Congratulations! You have decided to jump on the sourdough bandwagon. The first thing you’ll need is a sourdough “starter”, which technically is a natural yeast, but practically more like a tamagotchi that you have to keep alive. The easiest way to acquire a sourdough starter is to ask a friend who’s already baking to give you some. If you don’t have friends, however, you can always make it at home!

Background

The fascinating thing about sourdough starter is that it occurs naturally when you mix water and flour and leave it on your counter. The bacteria in the air in your kitchen starts interacting with the mixture and consumes the sugars. This process creates carbon dioxide gas, which is why the starter visibly rises and falls each day.  With regular, daily “feedings” with fresh flour (food for yeast), the rising becomes stable and more predictable.

The Tools

The Process

Pick a time of day for feedings and stick to it. Usually early morning or late evenings are great for feeding. Make sure to mix thoroughly, without leaving any flour on the sides of the glass jar.

DayInstructions
Day 1Mix 100g dark rye flour and 125g water. Lightly cover with a cloth.
Day 2Keep 75g starter and discard the rest, add 100g flour and 115g water
Day 3Keep 75g starter and discard the rest, add 100g flour and 100g water
Day 4Same as Day 3. You should start seeing some bubbling action by now.
Day 5Same as Day 4. There may be liquid forming on top. Feel free to mix.
Day 6Same as Day 5.
Day 7+Keep 50g starter and discard the rest, add 100g flour and 100g water.
Sourdough starter on the rise

By now, your starter should be rising and falling predictably each day. It should smell pleasantly fruity and slightly alcoholic. From day 7 onwards, switch to a combination of 50% dark rye and 50% all purpose flour for daily feedings.

Tips & Tricks

  • Feed your starter every day around the same time. If you plan to start making bread in the morning, feed at night. If you want to start making bread at night after work, feed your starter in the morning.
  • Your starter takes anywhere from 6-10 hours after each feeding to reach its peak maturity. When it’s ready, It’ll be visibly active and bubbly.
  • “The float test” is a good way to see if your starter is ready to make bread: drop a small spoonful into water. If it floats, it’s ready!
  • If you only bake on weekends, just close the lid and store your starter in the fridge during the week. Make sure to take it out a day or two before baking to resume regular feedings.