Flour, water, salt. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you had told me years ago that I could make enticingly crunchy, tender, healthy bread at home with only these elemental ingredients, I would not have believed you. The process of making sourdough bread is simple – the fundamental ingredient is sourdough starter.
How to make sourdough starter
So, you ask: “How does one begin the journey of making naturally leavened bread?”. It starts with making sourdough starter from scratch. Despite all the conundrum about creating the starter, when broken down, it’s merely a naturally fermenting mixture of flour and water. Add water to dry flour and let it sit on the counter for a few days, and you’ll see nature weave life into a once lifeless lump: bubbles will appear, and the mixture will rise. Making sourdough starter from scratch is a five to six day process that mostly consists of waiting. For our sourdough starter recipe we use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour to give the start a jump start. Once the starter is active and vibrant, we switch to all purpose flour for regular feeding of the starter.
What you need to make your own sourdough starter
- A covered jar to store your sourdough starter
- Whole wheat flour
- All purpose flour
- Filtered water, at room temperature
- Kitchen scale
Giving life to your very own sourdough starter
- a covered jar to store your starter
- wholewheat flour
- all-purpose flour
- filtered water, at room temperature
- kitchen scale
Day 1: 25g wholewheat flour + all purpose flour + 50g water
Place the flour and water into a clean bowl and stir together until fully combined. Cover lightly and leave at room temperature overnight.
Day 2: 50g all purpose flour + 50g water
To the sourdough starter add the flour and water. Stir together until fully combined. Cover lightly and leave at room temperature overnight.
Day 3: 100g all purpose flour + 100g water
Throw away 100g of the starter and to the remaining starter, add the 100g of flour to the starter and mix in the 100g of water. Cover lightly and leave overnight.
Day 4: 100g all purpose flour+ 100g water
Throw away 150g of the starter and to the remaining starter, add the 100g of flour to the starter and mix in the 100g of water. Cover lightly and leave overnight. The starter should start to smell pleasantly sour with small bubbles appearing on the surface.
Day 5: 150g all purpose flour + 150g water
Throw away 200g of the starter and to the remaining starter, add the 150g of flour to the starter and mix in the 150g of water. Cover lightly and leave overnight. The starter should appear active and full of bubbles.
Day 6: 200g all purpose flour + 200g water
The starter should be quite active now, full of little bubbles and smell slightly sour. Begin by throwing away 250g of the starter and to the remaining starter, add the 200g of flour to the starter and mix in the 200g of water. Cover lightly and leave overnight.
By Day 7 the starter should be very active and full of bubbles. It's finally ready to use.
Remember when making your sourdough bread to always retain some sourdough starter which will be fed or refreshed, ensuring you have some sourdough starter for the next dough.
Maintaining your sourdough starter
If you look after your starter it will give you an endless supply of wholesome, tasty sourdough breads. A regular diet of flour and water will keep the starter strong and healthy. Whatever weight of sourdough starter you have add the same weight of flour and the same weight of water to it. For example, if you’re left with 200g of sourdough starter, you should add 200g of flour and 200g water to keep it refreshed. If you have too much starter discard the excess and keep back what you need.
A regular home baker might only bake once a week and having to feed or refresh your sourdough starter every day can become quite expensive. If the sourdough starter is stored at room temperature it will require to be fed every day, so instead you can store your starter in the refrigerator for up to 10 days and only taken our when needed. If you’re using the starter from the fridge: take the starter out of the fridge the day before you plan to bake. This will allow the starter to come to room temperature. The night before you plan to bake, refresh your starter as per the instructions above and leave the sourdough starter at room temperature overnight. The next morning the starter should be active and full of bubbles and ready to bake with. Then you simply take what you need to make your dough, feed the remaining starter and return it to the fridge.