideally over 70˚F) for 24-48 hours.
- Check your starter for activity, sometimes you'll see tiny bubbles and maybe a little activity. Sometimes you won't. If you see nothing, give it a stir…cover loosely and allow it to sit for another 24 hours.
- By this time, you should see lots of bubbles and expansion of your starter. To gauge how much your starter is growing in volume, you can place a rubber band around the jar at the top of your starter to see if it doubles in size. I prefer to just eyeball it. Discard half your starter (saving the discard in a separate container for later.)
- Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup lukewarm water to the remaining starter. Stir to combine until no dry flour is visible. Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature in a warm location for 24 hours.
- At this point, you should see your starter doubling in volume with lots of bubbles each day. Continue feeding your starter each day by discarding half the starter then feeding with 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.
- Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature in a warm location for 24 hours. By day 7, your starter should be ready to use in your favorite recipe.
- To test if your starter is ready to use, feed the starter and time how long it takes to double in size. When your starter doubles in less than 4 hours, it's ready. Alternatively, you can do the float test. Simply fill a glass with water and place a bit of starter in the water. If it floats, it's ready to use. (I'm not a fan of the float test….just saying.)