How to Start a Sourdough Starter
Sourdough baking is just around the corner once you’ve got a healthy starter…we’ll show you how!
You’re ready for sourdough baking, but first you need to procure yourself a sourdough starter. You can get your hands on sourdough starter lots of different ways, so read through the options and decide which works best for you!
But you should start thinking about what you’ll name your starter…yes, I said “name your starter”!
We like to think of ours as our Kitchen Pet and have lovingly named it Seymour (as in, “Feed me, Seymour!”). Starter does require daily feedings, so it’s good to think of it like a pet to make sure you’re ready for the commitment.
- However, if you’re not too keen on having a ferment that requires daily feedings, you can store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week until ready to bake.
Method #1 – Purchase a Sourdough Culture
This is probably the easiest and most reliable method, and the one I’d recommend (if you don’t already have a trusted source). Purchasing a sourdough starter (this is our favorite and the one we use) is a great option and pretty much foolproof.
Take a look at the different varieties for a sourdough starter that will suit your needs. We prefer the San Francisco starter because we use ours for a slew of recipes, not just bread. This is a great option if you plan on making pancakes, muffins, pizza crust, bagels, bread and more!
- Follow the instructions that come with your starter for how to activate it. It should also give information about which flour is best for your specific starter.
Method #2 – Get Starter from a Friend
Do you know someone who makes sourdough bread? Chances are, they’d be more than happy to share a little with you! It doesn’t take much to get a starter going, you can start with as little as a Tablespoon! Certainly no one will miss a Tablespoon of their starter!
Our Seymour is the daddy to many new sourdough starters around our town (and even in a few different states!). Sourdough bakers love sourdough bakers, and we get excited when someone else joins the club!
- Be sure you know what type of flour your friend was feeding the starter…if you want to change up the flour you can, but you’ll want to do so slowly. Feeding with a mixture of the flour it’s used to and the new flour, slowly increasing the new flour over about a week.
Method #3 – Find a Local Bakery
This may as well be getting it from a friend! If you make nice with a local baker, chances are they’d be happy to sell you a small portion of starter.
Check around your town, are there any bakeries that bake authentic sourdough bread (remember, it will only have four ingredients: flour, salt, starter and water)? We have a local bakery that’ll happily sell a cup of active starter for about a buck fifty! It never hurts to ask!
Method #4 – Catching Wild Yeast and Bacteria
If you’ve hung out with us before, you may have heard my horror story of trying to start my own starter from scratch. I’ve been told this method is less reliable, but you know me, I always like a good challenge! For some reason, the wild yeast and bacteria hate me. They elude my flour/water mixture and laugh in my face as my concoction molds after 5 days of loving care and gets tossed…sigh!
BUT, a great friend of mine has had wonderful success with this method, so the choice is completely up to you!
How to Start a Sourdough Starter
- Mix together 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water.
- Stir briskly to incorporate air and cover with a breathable lid.
- Let sit in a warm spot for 12-24 hours*.
- You may notice tiny bubbles after 24 hours, this means it’s working!
- Repeat the feedings every 12-24 hours (keep it consistent).
- Just before the 3rd feeding (and for all future feedings), remove half the starter and discard it before feeding again.
- Continue this process for 5-7 days until you have an active and bubbly sourdough starter.
- Your starter is now ready for baking!
- It’s important to use non-reactive supplies such as glass or food grade plastic.
- Feeding every 12 hours will speed up how quickly your starter grows, but will need to be maintained every 12 hours; feeding every 24 hours will take longer for an active starter to be ready, but will only require daily feedings from there on out.