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Monday, June 4, 2012

Making sourdough starter

Many years ago I had a wonderful sourdough starter. The original starter that is was descended from, was made 20 years before. I used it for several years. And sadly, one year I neglected it and it died.  Sourdough starters are like very low-maintenance pets. You have to feed them from time to time, take them out of the jar for a quick swim in a bowl of flour and water, the return them to their safe home in the fridge. Neglect will bring your starter to an early demise.

Last Saturday I was sitting in the parking lot at the local community college, waiting for my two daughters to finish up with their SATs, and I could smell sourdough. (Or at least I thought I could smell sourdough -- whether or not there was a bakery in the area I do not know.) I spent a good half hour thinking about sourdough bread, sourdough pancakes, and sourdough waffles. It didn't help that it was long past noon and I hadn't eaten lunch. I decided right there and then, that as soon as I got home I would start up a batch of sourdough starter again.

I have tried three ways to make starter. The first one I tried used yogurt with live cultures. This one turned various colors after about 2 months. I threw it out. The second attempt just wasn't a go. I put flour and water in a bowl, left on the counter for it to "capture" some wild yeast in the air.  It caught nothing, except some mold. And the third method, I have used a couple of times, with great success.  This method involves using the flour and water mixture, but also giving it some yeast to start the process going. According to some (I call sourdough snobs), using a starter made with commercial yeast is not a true sourdough starter. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.  All I care about is that it will help me bake great tasting bread, smacking of sourdough flavor. I like this method because it's quick and reliable. You can get a starter ready for your first loaf in a week's time.  The flavor is very mild for the first several batches of baked goods, but becomes stronger the longer you foster the starter.

If you want to join me in this process, I just started mine Saturday afternoon. I'll keep you posted how mine's coming along, and give you some recipes later in the week for using your starter.

this is immediately after the first mixing -- a few bubbles from the yeast

To start your own sourdough starter, you'll need:

2 cups (475 mL) bloodwarm water (I love when I see that in cookbooks -- bloodwarm), 80-90 degrees F (26-32 C)
1 packet of yeast (or 1 scant tablespoon -- 15 mL)
2 cups (220 g) white flour

*Important* In a large glass or ceramic bowl (sourdough can not be kept in a metal container), combine the water, yeast and flour, using either a wooden or plastic spoon, no metal. Mix well. Cover with a tea towel.

Allow to sit on the counter (or in an oven with just the light on), at room temperature (70-80 degrees F or 21-26 C) for 7 days. You should be able to smell the fermentation at that point. It will get quite bubbly, therefore start this in as large a glass or ceramic bowl as you have.

Halfway through the week, we'll use part of the starter in a pancake recipe, as feeding the starter daily will cause it to grow more than we need.

this is on day 2, just before AM feeding
Every day, while the sourdough is developing, feed your starter twice per day, about 12 hours apart. To feed, stir in 1/3 cup (40 g) of flour and 1/3 cup (80 mL) of warm water.  This feeding substantially helps the yeast along. After 7 full days your starter should be ready for use. More info about what to do next in a day or two.
*note* some say to feed your starter 3 times a day, a 8 hour intervals.  I haven't tried this method before.  If this starter fails, I'll give that a try.

to proceed to Day 3 see


  1. Ok, just started a batch, progress on my blog!
    Yum Yum!

    1. Hi Tracy,
      So it's been going a day now (and with this warm up we've had it should do well). How does it look? All bubbly? Keep me posted, and let me know if something doesn't look right to you. I may have dealt with whatever problems you could come across. And I'll check your blog, too, to see how it's going.
      Thanks for dropping by!



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