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So you Want to Try a Sourdough Starter?

Updated on June 22, 2015
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My sourdough starter
My sourdough starter | Source

What is Sourdough?

If you know anything about breadmaking, you might already be familiar with the term sourdough, but if not, it's simply a way of having ready-to-use baker's yeast available whenever you need it. (Yeast is the leavening agent you need in order to get your dough to rise).

When I was a kid, my mum used to make bread occasionally, but she always used 'proper' yeast - it looked like a sandy-coloured lump of wet clay - and it made great bread. However, fresh yeast is hard to get these days, and most home bakers tend to use the active dry variety.

If you make a lot of bread, or are thinking about making it regularly, having a sourdough starter on hand means you can knock up a loaf anytime you like. Also, making bread this way from scratch, is very satisfying and gives you a real sense of tradition.

Sourdough is for making bread. Not to be confused with the Sourdough Saloon, which is for drinking
Sourdough is for making bread. Not to be confused with the Sourdough Saloon, which is for drinking | Source

Yes, but what exactly is it?

Okay, so what I'm talking about is a sourdough starter that is a ready-to-use yeast made from flour and water, not the Sourdough Saloon in Beatty, Nevada, which I'm told is a great place to hang out. But let's get back to the task in hand.

Yeast is a leavening agent - it's what makes the bread rise. However, rather amazingly, the wild yeast spores and bacteria you need to get your starter going are in the air all around us. All flours naturally have loads of yeasts and bacterial spores in them, so all you are doing is providing an ideal environment for them to flourish.

Don't I need an apple?

There are a huge variety of sourdough starter recipes around that reflect the tastes and palates of the world's bakers, and it's true - many of them use apple or pineapple juice, an actual apple, or even natural yoghurt. However, I think the best way to start is to keep it simple. Once you get the hang of it, then you can start trying different recipes. Also, I think it's useful to try the easiest method first, just in case you find sourdough really isn't for you.

What You Need

  • 200g plain flour, I use ASDA's own brand
  • Equal amount of water, warm tap water is fine
The best thing is, you don't need a load of kitchen gadgets to get going
The best thing is, you don't need a load of kitchen gadgets to get going | Source

How to do it

There are lots of different recipes for making a sourdough starter and you should probably look at a few before trying one of your own. However, my method is pretty simple and provided you have time to 'feed' your starter regularly, it'll work out fine, and the best thing is - you don't need a load of kitchen gadgets to get going:

  • Put 200g of plain flour in a large jar or Tupperware-type container - ideally something that has a lid, though this isn't essential.
  • Add an equal amount of warm/tepid water.
  • Mix it up thoroughly.
  • If your container has a lid, rest it on the top - don't fasten it down as your starter needs air. Otherwise, cover it with a tea towel or loose cloth.
  • Place your starter somewhere safe, though keep it away from anything hot - average room temperature is what you need to get it going.
  • Leave it alone for a day or two.
  • Stir it occasionally.
  • After a couple of days (or maybe sooner if you're lucky), you'll start to see bubbles appearing on the top (like in my photo). This is what you're looking for, as it shows your starter is working.
  • At this point, add more flour and water. Do this every day or so for about a week. Now, in terms of the amount, some folk say you should add the same quantity again ie doubling the mixture, but I don't entirely agree with this since these same folk also say you should throw half your mixture away (see below).
  • To feed the starter, I usually add about 100g of flour and the same amount of water, and so far this has worked perfectly.
  • After a week or so, your starter should be smelling yeasty and maybe a bit fruity and sweet. This is what you're waiting for. Now you can use it to make bread!

This is my first attempt at making bread with a sourdough starter
This is my first attempt at making bread with a sourdough starter | Source

The Throw Half Away Argument

When your sourdough is ready to use, you'll be 'feeding' it regularly. Now, many bakers go with the idea of throwing half the mixture away at this stage. There are various reasons for this, including that it keeps your starter in tip-top condition and at a manageable level. However, I can't bear to throw anything away, and because I use my starter two or three times a week to make bread, there isn't really any need to get rid of half of it each time I feed it.

Obviously, you'll discover for yourself what the best method is, but if you don't want to get rid of half the mixture, and you don't use it too often, the easiest thing is to pop it in the fridge for a few days. This way, it'll slow down a bit, but won't come to any harm. Simply get it out the fridge and allow it to come back to room temperature again for a day or so before you use it.

Let Me Know What You Think

3 stars from 1 rating of Sourdough

Jacob Burton's Sourdough Method

Sourdough - Yes or No

If you've used a sourdough starter to make bread, what did you think of it?

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    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Ragan, hope it works out for you. And remember - sourdough is like a pet dog - just keep feeding it regularly!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I have always been short of yeast when I needed to make bread so this sourdough starter is good to come by. Will try it. Thanks for sharing.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Great stuff! It's really easy and you can start making bread in a few days. Good luck, and thanks for reading.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      When my daughter and I returned from a short vacation to San Francisco, we vowed to make sourdough starter. But happened, and the notion completely fell off our radar. Your instructions are so clear and straight-forward--I have no excuse for not giving this a try. Thank you for the inspiration and I will let you know the results. Great hub!

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      That's an interesting question - I know some folk keep their sourdough in the fridge but that's usually when they're not intending to use it for a while (you can also freeze it). I suppose it's got to be better to try and keep it reasonably cool, but even on some of our hottest days (there are some!) I haven't noticed any problems. My current sourdough has been going for about eight months with no obvious problems. Hope that helps. Thanks for reading.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      3 years ago from Brazil

      I grew up in California and sourdough bread was widely available. Then I moved to the UK and it was one of the things I missed. Crispy bacon was another (but don't get me started on that topic).

      Now I live in Brazil where good bread is hard to find so I make my own normal bread in a bread machine.

      When I suggested making sourdough to a friend, she said it would go moldy before it went sour. Do you have any idea what the ideal temperature should be? Here it is 30°C year round inside and out, is that too hot?

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Brie, hope it works for you. Thanks for reading.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 

      3 years ago from Manhattan

      I've always wondering about how to do this..thanks for the tips.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      It's a really very simple recipe (has to be for me!) Hope it works well for you and thanks for reading.

    • greatstuff profile image


      3 years ago from Malaysia

      I have not tried something as 'adventurous' as this. Most of my cooking skills are in Asian foods, but this sounds simple enough for me to give it a go. Thanks for the recipe

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Great - as long as you remember to 'feed' it, I'm sure you'll find the whole thing cound't be easier. Good luck and thanks for reading.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for these instructions. I've never made my own sourdough starter, but I've been interested in creating one for some time. I'll try your recipe.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Hi Ann - the recipe I generally use is 500g flour to 300g of sourdough. This makes two good sized rounds, or one large loaf. I also add brown sugar to give it a nice crust. As well as bread, I use sourdough to make pizza bases, though I don't bother to measure it - just about half the amount of sourdough to flour, a quick knead, roll it out and bung it in the oven for a few minutes, before adding the topping.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image


      3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I tried this once, but kept it in the refrigerator and forgot to "feed" it. Needless to say, it didn't do well. I do have a question, though. How much of the starter do you use to make the bread?

      I have a friend of mine who does this and brings rolls made from it to our potlucks at church. We all tell her that her rolls are going to made in heaven when we all meet up there. They are absolutely delectable!

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Hope you enjoy it!

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Getting the chef to work now.

    • FatBoyThin profile imageAUTHOR

      Colin Garrow 

      4 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Thanks Faythe - let me know how you get on. :-)

    • faythef profile image

      Faythe Payne 

      4 years ago from USA

      I have always wanted to try this ..Bookmarking your page


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