When I tell you that anyone can make this sourdough starter from scratch using yeast, I truly mean it! In only a few days you can transform a simple mixture of flour, water and a little yeast into a sourdough starter.
From there, you can use it in sourdough recipes like sourdough bread and sourdough discard banana muffins!
I don’t know why the idea of making my own sourdough starter was so intimidating at first. Something about working with yeast seems to make us get all nervous, right?
First of all, realizing that something is alive in our kitchen (other than the humans we raise) is a little disconcerting. Plus it needs to be fed and do we really need something else in our life asking what's for dinner????
Read on, and I'll tell you why you should give this a whirl.
Why you'll love this recipe
There's nothing quite like the taste of homemade sourdough bread. It's got this tangy, chewy texture that's oddly satisfying, in the best possible way.
Even better, when you've made the starter yourself, it's like you've got a little bit of your own personality baked right in there. You are vested in the darned thing!
Now here's the thing - making a sourdough starter is kind of a commitment. You gotta take care of it, you gotta feed it, you gotta give it attention.
But in return, it'll reward you with delicious bread that'll make you the envy of all your friends and give your kitchen all the feels. It's a highly rewarding process.
What is sourdough starter, anyway?
So let's break down what sourdough starter is and why you want to take on one more mouth (jar) to feed.
Sourdough starter is like a magic ingredient you get to play with it your kitchen. It gives breads a tangy, delicious flavor that we've come to know and love.
Simply put, it made by combining flour and water, and then letting it hang out for a few days to let the natural yeast and bacteria do their stuff.
After a few days, the starter starts to look all bubbly and becomes active. From there, we can add it with more flour, water and salt to make bread and all sorts of yummy goods!
The fermentation process in the starter provides natural leavening, which makes your bread rise without the need for commercial yeast.
Now, here's the thing - sourdough starters need regular feeding schedule to keep them alive and well. You gotta make sure to give them fresh flour and water every once in a while, or they'll lose their oomph.
But if you take good care of your starter, it can last you a long, long time. Some folks even have starters that have been passed down in their families for generations!
So, that's the scoop on sourdough starters. They're a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and a whole lot of flavor.
There are a billion sourdough starter recipes out there, and a billion ways to get started.
But my version is like “sourdough for dummies”. I’m not calling you a dummy. I'll call myself the dummy. What I'm trying to say is that I went with the most simple process I could find and I lived to tell about it. We can do this, friends.
Here’s what you’ll need: RECIPE SPOT
- all purpose flour
- sugar - the sugar gives the starter something to feed on and gives the fermentation process a little jump start!
- active dry yeast - you'll need only a tablespoon to get started.
How to Make Sourdough Starter
I'm here to walk you through making your sourdough starter step-by-step.
Combine the flour, salt, sugar and dry yeast. Gradually add lukewarm water, stirring as you go. Continue mixing until you create a thick paste.
Give everything a good stir to make sure it's mixed together. Transfer to a large clean jar or plastic container.
Step 2: Cover the container loosely with some plastic wrap, a flour sack towel or a loose fitting lid. Let it sit out in a warm spot in the kitchen for about 24 hours. During that time, the yeast will start to multiply and feed on the sugars in the flour, creating a bubbly, frothy mixture. This is when the fun starts to happen.
Step 3: After 24 hours (it doesn't have to be to the minute), add another cup of flour and another cup of warm water to the bowl. Give it a good stir, cover it up, and let it sit out for another 24 hours. You'll start to see some more bubbles and fermentation happening at this point.
Step 4: On day three, repeat the process - add another cup of flour and water, stir it up, and let it sit out for 24 hours. By this point, your starter should be nice and active, with a tangy, yeasty smell.
At this point, I store the starter in my refrigerator.
Now, you can start using your starter to make bread!
How to feed starter
Just remember to feed it regularly to keep it alive and well. To do that, discard about half of the starter and then add equal parts flour and water to what's left.
I use ½ cup each of water and flour, then stir to incorporate.
Give it a good stir, and then let it sit out for a few hours to get bubbly again.
Why I like to store my starter in the fridge
Unless you're baking up sourdough goodies every day of the week, you'll probably do well with storing it in your fridge. This slows the growth somewhat making it easier for you to keep up along with everything else you have goin' on in life.
- Make sure your container is clean.
- Most of our house temperatures are on the cooler side when it comes to bread, so you can put it on top of your fridge for warmth, near an oven in use, or even in a turned off oven with the light on inside.
- Use a digital thermometer to test the water temperature for the first batch. You’ll want the water temperature to be warmer than room temperature, so about 105 -110 degrees.
- If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Too cool, and it won’t activate and do its wonderful magic.
- If you want to monitor the progress of your starter growth, you can put a rubber band around the jar. You'll see how it expands throughout the day or week!
You can also get good results by using whole wheat flour.
Whole wheat starter won’t have a lot of rising action compared to using white flour so you’ll have to plan for longer rising time.
You can also use a mixture of white flour and wheat flour to cut the rising time.
A sidenote about yeast
The expiration date of yeast is printed on the package. Yeast can expire, and usually lasts longer than the date printed on the packet if it is kept inside the refrigerator.
Why am I sharing this? Well, mine expired two years ago and it’s still alive and kickin!
Yeast will last longer if it’s stored inside the freezer.
A good way to test yeast to see if it’s still active it to place ½ teaspoon of sugar to the yeast and stir it into water to dissolve. If the yeast foams and small bubbles form within 10 minutes, the yeast is described as active and alive!
Sourdough Starter Discard
If you find you have more sourdough starter than you need as you begin to feed it, don’t throw it away! There are many sourdough discard recipes that will put all the goodness to use!
There are plenty of sourdough containers on the market, but chances are you have what you need in your house already. A quart sized plastic container or quart sized mason jar does the trick just fine.
Quicker Sourdough Starter with Yeast
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespooon sugar
- 1 Tablespooon dry yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm water 105-110 degrees
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar and dry yeast in a bowl or a large jar. Add lukewarm water, stirring as you go. (See the note about water temperature).
- Continue mixing until you create a thick paste. Cover your container with a dish towel and set in a warm place overnight.
- Stir the mixture a few times a day for two to three days. When you go to stir the mixture, look for some bubbles. You may see where the dough has risen and fallen along the side of the bowl or jar.
- You may see a liquid that has separated and risen to the top. That's okay, just stir it in.
- Add ½ cup water and ½ cup flour. Stir and recover with a dish towel.
- After a few days, the starter is ready and you can use it in recipes! Store in the refrigerator.
- You'll need to feed your starter on a regular basis. Discard ½ cup to a cup of the starter. Add ½ cup water and ½ cup flour to your starter each week. Stir to incorporate.