Updated: Apr 23, 2020
How to make sourdough starter
(I highly recommend using igital scales for a better outcome.)
Making starter is a fairly simple undertaking, it involves only two ingredients; flour and water.
It takes approximately 5-10 days for the starter to develop.
To make my starter I used 1 part flour and 1 part water. The flour I used when making my current starter was an unbleached bakers flour bought from supermarket.
Day 1: use 25g flour and 25g water. Mix them well in a small container, fit it with a loose lid and leave for 24 hours.
Day 2: Once 24 hours have passed discard 25g of the mixture and add 25g of flour and 25g of water, mix well and agin cover and leave for another 24 hours.
Day 3: Discard 50g of the mixture and mix 25g of water and 25g of flour, wait another 24 hours.
Day 4: Repeat the 50g discard and mixing 25g of flour with 25g of water so you always end up with 75g of starter in the end.
Day 5-6-7-8-9-10: Repeat day 4 process for another 3-6 days.
(After a couple of days you will get a feel for how much flour/water is used as the measurements don’t need to be precise - as long as the ratios are about correct it will be fine and you can do it by eye without the use of the scales when feeding the starter, however on the day of baking and when making the starter buildup and mixing the dough I recommend using scales.)
The most ambient temperature for sourdough starter is between 24-26C.
Once your starter has developed (about 8-10 days) it will take another few days for it to be ready to bake with, and this is when you will start feeding it 2 times per day to increase the count of bacteria and to add vigour to your starter.
For the first two days of your starter journey it will look like nothing is happening, however, don’t give up and continue with the process as long as there are no signs of spoilage (bad smell or mould. Also take to note that on the first two days your new starter, it will have a peculiar smell), usually by day 4-5 there will be a few bubbles on the surface. In some instances if you are in a warm and humid climate the bubbles can appear much sooner. When your starter reaches its maturity it will smell like sour cream or buttermilk.
After 8-10 days you may start feeding your starter 2 times per day for the next few days to increase the amount of bacteria that will aid with the fermentation and rise of your sourdough.
Normally I keep my sourdough starter on the kitchen bench and feed it regularly (first thing in the morning while my kettle is on the boil and just before I go to bed.)
Caring for your starter:
What you will need:
Plain, bakers or bread flour
Wide neck jar
For the best results feed your starter 2-3 times a day for at least 1-2 days ahead of baking. Feeding it multiple times increases the count of bacteria and strengthen the starter and in turn it produces loaves with a much better rise. Also, maintaining regular feeding regimen helps to keep the starter healthy (no bad pathogens will make their way into the starter that is well fed and has a hight amount of good bacteria).
Feed the starter regularly, however, if you think you are not going to be able to bake with it for a while, then simply put it into the fridge straight after the last feed.
When your starter is refrigerated feed it once a week using same technique of discard and feed.
Often, after starter has been refrigerated it develops a greyish colour on the surface and has liquid on top (it is called hooch). Simply discard the liquid, discard some of the starter and feed it just like you normally would do.
I feed my starter with a mixture of 1 part wholemeal and 1 part unbleached bakers flour. The amount of feed varies depending on how quick the starter matures after it is fed and reaches its peak (the peak is usually seen around 4-6 hours after starter has been fed. The doming of starter is a good indicator that starter has reached its peak. Once starter has domed and then starts to fall, it means the peak has passed), peaking is the time to give the starter another feed to maintain high count of bacteria, it is particularly important to watch for the peak (doming) on the day of baking and before mixing the starter buildup (prepare starter buildup once the starter has reached its peak, normally it occurs about 4-6 hours after feeding however it can happen sooner in a warmer weather). Starter buildup will promote a much better rise in the dough and will ultimately sped up the process of rising in comparison if it’s not used.
If your starter looks watery with many small bubbles over it and smells very acidic, it indicated that the starter is “hungry” and needs extra feeding. In this case discard most of the starter leaving a small amount in the jar and feed with greater amounts of flour and water to the starter ratio (for example if there is 10g starter leftover feed it with 30g flour and 30g water.
To feed the starter I keep a container with a mix of 500g wholemeal flour and 500g bakers flour. When feeding the starter I usually hold on to about 15-20g of the starter while discarding the rest, and mix it with 30g flour mix (1 part wholemeal and 1 part bread flour) and 30g water. Also, during night feeds and on no bake days I use much less of the starter (i.e. discard more of the starter before feeding).
If my starter has been refrigerated, after taking it out of the fridge I bring it to room temperature, discard half and feed it up to 3 times a day for up to 2 consecutive days before baking with it. Doing this helps to bring the bacteria count back.
Keeping starter in a warm place is another important factor and same applies to the dough when it is proofing.
When feeding starter it is preferable for all ingredients to be of warm room temperature (24-26C). The temperature of the water fed to the stater buildup and when mixing the bread dough can be up to 33C. Maintaining regular warm temperatures helps to maintain timely rising of starter and consecutively of the bread dough.
Tip: Collect all the discarded starter into a container and keep it in the fridge (it will be good for a week). When you have enough you can make crackers with it.
Starter build up:
The amount of starter mixed into starter buildup can vary: it can be 1.1.1 or can be 2.1.1 (100g starter, 50g water, 50 flour). Most bakers will have their own measurements depending on their circumstances. The circumstances will vary depending on temperature, strength of the starter and quality of flour just to name a few. Same applies for feeding the starter, it all depends on the circumstance of the particular baker and with time we all find what works best for us and our starter. Watching how our starter reacts ( how long it takes to reach its peak, how long it maintains its peak, how it reacts to different flours and changes in temperature etc…) will help to find our own formula that works best for us.
50g active starter (4-5 hours after morning feed)
50g (1/4 cup) lukewarm water
50g (1/3 cup) flour
To make a starter build up mix 50g of active starter with 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 1/3 cup flour. (starter is considered active 4-5 hours after it has been fed)
Allow starter build up to mature in a warm place for 4 hours. ( I use a metric jug when making the build up and once the starter reaches 1 cup
measurements it is ready to use)
Sourdough Bread Recipe:
What utensils you need:
Wide neck jar with a lid
4-5L Cast iron pot (dutch oven)
Scoring knife or a razor blade
There are several ways of making sourdough and every baker with time will adapt to their own way of making sourdough. The method I’m sharing here is working well for me at this time. It can be made as a same day bake (once the dough has gone through a process of stretches and folds, rising and then shaped, given the time to rise again and then finally baked), or the dough can be placed into the fridge overnight to develop further and baked the next day.
If I’m baking the bread on the same day I start my bake with a cold cast iron pot however if I’m retarding my shaped loaf overnight in the fridge I preheat the cast iron pot before baking bread in it.
150g starter build up
350g-360g lukewarm water
80g wholemeal flour
420g bread flour (bakers or plain flour is ok to use too)
10g sea salt
Mix all dough ingredients together and using a stretch and fold method knead for up to 10 minutes. Cover and set aside for 45 minutes then repeat stretch and fold again, then again every 45 minutes thereafter for 4 times. Cover the dough between each stretch and fold (I use shower cap to cover my dough bowls) It takes about 6 hours from the time dough has been mixed for it to come up. Once your dough is ready give it a final stretch and fold and leave it for 20 minutes before doing the final shaping. To do the final shaping dust the bench with flour then gently move the dough onto the bench. After you have shaped your loaf (it should be nice and tight) move it into the cast iron pot (dutch oven) lined with baking paper. Cover with lid and allow to sit in a warm place for around 1 hour, it will depend on the temperature how long it will take for the dough to rise.
Preheat oven to 240C
When the dough is ready, score it with a sharp knife or a razor blade. Pour 1 tbsp of water under the baking paper (it will create steam and help with the rise), and cover with the lid.
Place the pot into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid, reduce temperature to 230C and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Once the bread is baked remove from the pot and allow it to cool on a cooling rack.
If you are choosing to bake your bread the next day then you will need a proofing basket. If you haven't got a proofing basket you can use any round bowl that will resemble proofing basket (in past I have used a round sieve). Line the proofing basket with tea towel generously dusted with flour. Shape the dough on a floured bench top, rub with some flour the side of the dough that will be facing down and pop it into the proofing bowl. Cover with a shower cap or another bowl on top and leave for 30 minutes on the counter bench before moving it to the fridge for an overnight retard. Leaving the dough in a cold fridge overnight slows down the fermentation and allows the flavour to develop. A very cold fridge is recommended for an overnight proofing to ensure the process of fermentation is cut down to minimum.
In the morning remove the proofing basket with dough out of the fridge. Place the cast iron pot into oven and preheat to 240C. It will take about 30 minutes.
Once the pot is hot, tear a 30cm piece of baking paper and cover the proofing bowl with it, then top with a small chopping board (or similar flat board) and in one movement invert the said so that your dough is now on the board. Gently remove the tea towel, dust the dough with a bit of flour and score to your liking. (You can watch me do all of the above on my social media channels where I'm going to share further tips and how-to's of sourdough baking).
Remove the hot lid from the cast iron pot, then carefully slide and drop the dough into the pot. Pour 1 tbsp water under the baking paper, cover with lid and bake for 20 minutes before removing the lid, dropping the temperature of the oven to 230C and baking for an additional 20-25 minutes.
Remove bread from the pot and cool on a cooling rack.