Really Good Questions Newsletter: How do I make my own sourdough starter?

Published by Really Good Questions on March 18th, 2023 6:43pm. 1 views.

Sourdough bread has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Not only does it have a unique tangy flavor, but it’s also easier to digest compared to other bread types. What makes sourdough bread unique is the use of a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast. Here’s how to make your own sourdough starter:

First, gather your ingredients. You will need flour and water, preferably unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour, and filtered water. Chlorinated tap water can interfere with the growth of the natural yeast in your starter.

Mix 1/2 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of water in a non-reactive container. Glass, ceramic, or food-grade plastic containers work best. It’s important to mix the flour and water well to create a smooth batter without any lumps. Cover the container with a breathable lid or cloth, such as a cheesecloth or coffee filter, to protect your starter from dust and pests while allowing air to circulate.

Leave the container of starter at room temperature for 24 hours. During this time, you may notice tiny bubbles forming on the surface, indicating that wild yeast and bacteria are starting to grow. After 24 hours, discard half of the starter and feed it with another 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well and leave it again for another 24 hours.

Repeat this feeding process every day at roughly the same time until your starter becomes active and bubbly. This can take anywhere from 7 to 10 days. As your starter becomes more active, you may notice that it has a stronger smell and a thicker consistency. Don’t be alarmed, this is completely normal.

In order to keep your starter healthy and active, you will need to continue feeding it regularly. Ideally, you should feed it every day, but if you’re not planning to bake with it frequently, you can store it in the refrigerator and feed it once a week.

To feed your starter, discard half of the starter and replace it with equal amounts of flour and water. For example, if you have 1 cup of starter, you would discard 1/2 cup and replace it with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. Mix well and cover the container. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours to allow the yeast and bacteria to eat and grow.

If you’re not planning to bake with your starter immediately, you can store it in the refrigerator. However, it’s important to feed it once a week to keep it alive. To reactivate your starter, bring it back to room temperature and feed it daily for a few days until it becomes active again.

Making sourdough bread with your starter is a rewarding and satisfying experience. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:

- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter
- 3/4 cup filtered water

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt
2. Add the sourdough starter and water to the bowl, and mix well until a shaggy dough forms
3. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rest at room temperature for 4-6 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size
4. Preheat your oven to 450°F
5. Once the dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it
6. Fold the dough over onto itself a few times, then shape it into a ball
7. Place the dough into a lightly floured dutch oven or baking dish, cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 30 minutes
8. Remove the lid or foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown
9. Let the bread cool on a wire rack before slicing and serving

Making your own sourdough starter takes time and patience, but the end result is worth it. Not only do you get to enjoy delicious sourdough bread, but you also get to learn about the natural fermentation process that gives it its unique flavor and texture. Give it a try, and see why sourdough bread has become so popular.