A sourdough starter is a staple in my kitchen. Besides making so many easy meals, it is a much healthier way to consume grains. Sourdough adds so much flavor that I just cannot get over. Follow along to learn how to make a sourdough starter from scratch, so that you can start enjoying the taste and benefits that sourdough has to offer!
Throughout the few years I have been a wife and cooking on my own, I have been switching most of my recipes over to sourdough as well as collecting new ones. I love the connection that sourdough has to my environment and how to people have always made bread, before active yeast was sold in stores. Breads, desserts and even pancakes are so much better when fermented. Follow along to learn how to make a sourdough starter from scratch, so that you can start enjoying the taste and benefits that sourdough has to offer!
My favorite way to make anything with grains is sourdough. It is healthier, tastier and lends itself nicely to my simple lifestyle. I do not have to think or worry about having yeast on hand because I keep my starter. Add a little water and flour before I am ready to use it and I have a a collection of local yeast ready to go.
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water used to capture the natural yeast in your environment. This is then used to leaven your food instead of instant yeast bought from the store.
Benefits of a Sourdough Starter
Traditional preparation of food is so beneficial for our bodies. Foods such as nuts, grains and beans contain phytic acid to help with preservation but it is difficult for our bodies to digest it. Soaking these food items helps eliminate most, if not all, of the physic acid in these foods. One way to do this is through sourdough.
A sourdough starter is a collection of local yeast in the environment. It can be used to leaven bread products but when mixed with flour and left to ferment, it creates a healthier and more digestible grain. Not to mention it creates the most delicious flavor in whatever you are making!
Have you ever had anything sourdough? It is so delicious and has a flavor that cannot be compared to anything store bought. Breads, pastries, pizza, really any food is so much tastier when traditionally prepared and fermented. We love it in this house!
What Can You Make With A Sourdough Starter?
So many things! Check out my biscuit recipe here. We love making pancakes, waffles, pizza, tortillas, bread, fried chicken (coming soon!), and even gravy! Other things you can make include english muffins, any type of baked good like cakes or cookies, bagels, pasta, pie crust, and cinnamon rolls. The possibilities are endless and have so much flavor due to the fermented grains.
How Long Does It Take To Make An Active Sourdough Starter?
This is where I struggled the most. Many tutorials gave a specific time line that I found just did not work in my environment. My starter would look different on day 2 than theirs which played a huge role in the success (and failure) in the final starter.
Items You May Need
- Glass container or jar
- Wood spoon
- Spatula (to scrape jar clean along the sides)
- Flour- Any flour except bleached. I have used all purpose einkorn, whole grain einkorn and unbleached, organic all purpose.
- Filtered water
How To Make A Sourdough Starter From Scratch
- Day 1- Add 1 cup of flour and 3/4-1 cup of filtered water to a jar. I like to use a one gallon jar. Mix thoroughly and leave out on counter at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Your starter should be a somewhat thin pancake batter.
- Day 2- Check your starter to see how it looks. If it has risen and has bubbles, continue with next step. If not, let it sit until you see bubbles and it rises some. My starter sat for 2 days before this occurred!
- Continue feeding starter 1 time every 24 hours. To feed your starter, take out one cup of starter. This is called discard. There are recipes you can use this in like crackers, pancakes, or anything that does not need to rise but you must remove a cup each time you feed until your starter is mature and you use it regularly! Add 1 cup of flour and 3/4-1 cup of filtered water. Consistency is best so try to feed at the same time every day.
- Once the starter doubles in size within 4 hours of the last feeding, it is ready to bake with! For me, this was about a week. For others, it could be longer but a week seems to be the most normal.
Terms to Know
Discard- Sourdough discard is the portion of starter removed while working towards an active starter. It is very important to remove a portion. This keeps the yeast numbers in line and keeps you from growing your starter too large. If you added one cup of flour and one cup of liquid everyday without removing any, you would have a huge jar of starter. You also have to feed the starter at least the amount of flour and water that is in there. For example, if you have 1 cup of starter, you have to feed it 1 cup of flour and water or more in order for it to not be hungry still. So, if you got to day 5 of feeding it daily, you would have to feed it 5-6 cups of flour just to keep it fed. Yikes!
Feed- A feeding is giving your starter more flour and water for the yeast to break down. At first, this will happen daily until your starter is active and mature. Once this occurs, you will feed it as you use it. When feeding, add 1 cup of flour and 3/4-1 cup of filtered water to your starter.
Hooch- Hooch is a gray liquid that can form on the top of your starter when it is hungry. If there is not much, just mix it in. If there is a lot, remove it and feed as usual. This is normal!
Tips on How To Make A Sourdough Starter From Scratch
My number one sourdough tip is to just keep going. There are a lot of things that come up with a starter. Sometimes they smell funny, sometimes they get hooch, sometimes it just does not act right. Feed it, let it sit at room temperature and carry on. Just do not throw it out! Most of the time I find that when my starter is acting (or smelling) funny, it is just hungry and it works itself out once fed. You will eventually get into a routine where this is less common.
Next, keep it in a warm environment while starting it. Cold temperatures slow the yeast growth. This is great when you do not use your starter everyday but right now, you just want to get it growing and maturing. Our kitchen used to be closer to 67-70 degrees on any given day. Recently it has been closer to 78-80 degrees and my starter is way more active!
Lastly, bake with it before it is mature! I have found that my starter seems more active the more I bake with it. Partly due to constant feedings but also it helps the yeast in your environment. When working on this post, I practiced by using my normal bread recipe made with instant yeast and just adding in a bit of fed starter. When it was not mature yet, you could not really tell the difference in the bread. But my starter took off! This also helps with motivation in my opinion.
The older your starter is, the more mature it will be and will be better for rising more difficult items like bread. At first, your starter may struggle with rising bread but just keep feeding and trying!
You Have A Mature Starter. Now What?
Once your starter is mature, you may wonder how to care for it. If you plant to use your starter everyday, I would just leave it out on the counter. But, if it is left at room temperature, you have to feed it daily. If you plan to use it 1-2 times a week or less, I would suggest keeping it in the fridge to slow the growth. It is best to feed it at least once a week when in the fridge. You no longer have to remove a portion and toss it, as you are using this portion (that is now mature) to cook and bake with. You just use what you need and feed again after you use it.
When you go to use it, a lot of recipes will call for fed sourdough starter. This just means you have fed your starter and let it sit to ferment for at least 8 hours. I prefer at least 12 hours for better digestion. Some recipes you can use starter pulled straight from the fridge but it will not be as bubbly and active. I usually just experiment and see what works best for our family. I try to keep things as simple as possible which means sometimes my starter is not properly fed. But it all works out!