I’m still relatively new to the world of sourdough, I started probably 5-6 months ago but recently I’ve been asked SO many questions about how to create a sourdough starter as more people are wanting to start their own starter!
WHAT IS A SOURDOUGH STARTER?
Traditionally, before yeast was available as a packaged product to add to baked goods, people passed down a “live yeast” for generations…. aka a sourdough starter.
This live yeast is just flour and water that has gone through a fermentation process, and has created it’s own wild yeast from it’s environment. It is added to foods like bread, pancakes, pizza crust, biscuits, english muffins, to help it rise.
Part of the reason we have so many issues in our society with gluten & grains is because we’ve lost the art of properly preparing our foods. Grains (as well as beans and nuts) used to be soaked and/or fermented which reduced an anti-nutrient called “phytic-acid”, something that interferes with our bodies ability to digest and absorb grains, nuts & beans.
The benefit of sourdough vs modern day yeast is that through this fermentation process, many anti-nutrients are broken down allowing for easier digestion.
What you’ll need:
- Flour – I use organic flour because wheat is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides.
- Filtered or Distilled Water (In many places the chemicals like chlorine will kill the good bacteria you’re trying to create in the sourdough starter)
- A quart mason jar
- A spoon
- A clean cloth for covering it
- A kitchen scale or measuring cups
- Mix 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 a cup of water. Stir well. Cover & put in a warm spot in your kitchen. If your kitchen is cold like mine is, put it next to your oven, or even in the oven with the light on.
- Discard 1/2. Yes, you do have to do this. Otherwise you’re going to end up with a gallon of starter in a week which you don’t need and you would end up discarding that later anyway.
- Take the remaining starter and add 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour
- Repeat the exact same process on days 3, 4, 5. Discard half of the starter and add 1/2 cup of water and flour. Try to do this around the same time of day every day. So if you started it at 9am, trying to feed it around 9am. Being off by a few hours isn’t going to make or break it, but you want to aim to feed it every 24 hours.
Day Six and Seven:
- You’re going to do the same thing, except twice a day instead of once a day.
By the morning of Day Eight, you SHOULD have a functional sourdough starter! However, it’s not uncommon for it to need an extra feeding or two before it’s fully ready. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It could just be your environment, temperature, etc.
You now have a sourdough starter that you can use to make sourdough bread, pizza, cinnamon buns, english muffins.
You have to continuously maintain your starter to keep it alive! Thankfully the starter is pretty resilient, but you’ll want to feed it flour & water every 1-2 days if it’s on the counter or every 4-6 days in the fridge!
To feed your starter you will combine 1 part existing starter, 1 part water and 2 parts flour. Personally, I don’t keep a large amount of starter because I don’t use it daily. So I generally keep about 1/2 cup of starter and then mix in 1/2 cup of water and 1 cup of flour. If you wanted to keep more starter it might look like 1 cup of starter, 1 cup of water and 2 cups of flour!
I don’t measure the feeding process, I just eyeball it and make sure that it’s the consistency of thick pancake batter. But if you’re more comfortable with measuring, you’ll do 1:1:2 ratio.