One of the best additions you can add to your kitchen is a sourdough starter! In just 7 days, you can begin creating delicious and gut healthy sourdough recipes with my guide on how to start a sourdough starter!
I first heard of sourdough starter as I began to explore more from scratch cooking methods. I thought it sounded WAY too complicated! There was no way I would be able to make beautiful artisanal loaves of bread. So I put off making my own starter for a long time.
A few months after my second baby was born, I decided it was time to give it a try. I figured at worst I would discover I indeed was horrible at making anything using sourdough! And at best, my family could start enjoying the many benefits of using sourdough in our home!
Over a year and a half later, I’m so glad I decided to take the plunge! We have made so many delicious recipes using our starter, including beautiful loaves of bread, delicious pizza dough, gooey cinnamon rolls, warm brioche, crispy sourdough pancakes, sourdough bagels, and more!
If you’ve been on the fence on whether or not to begin your sourdough journey, this is your sign to go for it! It is not as complicated as it may seem and the benefits of adding it into your home are great. So let’s dive in!
Before we get started on how to make a sourdough starter…
What are the benefits of sourdough?
If you have ever made bread without a sourdough starter, you have most likely used some sort of dry yeast. Dry yeast is often used to get doughs to rise quickly. Baking with sourdough starter takes more time for the rise, but there are great benefits to that.
The sourdough basically digests the gluten of the flour and processes the phytic acid during the fermentation process. Phytic acid is found on the bran part of wheat and is believed to be difficult to digest. It binds to certain minerals and makes it difficult for our bodies to absorb those important nutrients. Nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are kept from being absorbed without the long fermentation process.
When baking with sourdough starter, the long fermentation period helps to break down the gluten and phytic acid. Many people who are sensitive to gluten can often tolerate sourdough bread because of this. Using yeast packets found in the store will not produce this same effect in your bread.
What is sourdough starter?
Sourdough starter is quite simple. It is basically flour, water and air left to ferment. While fermenting, the starter gathers the wild yeasts and bacteria in the air and uses that to grow. So it is the most “local” type of food you can make since it captures what is in your home! The taste of a fresh loaf of crusty sourdough bread from sourdough starter is just too good! Once you try it, it will be your new favorite addition to your kitchen!
How difficult is it to maintain a sourdough starter?
It is SO easy to maintain a sourdough starter. We will go through the whole process of how to start and feed it, but for a quick answer, it just depends on how often you plan to bake with it. If you are baking something everyday, you will need to feed it everyday and keep it at room temperature. If you are looking to just do something once a week or every several weeks, you can keep the starter in your refrigerator in the time in between.
When the starter is left on the counter at room temperature, it needs to be fed more regularly. (Once a day or even every 12 hours if it is super warm). When you are not planning to use it, placing it in the fridge sort of puts the starter to sleep. You can feed it with flour and water once a week still to keep it happy when stored in the fridge, but I have gone longer periods than that and still was able to revive it when I was ready to bake with it again. The only thing about storing in the fridge is that you will need to take it out and feed it about 12 hours before you plan to start your baking recipe so it has a chance to activate and bubble up again.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a sourdough starter:
- Flour (any organic flour will work, I used a mixture of whole wheat, unbleached all-purpose and bread flour)
- Quart Mason jar or glass bowl
- Plastic wrap or these mason jar fermenting lids
- Wooden or Silicone Spatula
- Measuring cups
- Filtered water
How to make a sourdough starter in 7 days:
Begin by mixing 1 Cup of organic flour with 3/4 Cups filtered water in your glass jar. You are looking for the consistency of a very thick pancake batter. If it is too thick, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time to get it just right.
Cover with plastic wrap or this fermenting lid and let sit for 24 hours. Easy, right?!
24 hours later, remove all but 1/2 Cup of starter from your container. You may see some bubbles already, however mine looked almost the same as the day I first mixed it. That’s okay. Keep going, it will happen! Once you have removed all but that 1/2 Cup (this is called “discarding”), “feed” your starter with 1 Cup flour and 1/2 Cup water. Mix it together and cover. Let rest another 24 hours.
Side note on discarding. This might feel weird to just throw away half or more of your starter you just birthed only 24 hours before. But don’t worry! It is an important step! If you did not discard part of the starter, you would need to feed almost double the amount of flour and water. That would then grow and possibly double, and then you would have to feed that monster amount of starter the next day! You would have WAY too much starter than you were wanting and using a lot more flour than if you just had discarded it.
On day 3, I had some real bubbles starting! Repeat the same discard/feeding routine you did the day before. Remove all but 1/2 Cup starter and feed with 1 Cup flour and 1/2 Cup water. Mix well, cover and let sit for 24 hrs.
On my starter’s 3rd day, I decided to feed mine with organic unbleached all-purpose flour. You do not have to change flours, but it’s just what I had out that day. Starters are super forgiving and don’t mind being fed different things! Once you get comfortable you can play around with it and see how it reacts to the different flours.
Repeat! Discard all but 1/2 Cup, Feed 1 C Flour and 1/2 Cup water, cover and rest 24 hrs. My starter seemed a little dry on day 4 (possibly because of switching flour types on it the day before?) so I added a little more water till I got that thick pancake batter consistency again.
Days 5 & 6
Your starter is most likely doubling in size several hours after being fed and is ready to be baked with!! Congratulations the birth of your sourdough starter babe!
To check to make sure it is really good to go, you can do the float test. This is easy and tells you a lot. Spoon a small amount of starter (about 1/2 teaspoon or so) into a cup of water. If your starter floats to the top, it’s ready to go. If it sinks to the bottom, you may need to do a few more feedings to get it going.
What if I am not seeing many bubbles in my starter on day 7? Should I throw it out and try again?
No! Don’t throw it out! I made this mistake when we lived in Northern California. I followed a recipe and by day 7 my starter was NOT bubbling AT ALL and I figured I messed it up. When I tried again, the same thing happened day 7, but this time I decided to just keep going and see what happened. It took about 5-6 more days of discarding/feeding it before I started to really see some action. Why? I don’t know! Climate? Water? Home temperature? It can all affect your starter. But learn from my mistake and don’t throw it out. Just keep going and you, too, can have yourself a beautiful bubbly starter baby 😀
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Looking for ways to begin using your starter? Try these recipes!
- Pumpkin Spice Sourdough Pancakes
- Pumpkin Spice Sourdough Bagels with Pumpkin Cream Cheese
- Easy Sourdough Sandwich Bread
- Sourdough Cinnamon-Sugar Brioche
- Sourdough Orange Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- Easy Rustic Sourdough Loaf
- Organic Flour, Whole Wheat, Bread Flour or Unbleached All-Purpose
- Filtered Water
- Day 1: Mix 1 Cup Flour with 3/4 Cup filtered water. Cover and let rest for 24 hours.
- Day 2: Remove (discard) all but 1/2 Cup starter. Feed with 1 Cup flour, 1/2 Cup filtered water. Cover and let rest 24 hours.
- Repeat Day 2's steps for days 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Adjust water amount If needed. Remember, we're going for that very thick pancake batter.
- Day 7: If seeing bubbles and your starter passes the float test, you can begin baking! If not, continue feeding schedule for several more days until the starter is active and bubbly.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g