You would have been shocked to tell me that I could make healthy, crunchy, tender bread at home using only a handful of ingredients. Baking bread requires a special mixer and oven. My eyes would glaze over if I had to say that. Now, I do this same alchemy every day in my kitchen: turning three simple ingredients into healthy Sourdough starter bread. How can one start the journey to making homemade naturally leavened bread? You start by making a starter sourdough from scratch.
What is a starter sourdough?
A sourdough starter, which is a mixture between flour and water, contains a stable mix of beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts. The starter is maintained by regular feedings or refreshments. It is used to make new bread dough and leaven it. A starter is essential for successful sourdough baking. Home bakers with changing kitchen conditions will need to learn how to properly care for it.
These are some helpful tools for making a starter sourdough
Here’s a list of the tools I use to bake sourdough. It has been vetted over many years. This is where I list the tools I consider necessary to get started.
Weck glass jar
Keep at least two clean containers on hand. These Weck jars, #743, 3/4-liter jars, are my favorite. They taper towards the top, making stirring easy, and don’t have any difficult-to-clean edges or lips. The glass lid can be used without the rubber seal and clips provided. This allows moisture and heat to stay inside. Glass jars are best because you can see the fermentation process as it happens.
I use a small, firm spatula to do my feedings. It is sturdy and easy to clean with sponge. If things get messy you can also run it through the dishwasher.
A kitchen scale is essential and ensures accuracy in measuring the flour required for each starter refreshment. It is difficult to measure flour volume accurately because the flour in a cup may vary. It’s also a good idea for baking to learn how to use a scale to weigh ingredients.
The fermentation process can be accelerated by using whole grain (“dark”) Rye flour. Rye flour has more nutrients than white flour and can help to kickstart the fermentation process. A good quality organic whole grain will work fine if you don’t have any rye flour.
All-purpose, unbleached white flour
My starter has been around for 10+ years. As I explained in my post about how I feed my starter (refresh it) these days, I usually refresh it with 70% all purpose flour (or bread flour), and 30% whole wheat flour. This mix is great because it gives you the fermentation boost of whole-grain flour, and the higher gas-trapping and gluten strength from the white flour. This allows me to spot signs of fermentation throughout the day. It is also a good compromise because it uses just enough whole grains so that my starter doesn’t become too acidic too fast.
A thermometer that can be read instantly will monitor the temperature of your starter to ensure it is in the right range for growing fermentation activity.
Stgarter refreshment schedule
Your starter refreshments will only be served once per day in the beginning. Your culture will become more active and you will increase the frequency to twice per day. Due to the frequency of these feedings one of my goals in helping you is to make it quick and easy for you to set up your feedings so that you can get on with your day. You can keep your starter running for about 5-10 minutes each day once you’re comfortable with it.
We will take the following steps at each refreshment:
- Use your spatula to stir the starter around a bit
- Use a clean container to weigh the contents of the jar that you have just stirred.
- Mix in flour, water, and mix well.
- Let the jar cool down before opening it again.
- Step by step: How to make a fantastic starter of sourdough from scratch
To find their empty weight, I weigh all the containers I use (without lids). Next, use a permanent marker to write the jar’s weight on the bottom. We now know the jar’s baseline weight so that we can quickly determine how much starter we should keep for each refreshment.
There may be some fermentation activity. This initial surge of activity, which is normal, should recede around Day 3. As you can see, my initial mixture expanded rapidly. In fact, it popped out of the jar. This is why it is best to set the jar in an open bowl. Do not be discouraged if you don’t see a surge by the fourth or fifth day. It will return if you stick to your schedule!
You may notice more activity in the morning. Below you can see that the initial rush of activity I experienced on Day 2 has disappeared. My mixture began to show signs of beneficial yeast or bacteria. There were bubbles at the top and sides. It started to smell sour.
This is the first day that the two beverages are combined in one day. One in the morning and one 12 hours later.
If you don’t see any signs of fermentation activity in the morning, then you will. You will see bubbles all over the top and sides, as well as streaks along the sides of your jar indicating that the mixture has changed in level.
Day 5 and 6
Keep the contents of the jar in the container for Days 5 through 6, and then, once a day, refresh the jar with the same ingredients that you used on Day 4. As fermentation activity increases, you will notice a greater increase in the activity. These refreshments can be enjoyed in the same jar.
Day Seven and Beyond
On Day 7, take 20 grams of the mixture out of the jar and discard the rest. Add 30 grams of rye flour, 70g all-purpose flour and 100g water to this mixture. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 12 hours. After 12 hours, take the contents of the jar and reduce it to 20g. Add the same amount of ingredients as the previous day and let the mixture rest for 12 hours (overnight).
You should now see your starter’s height rise and fall in the container each day. This is a sign that your starter is strong enough to bake your first loaf. Keep the refreshment going if your starter still shows no activity. Continue the refreshment for another day or several days until things improve. The time it takes to stabilize the starter can vary depending on how much flour was used and what the environment is like (especially if the temperature in your kitchen is low). Keep your patience and follow the schedule.