Last updated on September 23rd, 2019
Wanna take a walk on the wild side? Then join me in the kitchen today, because I’d like to show you how to make your own sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is simply a paste of flour and water. When exposed to the elements, the paste captures the wild yeasts and friendly bacteria that give sourdough bread its tangy taste and beautiful texture.
Note: Once you’ve made a sourdough starter, you can have it forever. As proof, read what Frederica Huxley had to say on my Facebook page:I’ve only ever made one, but it has traveled the world with me and is now 8 years old and still going strong!
The trick, my friends, is to keep feeding the starter.
What do sourdough starters and beagles have in common? They both like to eat!
There are lots of ways to make a starter. Perhaps my method will work for you:
First, grab a clean jar or plastic tub, and add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.
Also add 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour.
Then add 1 cup luke-warm water (I use tap water, but you could use the bottled or filtered version)…
And violently whisk the ingredients until thoroughly combined.
BUT KEVIN, I’VE HEARD THAT METAL UTENSILS SHOULD NEVER CONTACT SOURDOUGH STARTER!
I and countless other bakers routinely use metal whisks and spoons when making sourdough. And our starters have lived to tell the tale.
Since the flour mixture must be exposed to air, just cover it with something porous, such as a paper towel. Or, use a lid left slightly ajar. Then set the container in a warm(-ish) 74°F – 80°F location. Because I made this starter during a frigid period in early March, I placed my container on a common heating pad. I set the pad to its lowest setting.
If all goes according to plan, in 12-24 hours you’ll notice a bevy of bubbles in your starter. This is the sign that wild yeast has discovered your efforts, and the starter has become active. Reward yourself with a glass of expensive champagne.
Besides bubbles, you might notice some weird liquid in the starter. This is alcohol, or “hootch.” Just stir it back into the mix.
Since yeast is a living organism, it must be fed in order to remain active. And how do we feed yeast? By adding more flour and water. Of course, following the law of physics, if you keep adding ingredients without taking any away, you will soon run out of room.
The solution? Pour off half of the starter. You don’t have to throw away the excess — you can give it to a bread-baking friend. Or, you can use it to produce another sourdough starter that you’ll reserve for pancakes. Sourdough pancakes are divine. Here’s the recipe.
Now replace what you took away, by adding another 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour…
And another 1/2 cup all-purpose flour…
And just enough luke-warm water to produce a thick batter.
Again, return the starter to a warm location.
Repeat the remove/add/stir routine once a day and every day for 5-7 days, or longer. There are no time limits. I quit using the heating pad after four days, and my starter remained active. And after 7 days, I covered the container loosely with a lid, and popped it into the fridge. Refrigerated starter requires feeding only every other day or so.
When is the starter ready for bread-baking? When it is thick and bubbly, and when it emits the gorgeous perfume of sourdough bread. As a test, you can scoop up a small amount of the mix, and drop it into a glass of water. If the starter floats to the top, it’s ready to use.
I’ll share my recipe for sourdough bread in a couple of weeks (Update: here’s the recipe for my Sourdough Sandwich Loaf, and here’s my recipe for a Crusty Sourdough Boule.) Meantime, I have a question for you:
Think you’ll try this fun sourdough-starter project ? You can let me know by leaving a comment. And if you’re an experienced sourdough bread baker, I hope you’ll add your thoughts. Perhaps you have some tips and tricks the rest of us can use.
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Marianne Sievers says
Alas, all of my bread baking efforts are on hold until I get my stand mixer fixed, but once that happens, I think I will give this sourdough a try!
My stand mixer doesn’t work, either, but I can’t wait to try this sourdough starter, so I am going to do it anyway and just deal with hand-mixing and kneading the dough as necessary! I will let you know how it goes, Kevin!
yes love sour dough. I add garlic for wonderful garlic bread. It is great for toast with eggs in the morning and spaghetti of course. I have never tried pancakes so looking forward to your recipe
Very timely, as I have been planning to do this! I’m also thinking of growing some watercress…do you have any advice for that?
susan sexton says
In my area we call this friendship bread. It’s so effective that you soon run out of friends to give it to!!
Sylvia Neal says
Is there such a thing as gluten-free sourdough? Wish it were possible. 🙂
I made my starter over 7 years ago and it is going strong. There are San Francisco starters that are 200 years or so old—fed every day. Oh, and it is not “friendship bread.” The starter to friendship bread has sugar and other ingredients in it. Sourdough starter is strictly flour and water. I use my starter often for bread and crackers and I feed it only whole wheat flour. They say that whole wheat flour turns rancid in sourdough, and it might, but I use mine enough that I haven’t had any trouble. Also, if I put it in the refrigerator it will keep for weeks without being fed (good to know at vacation time). Enjoy, Kevin, I look forward to your recipes.
judy holman says
Thank you Kevin, as it is Autumn here in the Mountains now, making bread is a heavenly pastime, so I will give this a try and look forward to your bread recipe!
As I look out my Maine window and see another layer of snow that fell overnight, I can think of nothing better than a heavenly loaf of sourdough bread. This looks like a perfect Sunday project! As a side note … I picked up some Bangers from the local meat market this week and used them last night in your Bubble and Squeak recipe. Yum! I saved the leftover gravy and thought it would be delicious over a meatloaf. Thanks for everything. St. Paddy’s Day is eminent which means Spring is just around the corner!
Sam Wayman says
I like this but don’t make bread that often, so can you just put out the starter and how long befor using it to make a couple of loves now and then?
My niece and I have joined your fan base and we are making sour dough bread almost daily. It is so easy and the taste is without question, better than store bought bread. Thanks Kevin for doing this wonderful web site for us.;
we love making sourdough bread – this starter is a new one for us… we’re going to give it a go this week!
Can’t wait for a bread recipe, Kevin!!… cheers xo
Janice Foster says
Kevin, I enjoy making bread so , I am excited about getting the recipe for sourdough
bread. I will have my starter ready to go. Can’t wait .
thanks for all your help,
Hummm, it smells great. I can’t keep the starter alive because I’m either away or I forget to feed it. However, there is no reason not to make a starter, use it when it is ready, invite the neighbors, and enjoy.
Beth R says
Kevin, have you ever had mold grow in your starter? This happened to me last summer. After more than a week, of following a recipe for starter, dark mold grew around the edges. I threw it out.
I would also like to know if it’s possible to make sourdough with gluten free flour. Any thoughts on this?
Fredeica Huxley says
Kevin – looking good! I agree that stainless steel doesn’t cause a problem with sourdough (I prove my dough in a ss bowl), but over chlorinated water, as here in London, has killed many an aspiring starter – the chlorine can kill the bacteria that you are trying so hard to foster! Like Elizabeth, I have found that my starter will happily survive in the fridge for at least a week without feeding. I keep a very small amount of my starter in the fridge, and just use a tablespoon or two to feed twice before using it for baking. Looking forward to your recipes.
I love the sourdough bread they sell in San francisco my daughter lives there and we are close to heaven when we are there eating it with fresh homemade butter. I have made it several times and it comes out very nicely. I am really looking forward to doing it again soon with your starter recipe and cover that with fresh butter. We will sit and eat it with hot tea or coffee. Than you Kevin.
Does the sourdough starter need to be fed every day or two forever? I don’t want to have to hire a sourdough feeder when I go on vacation, but I’d love to try this.
Kevin Hammond says
You can keep your starter in the refrigerator. I date it so that at least once a month I use it. I pour off the “hooch” which can sometimes turn quite dark.
At least once a month I use the starter. I mix the starter with a couple of cups of whole wheat flour: enough to make whatever the recipe calls for with at least a cup left over. Meanwhile I’ve cleaned up my sourdough container to reuse.
When it starts fermenting, I replace a cup of starter in my clean container, put a date on the outside (not a literal date, a sticky note) and I’m good to go for another month.
I would try to use the starter even sooner than 1 month. I would say that’s the outside limit for storing.
Also, I keep a batch frozen in case I forget to use it.
One more thing, while it’s recovering after I’ve added fresh flour and water, I sometimes set it outside to get some fresh yeast. It gets a taste of the neighborhood. Sourdough terroir!
Carol M says
Excellent resources on line with very specific instruction on gluten free sour dough.http://blog.culturesforhealth.com/
Also another great website about fermenting in general and she did a great write up today on sour dough. http://www.culturedfoodlife.com/how-to-care-for-your-sourdough-starter/
I have had the same starter for over 10 years, I don’t bake every week. I store it in the frig until ready to use. I started my own, did not purchase a starter.
Hope every one finds the links useful.
First of all: “Lily, Tiger and Camille” ??? You have been holding out on us!! Pictures please of Tiger and Camille!! Or have I just missed them?
Now – thank you – thank you!! I have had such bad luck with sourdough starter in the past — I am definitely going to use this version. Your instructions are superb — all of the time. I have never once had a problem with any of your recipes so I am sure this one will be the winner of my life!! Bless your little heart for sharing with us Kevin!!
And tell Ms. Lily not to hog up the camera when she has siblings!! LOL
Karen L. says
I was going to say that after all the great photos and info., where the heck is a recipe for the bread? Then I went back an re-read the end so now I will wait to see what you bake. Guess I had better get some starter ready before hand though. Thanks for the recipe! Now to go back and read everyones comments to see if there are more good pointers for doing this.
Mary Ann Z. says
I was told that it was too difficult to make sourdough bread so I never tried making it. I love sourdough bread so I will be making some soon. Thanks, Kevin, for sharing your recipes with us.
Hallo Kevin, this is not g.v i think. Do you have a g.v recept mayby. I have tray it many time’s. No results.
Teri Dalco says
I’ve tried starters in the past, and they seem to get so unbelievably strong tasting. I live in a Boston Suburb. I too have had it go moldy across the top, not just the alcohol around the edges. I cannot figure out what I’m doing wrong.
Katie Zack says
I was actually talking about this with my friend from church. She is going to give me some of her family’s sourdough started that they have kept going for over a hundred years!
Frani W says
Sourdough bread is one of my favorites! Definitely will give this starter a try as soon as you post recipes so I can use it! Thank you for your wonderful home and garden inspirations!!!!
Elizabeth King says
A good resource for Gluten -Free Sourdough bread is the book Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, MD & Zoe Francois. It is not a true sourdough starter but tastes of the sourdough as you make a master recipe & store it in the fridge & then use to make bread. the longer you store it the more flavour it develops. I haven’t tried this yet but intend to do so.
Also have bookmarked the other websites mentioned in previous comment.
Rachel S Dutton says
Had sourdough started I got from my Aunt years ago, but sadly I lost it. Thanks for the recipe for starter, I can start again.
Sandra from WA says
Would love to print this. Do you have just the recipe with out the pics. to print and save?
Looking forward to getting the bread starter recipe….. Thank You!
Do you have to use the same flours you have listed or can you just use all purpose flour? I love sourdough bread and never had the starter for it Thanks so much for all the great recipes you share with us. Thanks a ton Bonnie
I have always wanted to make sourdough bread….I’m going to try this! Bread baking is one of my favorire smells……right up there with coffee and fresh cut grass! I’m excited to try this and make some bread!
I love your newsletter, I too have made sour dough bread and pancakes in the past. I lost my starter, so this recipe is a good one. Its easier than the ones with sugar or yeast, I will make up bread and pancakes as soon as you post the recipes. Thank you for sharing with us all, Keep posting all the good foods and ideas. Marian
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Bonnie – Yes – the starter will work with just water and all-purpose flour.
Carol H. says
I love your ideas and recipes. I used to always have sourdough on hand, I’ll start it again now!
If you thicken gravies or soups with flour and water, try the sourdough, it is already mixed and has a great flavour.
Marjorie O'Keefe says
Can this starter be used in a bread making machine, or is it strictly the “by hand” version?
Marilyn Foster says
My daughter is gluten intolerant and has always loved my sourdough pancakes. Just for kicks, I tried making a GF starter and it worked! I used Cup-4-Cup GF flour with filtered water. And followed the same directions Kevin posted, with smaller proportions. The first day I mixed 2 oz each of water and flour. Each day for 10 days I added another 2 oz of water & flour, stirring well. By the 10th day it was bubbling like crazy and smelling pretty darn good! The starter is very white, unlike wheat starters. When it ferments the alcohol doesn’t rise to the top but the mixture looks kind of like white curds suspended in water. Much to my surprise, the GF pancakes tasted and felt like regular sourdough pancakes. My daughter loved them!
I was born in the Territory of Alaska and lived in Anchorage until moving to Anacortes, WA 8 years ago. I got my sourdough starter as a wedding gift 40 years ago. The family friends who gave it to me got their start from a woman named Billie Corbley, who delivered the mail by dog team in remote central Alaska during the 1940’s-50’s. Billie got her starter from Little Johnnie Buscia, who was a gold miner in the Kantishna mining district near Mt. Mckinley in 1926. I love knowing where my starter came from and having a connection to the old days in Alaska.
Helpful hint for storing your sourdough starter: Most sourdough recipes tell you to pour your starter into a large bowl the night before you plan to use it. In the morning you’re supposed to remember to pour a portion out of the big bowl and back into your sourdough starter container before adding any other ingredients. I found out years ago that always remembering to put some starter back into the jar wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Too much chaos in the kitchen can cause you to forget until you’ve already stirred eggs, oil, milk, etc. into the sourdough sponge in the big bowl. There are enough sourdough yeastie beasties left clinging to the side of your sourdough storage jar to get another jarful of starter going! Start with just 1 or 2 ounces of flour & water in the jar and continue to feed it for a few days and it will be bubbly and happy once more.
Thanks for the great blog, Kevin!
sherry kanoski says
OK, the nurse in me, who took many microbiology classes, wonders how you keep BAD bacteria and nasty things in the atmosphere from infecting your starter? Back in the ’70s, I used to have a Fruit Compote mixture that sat on the counter and turned into Brandied Fruit…but I was always suspicious of what else was in the mixture! Please help me…..?????
Elaine ransom says
I love sourdough and have made a starter off and on over the years…keeps a looong time Iin the fridge even when forgotten for a month or two. There is a method of starting a sourdough from grapes but I don’t remember it. For sherry, I presume it is the same action that preserves fermented foods from going bad , bennificials outweighing the harmfuls to the extent the bad bacteria cannot survive.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Elaine – You are right. More science: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpwFM_YRdwc
Amy G says
I cannot wait for your recipe…although a friend just brought me a new old world bread book with several recipes for sourdough breads…I cannot wait to give them all a try! 🙂
Judy Pennington says
Kevin, I remember reading a story once about a “chuck wagon cookie” that kept his sourdough starter out on the trail by mixing a lot of flour with some of it and keeping it in the flour bin. Then if anything happened to the sponge, he could just add water to the dried one and it would be like new.
Hi Kevin! I’ve just finished violently beating my starter and it’s sitting in a sunbeam in my drafty old kitchen as I hunt down a heating pad. I loooove sourdough bread. Next weekend, homemade!
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Pam – Kudos to you!
Unfortunately, I let my husband measure the flour unattended and didn’t realize until too late (gasp) that he had used the 1/3 cup measure instead of the 1/2 cup. So I have added the difference and re-beaten. Now my starter is mad at me, but I believe he will rise above it. 🙂
Rita Chalfant says
I LOVE sourdough….and am going to try this! I love your recipes Kevin, thank you for sharing like you do.
Ginger Duncan says
I LOVE feeding & tending my sourdoguh starter, & sometimes give it potato water (left from boiling taters) as a special treat. I keep two different crocks going simultaneously, & have a third crock for pouring the starter into so that I can wash the crock it was in about every two weeks.
I love your posts Kevin. I have always wanted to make a sourdough starter but was always intimidated. Thanks to your wonderful approach, I have now made my first starter (I hope) the flour & water mixture is sitting in the still chilly March on a heating pad on the kitchen counter. I did make a smaller batch about half a cup of flour & half a cup of water. I figure this way I can feed for a few days without having to remove any. Wish me luck!
Carol snyder says
Sherry kanoski it sounds to me like what you had was the friendship starter. I used to make this all the time and never had any problems. I figured it had something to do with the fermenting. I used to make a delicious cake with this.
Susan Y says
My starter just turned a year old. Cannot wait to see your recipes you will use your starter in, Kevin.
If you get hootch on top, pour it off and do not stir it back in like I did. This will make alcoholic pancakes, which can be fun as long as no one has to drive.
Linda HART says
I have been making my own starter for over 40 years. It is easy and fun. You do have to feed it and let it raise longer than commercial yeast to get a decent loaf of bread, but it will taste great and you’ll never have to buy Fleischmann, Red Star, or any other brand yeast again. Here are some things others may find useful:
1.if you get a particularly tasty starter going and don’t want it to die from lack of feeding when are leaving town for an extended period of time you can freeze it until you return.
2. You can spread a very thin layer on a plate, or silpat, or plastic wrap, let it dry, break it up and crush it, and you have dry starter that you can put in a container to store for later use when you want to get a batch going fast. Just use it as you would dry yeast from the store. It will take longer to rise than commercial yeast.
3. If you stir the liquid on top back into the starter it will give you a stronger sour taste. For an extra sour starter feed it more flour than liquid, e.g. 1/2C:1/4.
4. If you pour off the accumulated liquid before feeding it will be less sour with a more yeasty taste, like the bread to which most people are accustomed.
5. You can use either whole wheat flour, or white. Both will work.
If you are gluten intolerant you may be able to eat bread made from whole wheat flour starter with absolutely *no* adverse reactions, especially if the wheat is from has been vacuum sealed & stored for 30+ years, brown before GMO grain was common. Non GMO wheat (heirloom/sustainable) is still available for purchase. Google it. I have several friends and family members who are gluten intolerant and who are able to eat whole wheat bread made from starter. This is because the starter predigests the gluten before it is baked.
Cary Bradley says
So very excited to see you tackle this, Kevin. I’ve adored sourdough bread since I was a kid and it wasn’t easy to come by in my world. In Bridgeport, CA, a specialty of the area was Sheepherder’s bread and it was magnificent, a real treat for times you made the trip up the back side of the Sierras. I’ve dabbled at making my own starter and was never good at bread-making and have always wanted to recapture that wonderful experience of traveling back roads of my home state. You have a gift for making the exotic, approachable, doable, and fun. Look forward to exploring this with you. Making my starter today! 🙂
Victoria Burkhardt says
Hello Kevin, thanks for another great post. When my children were young, we were on a VERY tight budget, and you cannot buy -at any price- such delicious-ness. I made a sourdough starter from grapes and kept it going for quite awhile. We had a lot of fun with soudough bread, but my favorite was the sourdough pancakes! Amazingly delicious. Here’s a link to a sourdough starter from grapes that looks very similar to the one I used:
Would love to try the gluten free version!
My wife and I just started baking breads and we have really been enjoying it. I am looking forward to giving this a try. I really love a good sourdough!
To the folks waiting on their stand mixer to be replaced or fixed before making the bread… You might be surprised what you can do with your hands. Give it a try!
I have a wheat, not gluten allergy, but can eat real sour dough breads with no problem. I can’t wait to try this. This is the first description of making a started that actually made sense to me.
Holly K says
Okay the absolutely first thing that you have to do is name your starter. My starters name is Bubbles. Bubbles and I have been together for seven years now, she was born on my kitchen counter top, my it seems just like yesterday.
The one thing I did when I was building Bubbles was I kept her at room temperature and feeding her twice a day for the first thirty days. I read somewhere that it was important to do that to build a strong stable starter. I used much smaller amounts of flour and water too.
Things I have learned in this time is that you can use whatever flour you wish to use. BUT there is some kind of crazy chemistry thing when you mix Bubbles with rye flour, they are made for each other.
Bubbles is pretty much indestructible once she is built up into good strong stable state.
Bubbles will relax in the fridge without any attention for weeks. Then when I am ready to use her I will take the whole container out of the fridge and feed it three times (twelve hours apart) before I use it. This way I know it is strong and vigorous for baking and when I return a part of it back to the fridge. Again I don’t store a large amount maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup at most.
The bread I make with it is just a super easy no knead bread that I bake in an old cast iron roaster. I use whatever flour I have on hand, sometimes it is all white, sometimes it is 100% whole wheat, often is a combination of rye and whole wheat. I use only Bubbles as the leavener, no commercial yeast is involved. I get a wonderful large artisan loaf with crusty cracks. It is quite amazing to make such amazing bread with just flour water, salt and no effort.
I have used Bubbles plenty in this time, pancakes, muffins, quick breads and of course sourdough bread. Your right it is wicked fun and the results are so delicious.
My sour dough starter began in France years ago. My bff’s son in love has a bakery in Colleyville texas and she gifted me a starter 5 years ago. I bake bread every 2 weeks and I’m not gonna lie to you, I give it all away or I would be 900 pounds. He went to Europe for his starter and I can only trust that’s all true. I feel so responsible to make it live. It makes me drink ginger martiniS while baking
There is a downside to homemade bread of any kind: you just can’t stop eating it, especially when fresh from the oven slathered with butter. I love to make bread but have to put it on the “only once in a while” list. My starter was used by my grandfather who was a “sourdough” in Alaska in the first gold rush so it’s been around for over a hundred years.
Holly K says
I just have to comment to Linda. That is so cool that your sourdough is over a hundred years old. I have read about those fellas up in Alaska and they would sleep with their sourdough to keep it alive on those frozen Alaskan nights. So much history you are eating there, very cool.
HI Kevin and all his friends! I just wanted to comment that I have a rye sourdough starter going, and the one difference in using rye is that it ferments faster than wheat (the “crazy chemistry thing” Holly K was talking about). I never let it go more than 6 or 7 days without feeding it. Holly is right- sourdough and rye are made for each other.
I’m on day 7 of my starter…. so far, so good…. patiently awaiting the recipe…. will it be posted soon, please?? 🙂
kenneth F says
I have kept my starter for nearly 15 years. I have passed it on to many friends.
I have found that you can manage to keep it in the refrigerator and get away with feeding it at two week interval. A small pinch of raw sugar will help a weak starter.
Oh ! My starter began with an unbleached potato flour. I avoid all bleached flour when at all possible.
I still don’t have a stand mixer. Just a great set of wooden spoon. glass, crock and wooden bowls.
Thank you for all you share.
I have been struggling with getting my starter to “become active”.
-After tossing out several first batches when they developed an ugly smelly skin, I consulted suggestions from other readers’ comments.
-After 11 days, I think what made the difference was warmth (used the heating pad)
-This morning it finally passed the “float” test signifying activation. So I made sourdough pancakes for lunch (DELICIOUS!). Plan on trying the bread tomorrow.
– I feel like I have gone through lots of flour especially with the daily “removal” of some of the pre-activated starter in order to feed it more. I kept what I removed in the fridge and will attempt to gradually “activate” and use it. (I hate waste).
THANK YOU KEVIN! With your encouragement and easy to follow directions (and best of all, humor!) I feel I am conquering something new and wonderful.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Pam – Congratulations! Also…happy to hear that you made — and liked — the pancakes.
Jane Buysman says
i would love to make sour dough bread. Please send the recipe!
Priscilla Farr says
Would it be possible to receive a copy of just the text of the above. Do not need the
pictures but being new to this I do think I need to read your instructions as I transverse
into this new and wild territory.
PS: The pancake and bread recipe would be most appreciated.
I love sourdough and it’s one of very few breads that doesn’t spike my blood sugar. I’ve tried to make my own starter a few times and, without fail, it rises and does its thing then suddenly one day it’s dead. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing wrong but I’ll give your way a try and perhaps I’ll have better luck. Thank you!
Marie Love says
Hello love your site about the sourdough east my grandmother use the same method but she used to on the end put a clove garlic on top don’t know why but she use to say it was to help ferment the east is it true or does it has any reason to her madness ? Thank you Marie
Julie Ann Hanks says
In dividing the dough every day for 5 days, you would wind up with 16 starter batches. That’s a lot of sour dough starter! I love the pizza crust idea. What else could I do, aside from giving to friends? As it’s alive, I can’t imaging it could be frozen although someone said previously that it can go in the freezer during vacations. Can bread dough be frozen, then thawed for the last rising? I would love to give this a try but need an outlet for all the starter batches without throwing any out. 1 loaf requires 2 cups starter; that’s 1 whole batch, right? If I make 1 or 2 loafs, 2 or 3 pizza crusts, I’ll have 11-13 batches of started remaining!
wondering if the starter, after initial process, can be split and only 1/4 cup(s) of flour to keep growing????? I have only a family of 3 so would not be to my/our advantage to keep this much on hand. have initiated start this a.m. and will wait until 24 hours concluded to see result. I believe amish bread has somewhat of the same procedure but not with wheat flour.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Joy and Julie Ann – Once your starter is going, you can maintain a very small amount of it. Just feed with a couple tablespoons of flour and water. My starter is in the fridge now, and I’m feeding it only once a week or so. The day before I wish to use it, I take it out of the fridge, and feed it extra flour and water until I have 2 1/2 cups. Sourdough starter isn’t an exact science — there’s plenty of wiggle-room!
Well, I made my first loaf of bread (Boule) today and despite making mistakes it turned out really well. I think my starter was too runny and so it was really wet in the mixer. I added a bit more flour as it was kneading and that seemed to help. Also, I never got the starter to float. How thick should it be?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Diane – Since sourdough starter is a living thing, its viscosity can vary. Mine was fairly thick when I made sourdough pancakes. But it was thin (runny) when I used it for sourdough boules. In any event, I’m so glad you tried the bread!
John McClellan says
I’m trying the starter–I’m getting a sour smell–I may have put in too much water the first time I fed it. I’m thinking I should throw it out(?)
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi John McClellan – You didn’t mention how many days/weeks your starter is. But sourdough starter should, in fact, emit a sour smell!
John McClellan says
The starter was only 3 days old–I’m afraid the smell was more putrid than sour. I ‘m starting over. I may have added too much water in first feeding, or maybe too warm with St Louis heat. Thanks for your response and your site.
charlotte zeuner says
Have made sourdough before but do to hospital visit couldn’t keep it going. Will be starting another tomorrow. Bye the way the dough makes great pizza dough. Thanks for all your info such a great site
I hope to get back into trying making sourdough this winter after an absence of several years. I had about 7 different strains going when I had to quit. I became most interested in making a “local” strain using flour made from wheat grown closest to my area and using local grapes for the fermentation agent. Supposedly, this would make a sourdough with its own “local” and unique taste. Have you ever tried such a thing??
what’s the recipe for the pizza using the excess starter?
I’m gluten intolerant and in my research found an interesting post about sourdough and gluten on thehealthyhomeeconomist.com called “Can Celeacs Eat True Sourdough Bread?” Very interesting read. Hope it’s helpful!
I forgot to say… Yes you can make the starter with a gluten free flour of your choice. It’s a slightly different procedure. You will have to feed it two or three times a day instead of one. I just Googled “how to make gluten free sourdough” and found that wholenewmom.com had easy to follow instructions.
Christy Billings says
Thanks for such a quick and straightforward depiction of sourdough starter. The test to see when your starter is ready is also very helpful for someone new to sourdough
I am very new at this and am a bit confused about how you increase the starter. I am making my started, adding and decreasing per instruction, but I need 2 cups of starter for a loaf of bread. On the day I am ready to bake my bread do I increase the flour and water to make 2 cups or do I do it gradually over a few day. If I refrigerate the starter, I must increase and decrease for 2 days prior to baking, correct. Then increase for my 2 cups however you instruct me.
Thank you for your help.
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Maureen – The day before you plan to bake, feed your starter every 8-12 hours, or until you have at least 2 1/2 cups. You’ll need 2 cups of starter for most bread recipes. (The extra 1/2 cup will insure that you don’t run out of starter!)
I believe she was talking about actual fruit that she added alcohol or something to in order to make fermented fruit, not a flour mixture as in friendship bread.
Will definitely try your starter. My husband has to go gluten free and I have heard that there is 1/5 the amount of gluten in sourdough bread than in reg. bread and that gf people are able to tolerate sourdough bread. I’ll see:).
Right now I’m trying a sourdough starter but everything has to be weighed. I like your method better. Thanks very much.
Years ago I watched Julia Child make a starter using grapes and thanks to the wonder of filming, she also made bread with a grape starter in the same episode.
The bread looked fantastic when she cut it, full of wonderful texture and I have wanted to try making starter with grapes ever since then.
I also wish Kevin would give us his input on this…and the instructions as well.
I’ve tried making sourdough starter before but gave up when it all became too complicated. My standard weekly loaf is now the NYT no knead bread, which I leave for 24 hours and bake in a loaf tin. However, your post has inspired me to give sour dough another go! Thanks for the push! PS. This is my most loved blog on the internet – so many brilliant ideas that I use constantly – leaf mulch! greenhouses from milk bottles! indoor tropical bulbs! sour dough! 🙂
Holly Brooke says
Thanks for the great and least intimidating sourdough starter post I’ve read yet! I CAN DO THIS.
Question: 1. several recipes suggest feeding the starter every 8-12 hours. What’s the benefit/reasoning there?
2. After the starter is ready, what’s needed before I can start my dough? Do you feed it one last time, wait a bit then add it to the bread flour?
Finally, 3. How long should I knead the dough if I don’t have a mixer?
Judy Leroux says
Folks the really great thing about sourdough bread home made is that the phylates from the seeds of whatever grain your using become eaten by all the good yeasts and bacteria. So this a very healthy bread base. Meaning when you do not soak your grains, nuts and beans over night before you use then you do not get the nutritional benefits that you get when soaking them. There’s a great book by Sally Fallon on this topic. When we get moved I will start a new one.
Great blog once again Kevin.
Kevin, I just finished reading about your adventures with sour dough, comments included. I think you have the best site on the Internet. I read you before anyone else. Thank you for making my day better.
Are warm temps necessary to get the starter going? Or will it just take longer without? I’d say it’s in the 60’s here. I could start a fire -but can’t see keeping one going for four days!
Hi kevin, i’m a student at collage in Indonesia. And I just want to start making sourdough starter. I want to ask, is it okay that i just using hard flour? Because we don’t have wheat flour or rye flour here. Thanks you kevin
Karen Mattioda says
I’m getting ready to make the sourdough starter today , as I was going through your post I seen a picture of Lily and got all teared up. You and Mr. Fox are still in my prayers. Wish me luck on the starter
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Thank you, Karen. Mr. Fox and I are still crying over the loss of Lily the Beagle. We miss her terribly!
My Dad used to make us sourdough pancakes using buckwheat flour. They looked a little funny…almost black and not very fluffy. But oh so good. Quite sour. But the contrast between the sour pancakes and the real maple syrup was heavenly! We always had sausage links on the side, which added a great salty dimension. I need to dig out that recipe!
My question is , “How in the world did a Gold Rush Miner” carry enough flour on a Pack Mule to
feed a Sourdough Starter a cup of flour every day, that is insane, do the math :):).
Thank you for sharing this recipe. So that I don’t have an overwhelming amount of starter, can I add 1/4 cup of each flour & a half cup of water a day for the first 7 days?
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Ashlie – You can absolutely use a smaller amount of flour/water than I use. There are no rules with sourdough starter.
I made my starter yesterday, but instead of pouring off half I just added another cup of flour & enough water to make a thick paste. Will that mess the process up?
Hi Kevin, I’m trying your sourdough boule recipe this morning and I can’t wait to see the result. I thought in the meantime I’d tell you that I’ve had my sourdough starter for 40 years. I got it from a friend who said it was from the original Sanfranciso Sourdough Starter that the prospectors used to take out to their gold claims, but I can’t confirm that. Anyway, I have always just kept mine in the fridge and have not fed it until I wanted to use it. Then I bring it out onto the counter, feed it till it’s nice and bubbly and then use it in cinnamon rolls and breads. Now, with the internet, I’ve learned I may be risking killing mine off by not feeding it occasionally while it rests in the fridge, but if I haven’t after 40 years I doubt it will suddenly die on me???
Suzanne Gravelle says
I met a woman from Yukon this winter. She runs a Bakery for sourdough bread in the summers. She takes her starter with her yo Mexico to keep it alive. It is 65 years old!!
Hi Kevin —
Looking forward to trying your method. I used to bake sourdough breads — it will be fun to get back into it!
Trish Peterson says
I have been looking for an easy sourdough recipe for sme time. I will be trying this one. Suzanne Gravelle – I am also from the Yukon. Where was your Sourdough lady from? We have a seasonal bakery here in Dawson City; the owners go South in the winters.