Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough starter is easy, but it takes a week of daily feedings, to develop a healthy and robust culture. I like to feed my starter while brewing my morning coffee.

  • SOURDOUGH STARTER
  • Makes: 4 ounces
  • Active Time: 0hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
WHAT YOU NEED WHAT TO DO WHY
  • 2 ounces water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 2 ounces bread flour
Day 1: Place a 1-pint jar and lid (a canning jar works well) on a scales; zero out the weight. Add water and then flour; stir together until there is no dry flour. Cap loosely and set aside at room temperature (72-78°F). You now have 4 ounces of starter. Every 24 hours, the strategy is to discard 2 ounces of starter and then feed/refresh with 1 ounce each water and flour to maintain a total of 4 ounces of starter. Adding the water first expedites hydrating the flour. Chlorine and chloramine inhibit microbial activity, which is counterproductive to creating a healthy culture of natural bread-friendly yeast and bacteria.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour
Day 2: The starter may start to bubble. Most of that activity is from bacteria rather than yeast. It is not yet a viable starter. Stir and then discard 2 ounces. Feed/refresh with the water/flour to replace. Weighing the flour and water, as opposed to measuring, is essential for maintaining a consistent mixture over time.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour
Days 3: There may now be a magnitude of bacterial activity. The environment is still not acidic enough for natural yeast to thrive and multiply. Stir and then discard 2 ounces. Feed/refresh with the water/flour to replace. As leuconostoc bacteria takes over the environment, acidity begins to rise, making way for bread-friendly yeast and bacteria.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour
Day 4: The starter may get hootchie (a yellowish liquid) with the acrid (acidic) smell of stinky socks. Do not be alarmed. Stir in the hootch and then discard 2 ounces of the starter. Feed/refresh with the water/flour to replace. After the leuconostoc bacteria takes over the environment, it generates a level of acidity that kills it off, making way for acid-loving, bread-friendly yeast, and bacteria.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour
Day 5: The starter may still be hootchie. Do not give up unless the hootch becomes orange or moldy. Stir in the hootch; discard 2 ounces of the starter. Feed/refresh with the water/flour to replace. The environment is now acidic. Feeding introduces new bread-friendly yeast and bacteria that live in the flour.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour
Day 6: The starter may still be hootchie, but should be close to blooming with bread-friendly yeast and bacteria. Stir in the hootch; discard 2 ounces of the starter. Feed/refresh with the water/flour to replace. Each feeding brings fresh cultures of acid-loving, bread-friendly yeast and bacteria while maintaining an acidic environment.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour
Day 7: The starter may start to look less hootchie and smell better. Stir the starter; discard 2 ounces. Feed/refresh with the water/flour to replace. The timing of this stage is not an exact science. It depends on room temperature and consistency of care. If it takes a couple of extra days, do not give up.
  • 1 ounce water (chlorine and chloramine free)
  • 1 ounce bread flour

Day 8: When the smells pleasantly yeasty, stir and pour out 2 ounces into a 3-quart mixing bowl to make bread (see individual recipes). 

Return to the starter to feed/refresh as usual. At this point, the starter may be safely refrigerated and fed once a week. If extended hibernation is required, gradually stretch the time between feeding, eventually up to 2 months.

Yeast consumes flour sugars and gives off carbon dioxide (for leavening) and ethyl alcohol. Beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus) consume alcohol and give off lactic and acetic acid for flavor.