If you’ve ever wanted to make your own sourdough starter, now’s the time! Since yeast is so impossible to find at the grocery store right now, I invited my friend Shannon from Sourdough Schoolhouse to teach us her no-fail sourdough starter tutorial with us here!
Sourdough Starter: How To Build It, Feed It, & Love It As Your Very Own!
Hi everyone, this is Shannon from Sourdough Schoolhouse!
This post is all about something that is getting a lot of interest right now – SOURDOUGH. Yeast is near impossible to find in the stores, and all of a sudden we see “sourdough this”, and “naturally leavened” that. What does this mean? Essentially, it takes natural yeast that is everywhere in our world and allows it to be captured and cared for… and eventually turned into delicious bread (like the one pictured below)!
SHOP THE POST
You may have created your own starter, have one that has been passed down to you from a friend OR you may be jumping into this whole new journey with an open mind and a willingness to learn! No matter the reason, we have got you covered! My goal is to guide you through, how to build a starter, care for it, feed it and love it as your own! All you need is a little time, patience, and some flour and water. If you’re looking to step up your sourdough game with Tori and learn how to turn this starter into incredible bread, click here for our Sourdough 101 Series and use code FRAICHEBAKES at checkout to get $75 off of the course!
What You Need to Build a Starter:
- Bread flour (If you are in Canada, all-purpose flour will work)
- Rye flour (or a whole grain flour – whole wheat spelt, einkorn, kamut, etc.)
- Kitchen scale (Or use convert to cups calculator here.)
- Jar (I like a Weck Jar as it has a wider mouth, but any jar will do)
- Spoon to stir! (wooden or a rubber spatula)
STEP 1: Build Your Starter
When I start a sourdough starter, I always name it as if it was a pet. This helps us remember that it is ALIVE, and it needs to be fed … like any living thing!
All you need to do is feed your little sourdough pet flour and water, and then discard some and feed some more in order to help it grow. Don’t overthink it. Just like any living thing, your sourdough starter needs care and consistency. You may see it develop in 3 to 4 days, or it could take 10+ days of consistent feeding to become a healthy, active starter. It will only get stronger as it ages.
How to build a Sourdough Starter:
- Take an empty jar. Put it on the scale and zero out the scale (this is called “tare on the scale.”)
- Add 50 grams of water (¼ cup) to the clean jar.
- Add 50 grams total flour (⅓ cup): 20 grams of rye flour + 30 grams of bread flour
- The whole grain flour is used because it:
- Speeds up the process
- Has a higher enzymatic activity
- Ferments faster
- Has more nourishment, sugar & energy to feed the wild yeast so it multiplies faster
- The whole grain flour is used because it:
- Stir to combine.
- Put on a lid (don’t screw it on or fasten it, the lid should sit loosely on the jar) and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours. This will keep your sourdough starter or ‘pet’ happy and well nourished (you can feed every 24 hours if you prefer, but every 12 hours will speed up the process).
STEP 2: Feed your new Starter
We are going to feed our new pet TWICE a day for the first week (every 8-12 hours). Repeat these steps for every feeding and keep your starter at room temperature – not too cold and not too hot..
How to feed a Sourdough Starter:
- Discard ALL but 10 grams (or 90%) of starter from your jar.
- This does not need to be exact, but you are welcome to use a clean jar and measure 10 grams exactly.
- The leftover starter is now ‘discard’ – store it in a container in your refrigerator. You can use this in discard recipes such as pancakes, waffles, scones and more that are designed for using up discard.
- Place the jar on the scale and zero (tare) your scale.
- Feed the starter – equal parts of flour and water – and stir to combine
- 50 grams water (¼ cup)
- 50 grams flour (⅓ cup): 20 grams of rye flour + 30 grams of bread flour
As you see, we feed our starter a ratio of 1:5:5 = 10 grams starter : 50 grams water : 50 grams flour. There are many ways to feed a starter, we have found this method to work for MANY, MANY people.
Why do I need to discard for a starter?
The thing to note is: ALWAYS feed a SMALL pet. Think of your sourdough starter as a child. When you have 10 grams of sourdough starter, it is like having 10 kids. In order to feed these kids and keep them happy and well nourished, they need 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour once or twice a day.
BUT, these kids multiply quickly. About 12 hours after a feeding, the 10 kids become 110!!! Yes, all that flour water you fed it, magically becomes MORE kids!! Yikes, that is a lot of kids to feed.
So, that is precisely why we ask you to DISCARD the majority of your starter at each feeding. You cannot expect 110 kids to be well fed and nourished on the same amount of food 10 kids would be. So, send 100 of those kids packing (discard in the fridge or compost), and just keep the original 10 to feed. Make sense? I hope so. This can seem complicated, but I promise, after just a few feedings, it will start to make sense.
You can use your discard in recipes specifically designed for discard (or you can compost it… but why waste?). King Arthur Flour has some great recipes (click here).
How to know when your new starter is active:
- Yeasty smell
- Lots of activity – you can SEE it and HEAR it. It will usually double its size in 4 to 6 hours (then falls – you may miss the process if you aren’t watching closely!).
- It will float in water: try the float test by placing a small amount of starter in a glass filled with water: if it floats it is an indication that it is active.
STEP 3: Maintain Your Starter
After about a week, and once you see your sourdough starter active, bubbly, and happy, you can transition to feeding it 50 grams of water and 50 grams of bread flour (no rye flour necessary anymore). At this point, it doesn’t need to be fed twice a day, and instead you can feed it every 24-36 hours, assuming it is stored on the counter (every 24 hours is ideal if you want a very happy and active starter.)
How To Refrigerate Your Starter
If you are planning on baking less often, such as bi-weekly, monthly, or less, the FRIDGE is your friend. Feed your PET, let it get active for 3 to 4 hours, seal the lid and place in the refrigerator. You will need to repeat the above “FEED IT” process about once a week. This helps make sourdough “fit” into your life… it’s a little less needy this way!
How To Refresh Your Starter
If you have been FRIDGING your sourdough starter, it will need to be REFRESHED at least twice prior to baking. Think of it as having just come out of hibernation. If you plan to bake on SATURDAY, remove your sourdough pet from the fridge on THURSDAY morning. Give it a feeding (50 g water + 50 g flour + 10 g sourdough starter) and leave it at room temperature. Repeat on FRIDAY morning. You will start the bread making process on Friday night (to be continued!).
If you are interested in mastering the art of making sourdough bread (and creating beautiful loaves like the one pictured below) don’t forget to use the code FRAICHEBAKES for the Sourdough 101 Series courses here to get $75 off.
FAQ’s about Making a Starter:
Q: Will using a metal spoon to stir my starter kill or damage the starter?
A: No, it won’t damage the starter. A small wooden or bamboo spoon will work well, as will a small rubber spatula (easier to clean)
Q: If I only have all-purpose flour will that work?
A: Yes unbleached all-purpose flour will work, it may just take longer to get to the active stage!
Q: What type of container is best to use?
A: Weck jars are our favourite, but you can use any clean jar or container. One with a wider mouth or opening on it is best as it makes it easier to stir.
Q: Do I need a specific recipe for using the discard or can I use it in any recipe?
A: You will want to find a recipe that is specific to using discard as it already has the flour and water mixed together.
Q: What are some signs that my starter has gone bad?
A: If mould has grown (unlikely). It is hard to ‘spoil’ your starter!
PS: (Tori here) My aunt Mary has an AMAZING gluten free blog called A Couple of Celiacs and teaches you how to make delicious gluten free sourdough if you’re looking for a gluten-free bread. I’ve had it… it’s incredible!