Sourdough starter is really easy to make as it consists of only two ingredients. It can be used to make a bunch of different things—most importantly, yummy bread. Sourdough starter and sourdough bread is unique for a few different reasons: it doesn’t need any commercial yeast, you won’t have to knead, and it is uniquely flavored. It will take a little bit of time to get started, but once the process is up and running, it just gets easier.
- Rye flour
- Plastic or glass container
- Plastic wrap or lid for container
- Measuring cups
- Non-metal mixing spoon
This operation typically takes about a week, maybe a little less depending on the environment. It’s recommended to keep the room with your mixture in between 70-75 degrees, and make sure it doesn’t get above 85.
What to Do
It’s really just a basic mixture to get started, and then a lot of patience and feedings. At first, you just need to mix together equal parts of water and flour. I recommend starting with a half cup of each. Stir the mixture until all of the dry flour is gone, and it’s more of a batter-like consistently. Once you’ve got it all mixed, cover your container with plastic and leave it.
This is the part where you are going to have to start trusting your instincts a little. Within the first day or two, you should start seeing some little bubbles, which means that yeast is starting to become attracted to your mixture. You’ll want to stir it at least once or twice a day when it gets pretty bubbly to help the yeast expand and allow your mixture to gain more oxygen.
It’s safe to say your starter should be fed at least once a day in the beginning, but as it starts working faster you might consider feeding it two or even three times daily. Just mix in equal parts water and flour again, I do a half cup of each. Add this to your already existing mixture and mix until it’s smooth again. KEEP STIRRING every day, especially when its bubbly!
Obviously, feedings will make your mixture larger—and it should continue to expand as it gathers yeast. If your mixture container is getting too full and you still don’t have the finished results you’re looking for, you can measure some, throw it away, and continue to feed as needed.
How to Tell if it’s Ready
The easiest way to tell if your starter is ready is actually sink or swim. Fill a glass with water, and see if your starter will float! I would just use about a tablespoon, and if it sinks you’ll need to give it another day or so. Other people say that your starter is done when it doubles in size within a 24 hour period. The starter should end up being somewhat spongy, with a lot of bubbles. Be patient! I know it’s a process, but it only takes a few minutes of maintenance each day.
Another way you can tell how your sourdough starter is doing is the smell. While in the beginning stages, it’s gonna smell… well, really bad… it should mellow out some as time goes on. If it smells strongly of alcohol or acid, you’ll want to feed it a couple more times as it’s not ready. Some people say that their finished starter has kind of fruity smell, although I think it’s still pretty sour. But every nose is different!
Maintaining Your Starter
Once your starter is capturing yeast and expanding like a boss, you have a couple options. Obviously, you’re probably going to want to cook with it (we’ll visit some recipes later) but make sure that when you do, you don’t use all of it—save some of your starter! You definitely don’t have to start over every time, because starter is super resilient. Just separate out what you’re using to bake and keep the rest of the mixture in its container. From that point, depending on how often you will be using it, you can either leave your starter out and continue feedings and maintenance as usual, or throw it in the refrigerator and take a break from it. Your starter will be just fine in there—just take it out a few days before you’ll be needing it and treat it just like you did the first time around!
Sourdough starter is going to open up a world of homemade sourdough recipes, not to mention it’s a great gift. People love to get sourdough starter all ready to go as it saves them from all the work! Do you guys have any secrets for homemade sourdough starter? Share with me in the comments below!