Creating a Sourdough Starter

What is sourdough?

Sourdough bread is an unyeasted bread; this means that instead of adding dried yeast, you are adding a live starter. By creating a starter you are capturing wild yeast from the flour and air, that will ferment your flour and water and make your bread rise!

Before for the invention of commercial yeast most baked items would have been made using a sourdough method; cakes, breads, sweet breads etc. By fermenting your dough, you are allow the bacteria to ‘pre-digest’ the wheat, making it easier for you to digest. Some people who find gluten difficult to digest might find sourdough more suitable. Not only that but this unlocks nutrients from the wheat that you would not get from yeasted bread.

Important things to note about sourdough before you start

  • Sourdough is a tricky mistress: the temperature of your house and the hydration of your flour are going to be different every time, so (for an amateur baker anyway) uniformity is bloody tricky. There are a load of different methods and recipes out there, some may work for you some may not. So, it may take some time to perfect your bread making.
  • Secondly, sourdough dough is a wet dough! By the end, your going to be covered in dough, your hands might look like giant dough balls. But it’s ok! If you can get a dough scraper do. However, your kneading method is going to be different to a normal, drier dough.
  • You will have to feed your starter every day, or at least once a week for the rest of its life. I kind of enjoy it, its like caring for a sour, floury, little baby. However, not everyone can make that commitment. For example, when we went away for 3 weeks, it had to arrange for someone to come in and feed my starter (and water my plants)!

Ok, you’ve got this far. You’ve heeded my warning, but you’re thinking “no, sourdough is delicious, I cant afford to spend £4 on a loaf of bread. This shit is for me”. Well, first you’re going to need a sourdough starter! If you have a friend with a starter you can get a bit of theirs, or you can put a shout out on social media for anyone in your area with starter to spare! Not only is that a fun way to meet fermentation buddies, but you can skip the the first week and get on with making and eating some bread.

But if you want to make your own starter, very easily, read on because that what we are going to do now:

What you’re going to need:

Flour – ideally organic wholemeal, but I know times are difficult so if you can only find white bread flour, don’t worry!

A large glass jar – I would say at least 1 litre, because its going to grow and you dont want a starter volcano.


Measuring scale


Day 1

– Mix together 100g flour + 100ml water, mix to create a loose ‘cream’. No lumps!

– Use cheese cloth or a loose lid to cover the top, but do not seal your jar. You want to stop stuff getting into your starter, while allowing it to breath. If you screw the lid on, pressure will build up and you’ll have yourself a small bomb.

– Leave for 24hrs in a warm place or just out on the counter (not in directly sunlight).

Day 2

– Throw half your starter away and add another 100g flour and 100ml water. Mix well.

– Leave for 24hrs.

Day 3 and onwards

– Keep repeating ‘day 2’ every day until your mixture starts to bubble and rise. Depending on where you live and how warm your house is this is going to take 2 to 7 days.

– You’ll know when its done when a spoonful of starter dropped into a glass of water floats.

Caring for your starter from now on:

If you are going to be baking once a week or more, I would recommend leaving your starter out and feeding it everyday. Feed it with equal parts water and flour. If your starter is getting too big, throw some away before you feed, but remember to leave at least 70g!

If you are an infrequent baker, put your starter in the fridge. You will need to feed it once a week. When getting it out to feed and/or bake, allow it to reach room temp, feed with equal parts water and flour, leave for a couple of hours, then use it for baking and put it back in the fridge.

You know when your starter is ready to use when it is bubbling. Drop a tbsp into a glass of water, if it floats, it’s ready to use.

Don’t worry if a clear layer of liquid forms on top of the starter, this is called hooch. It just means your starter needs feeding. Go ahead and mix the hooch in when you feed it and perhaps think  about having it in a slightly cooler place, so it ferments slower.

Stay tune don’t for my full sourdough recipe coming soon!

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