Whether you’re an everyday baker or someone who likes to craft a loaf of bread on the weekend, having a sourdough starter is a time-honored tradition. We’ve compiled a recipe to get your sourdough started, how to maintain it, and what to do when you’re ready to use it.
- 4 ounces flour (unbleached, white all-purpose)
- 4 fluid ounces water (85º F)
Start with Simple Ingredients
All you need to make a sourdough starter are flour and water. That’s it! The key to the whole thing is time. Once you mix your ingredients, here’s what you’ll be doing over the next week and beyond.
Coastal tip: it’s okay to use whole rye or whole-wheat flour to give your starter an extra kick. Additionally, tap water is preferable over bottled water.
Day #1: Using a large glass or metal bowl, mix your ingredients until combined. Scrape down the sides and cover with a cheesecloth or clean towel. Let it sit at room temperature for a full day.
Day #2: Mix your creation, that should be slightly bubbly and smell somewhat ripe. Be sure to scrape down the sides and re-cover with your cheesecloth. You’ll let it sit another 24 hours at room temperature.
Day #3: This is the day you’ll see some bubbles. It’s also the day you’ll start doing two feedings per day. First, take 4 ounces of the sour out of your bowl and either discard it or give it to someone who wants a starter. Add 4 ounces flour and 4 fluid ounces of 85º F water to your remaining 4 ounces of sour. Mix and scrape down the sides, then cover with the cheesecloth and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours. Then, repeat and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 12 hours.
Day #4: This time, you’ll remove 6 ounces of your sour and discard it. This should leave you with 6 ounces of starter. For each feeding, add 3 ounces of flour and 3 fluid ounces of 85º F water, mix it, scrape down the sides, and cover for 12 hours before feeding it again and letting it sit at room temperature for 12 hours. Make a note of how much your starter grows each day. If it begins doubling in size in less than 6 hours, it will be ready for baking and you can move to day 8.
Day #5: Today, you’ll remove 9 ounces of sour. You will have 3 ounces of starter left. For the first feeding of the day, mix that with 6 fluid ounces of cold water until dissolved. Add 6 ounces of flour, mix, scrape down the sides, and cover for 12 hours. Repeat and cover for another 12 hours. If your starter is doubling in size in less than 6 hours, move to day 8.
Day #6: You’ll need to remove 12 ounces of sour, keeping just 3 ounces. Add 6 fluid ounces of cold water to the sour, then 6 ounces of flour for the first feeding. Mix well, scrape the sides, and cover at room temperature for 12 hours. Repeat and cover for 12 hours. Again, is your starter doubling in size in less than 6 hours? If so, move to day 8.
Day #7: This is a repeat of day 6. For each of your two feedings, remove 12 ounces of sour. Mix 6 fluid ounces of cold water with 3 ounces of sour, then mix in 6 ounces of flour. Cover and let sit 12 hours. If you notice the starter doubling in size in less than 6 hours, it’s ready for baking.
Day #8: By now, your starter should be doubling in size in 4 to 6 hours. Congratulations! You’ve made your own sourdough starter. Now, you simply need to decide if you want to leave it out at room temperature so that’s it’s always ready to use (feeding it once or twice daily), or if you’ll refrigerate it for occasional baking. This means you’ll maintain it once a week.
Move your sourdough starter to a permanent container. We used a glass bowl and a rubber-band so we could measure the growth.
Feeding Your Sourdough Starter
You’ll want to keep at least 8 ounces of sour, whether you’re refrigerating or not. Discard the rest. Then, mix 2 parts cold water and 1 part sour until dissolved. Finally, add 2 parts flour, mix well, cover, and store.
When You’re Ready to Bake
If you refrigerate your starter, feed it as usual and let it rest at room temperature for 12 hours or until it starts to bubble. Repeat as needed until the starter doubles in size. Once it does, it’ll be ready to leaven.
If you leave your sourdough out at room temperature, or if you spent the last 12 hours allowing your refrigerated sourdough to settle, it’s time to get your sour ready for baking.
Give your sour a final feeding. Once it starts to bubble, set aside enough sourdough for your recipe. But be certain you have enough to keep your starter going. Finally, feed your starter, cover and either store at room temperature, or wait a few hours before putting it back into the refrigerator.
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