How to Make a Sourdough Starter

I love bread. But to make your own bread and getting to enjoy it while slightly warm from the oven takes it to a whole other level. I had only delved in breadmaking using commerically available yeast making  no-knead bread or relying on the efforts of a breadmaker. But neither fully satisfied my hunger for that delectable, crunchy-on-the-outside moist-on-the-inside bread I often treated myself to. Enter – the wonder that is homemade sourdough bread. First step – learn how to make a sourdough starter.

Following up to my last post on How To Reduce Food Waste, I though I would dedicate each Monday in February to share some recipes to help you make more things you love at home and reduce food wastage!

Honestly, the hardest part was making the starter itself. A starter is wild yeast cultivated from a mixture of flour and water. There are literally hundreds of websites that outline how to make a sourdough starter (and sites where you can purchase sourdough starters, but where’s the fun in that?!) but I went with the ultimate sourdough guru herself – Emelie Raffa (@theclevercarrot). I thought I would summarize her recipe along with some tips and tricks I learned along the way.

You Will Need:
  • A clean glass jar (I used an old glass jar, roughly 300ml capacity)
  •  Unbleached, All purpose flour (I used Robin Hood Unbleached Flour as well as President’s Choice All Purpose Flour to start. I now maintain my starter using Bulk Barn’s Unbleached All Purpose Flour)
  • Whole wheat flour (I used Robin Hood Whole Wheat Flour)
  • Water
  • Digital kitchen scale
Sourdough Starter Recipe:

Before you begin, weigh your glass container. This is important as the entire recipe is based on weights and by knowing the container weight, you will be able to calculate the weight of your starter

1// Mix 60 grams whole wheat flour and 60 grams of water in a clear glass container. Keep an elastic band tied at the level of the dough mixture. This will be your guide to see how far along your starter has risen along the way.

2// Leave the jar in a cozy cabinet with the lid closed and set aside for 24 hours.

24 hours later…

3// You may or may not see any action after the initial 24 hours (I didn’t). Say goodnight to your starter baby and keep it tucked away for another 24 hours.

4// After another 24 hours (total 48 hours since you started), you will see a lot of bubbly action. Don’t get too excited because this is not the bubbly starter we are looking for 🙁

At this time, keep only 60 grams of starter in your jar (discard the rest) and replenish with 60 grams of white flour and 60 grams of water.

5//  Repeat this for the next few days. It will smell quite unpleasant at first but will eventually turn into a more pleasant aroma, a light yeasty smell

 

For me, the action stopped here for weeks. There were some tiny bubbles, but nothing like what a bubbly starter should look like. I tried for 3 weeks. Nothing. I tried starting again and feeding twice a day, nothing. Kept it in the microwave with the light turned on. Nada. Nothing seemed to be working.  I must have spent about 2 months before I finally got an active starter and my best advice? Don’t do anything and don’t give up! Just leave the starter be. I have a feeling the flour I used didn’t have enough wild yeast and by feeding it every day (twice a day at one point), the yeast simply did not have enough time to flourish before it was discarded.

 

Once you see that the starter has doubled in size and full of bubbles, congratulations! You did it! 

Now it’s time to turn that starter into some delicious sourdough bread and other sourdough goodies (more to come in a future post!).

 

TIPS:

If you see a brown liquid on your starter, don’t fret! This means your starter needs to be fed. Remove the liquid and feed your starter with the same ratio of starter:flour:water (60:60:60)

An active starter should have bubbles dispersed throughout and have a light, airy texture when agitated with a spoon. Some people say to do the float test (if a small amount of starter floats in water), but I found that unnecessary. As long as it has doubled, it is ready to go!

If you don’t find yourself baking often, store your starter in the fridge and feed it roughly once a week. I keep my starter at room temperature and I feed it every 2 days or so. It sometimes smells very vinegary and develops the brown liquid but a good feeding will get rid of both. 

Congratulations for making it this far! Did you come out the other side with a lively, bubbly starter? What are some of your favourite things to make with your starter? I’d love to hear your comments below!

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