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Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter - 3

Like many people who do spring cleaning when March (or for us upstate NYers, May) rolls around each year, I also tend to do “fall cleaning” in September and October, in anticipation of the months of hibernation ahead. I like to wrap up major home projects we’ve been working on, give away or donate things we don’t need, and make sure that our freezer and shelves are well-stocked as we settle in for the dreary months ahead. As part of that, I decided that I need to tackle some of the things on my “kitchen projects” list, and one that has been high on that list for a while now is sourdough bread. Some of you may remember my disappointment when I received sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour that is processed with peanuts…and since I couldn’t use it, I decided toΒ give it away. Fortunately, King Arthur Flour also has a recipe for making your own sourdough starter from scratch. And although their directions for care of sourdough starter pertain only to the starter they sell, one quick live chat with one of their helpful bakers was all it took to create a complete list of instructions for those who want to make their own. I’ve detailed the instructions below so that you can make and maintain your own starter. Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a sourdough recipe in which to use it!

Recipe adapted from here.

Step 1: In a large glass bowl, pour in the water. Dissolve the honey in the water. Add in the yeast, and let that dissolve as well. Gradually stir in the flour, and then cover the bowl with a clean dish cloth. The mixture will begin to bubble almost immediately.

Sourdough Starter - 1

Place the bowl in a warm place and let it sit for 8-12 hours.

Sourdough Starter - 2

Step 2: After the 8-12 hours, stir the starter and discard half. Add 1/2 cup warm water and 1 cup flour. The starter should have the consistency of pancake batter. Cover the bowl with the dish cloth again and let sit for 2-4 hours more, until bubbly again.

Step 3: After the 2-4 hours, stir the starter and discard half again. Add another 1/2 cup warm water and 1 cup flour. Cover the bowl with the dish cloth again and let sit 2-4 hours longer.Β The starter should be bubbly, though not as bubbly as it was when you first started.

Step 4: Stir the starter down and then place it in a stoneware or glass container, loosely covered with a lid. Store in the refrigerator.

To maintain: To maintain your starter, try to feed it at least once a week, although it can go for a month or longer. The starter may have a substantial layer of green, grey, or brown liquid on the top and that is okay; it is simply alcohol from the fermenting yeast.

Sourdough Starter - 4

(Note however that if the liquid is pink, or if the starter smells bad (rather than just tangy), then the starter has attracted the wrong bacteria and should be discarded.)

Stir the liquid into the mixture below (you can also drain some of the liquid off the top, if you want). Discard half, then add 1/2 cup warm water and 1 cup flour. Stir the starter until smooth and then return it to the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Posted by on September 12, 2011.


Categories: breads & pastries

26 Responses

  1. Great post, Tracy! I just threw away my sourdough starter that had turned funny colors after months of neglect this summer. Oops! I was just thinking that I need to make my own last week and I never got it started. Adding it to the list… As soon as the basement is clean. πŸ™‚

    by Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction on Sep 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

  2. Wonderful, helpful post! Sourdough starter makes me nervous, but I feel a bit more confident after reading this!

    by Julia on Sep 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm

  3. What a great post. I have always been fearful of making a sourdough starter. This has demystified that completely!! Thanks a bunch!!

    by Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet on Sep 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm

  4. Neat! Very cool. Thanks for the info πŸ™‚

    by Katrina on Sep 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

  5. This may be a stupid question, but how and with what do you feed it?

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m going to start my own this week.

    by Joy on Sep 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm

  6. Joy – There are no stupid questions here! Feeding refers to adding the 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

    by Tracy on Sep 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

  7. It will take three days to do this Tracy. LOL! Just order some from San Francisco. The next time I am there, I will send you some.

    Great post! I will try it too at some point. Can’t believe you got them to tell you the “how to”. Brave woman! Happy wintering!

    by Sonia Rumzi on Sep 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

  8. I’ve been wanting to try this for so long! I’m glad you said there are no stupid questions here, because I think this one might be: Is there a reason why it has to be a glass bowl? Would it react badly to a metal or plastic one?

    I’m not sure if I’ve commented here before, but I love your site!

    by Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen on Sep 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm

  9. Maggie – Great question! Since sourdough is acidic, it will react with metal or plastic bowls. It’s also porous, so it can absorb the metallic or plastic taste. That’s why it’s best to use a glass bowl, or ceramic if you don’t have glass. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

    by Tracy on Sep 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm

  10. Actually, the use of yeast is completely unnecessary. All you need is unbleached flour and non-chlorinated water, the natural yeasts in the flour and bacteria in the air will do the rest.

    by Paul on Sep 13, 2011 at 7:09 am

  11. Great post, Tracy. I really need to get that starter keeper from KAF. When I ordered just their starter last year, I put it in glass jars in the fridge, and then neglected it for weeks. Sadly, it turned really gross colors, and I recently threw it away. If it lived in a bigger container that couldn’t be shoved to the back of the fridge, I think I’d pay a lot more attention to it.

    And Paul, while you may be right, yeast definitely does enhance the flavor of the starter intensely. I wouldn’t want sourdough without it.

    by Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies on Sep 13, 2011 at 8:09 am

  12. Paul – It’s true, there is more than one way to start a sourdough starter, although I prefer to make mine with yeast. For a great post on starter without any yeast, check out Shaina’s post here!

    by Tracy on Sep 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

  13. Love your detailed instructions! What a great post for those who (like me) are woefully inexperienced in the Realm of Yeast.

    by Jenna on Sep 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm

  14. So what do you do with the starter when you want to make sour dough bread? What do you add? Maybe I missed this some how πŸ™‚

    by andria on Sep 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  15. I’ve never made sourdough. I need to try it!

    by Maria on Sep 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  16. Andria – I didn’t cover that in this post, but I’ll be posting a recipe that uses sourdough starter tomorrow!

    by Tracy on Sep 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm

  17. Tempting….so very tempting. Bread starter and yogurt are on my list for this winter….

    by Angela Watts on Sep 14, 2011 at 12:46 am

  18. For more great information try The Fresh Loaf website, they have a few forums exclusively for sourdough bread, including making and maintaining your own starter, baking sourdough bread, etc….. huge amount of info there.

    by KarenCooks on Sep 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

  19. Just a reminder that filtered water is best. Tap water has chlorine in it that cat kill the yeast or at least slow it down. My city adds WAY too much to the water supply and I can easily kill off my yeast if I don’t filter.

    by Nick on Sep 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm

  20. this may be the silliest question….why are we discarding half? and approximately how much is that? Are we talking a cup, half a cup? couldn’t we just make more starter? or use it for something.

    by Sue on Sep 20, 2011 at 10:40 pm

  21. Sue – You need to discard half when you feed your starter or else you’ll end up with a starter that’s taking over your refrigerator since you’ll just keep adding to it. Usually you are discarding about a cup, and you can certainly use that in a recipe or give it to a friend. Hope that helps!

    by Tracy on Sep 21, 2011 at 10:43 am

  22. Super excited to use this recipe and I’m currently on step 4. I’ve discarded and added, discarded and added and now ready to store but mine is really thick kinda like really wet bread dough. Is this what it’s supposed to be like or should it be runnier? I really hope I did this right.

    by Kim on Oct 31, 2011 at 11:44 pm

  23. Kim – I would add a little more water so it’s the consistency of (thick) pancake batter. I do it all the time to mine, and it turns out just fine. Hope that helps!

    by Tracy on Nov 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

  24. Hi , I am new at making sour dough starter and I failed 3 times this week. Can u make the starter in a 32 oz jar and cover with plastic? I”m using a pickle jar. and I put it on the counter next to stove. My sister in law has her own recipe and I have failed with it. Going to try this one and see if it works. Thanks for sharing and God bless! Jazzy

    by Jazzy on Mar 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm

  25. Can u leave this starter out all the time ? and just put it in the fridge when u aren’t using it?

    by Jazzy on Mar 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

  26. Jazzy – I think a pickle jar may be a little too small; I use a medium-large mixing bowl to make the starter, and then transfer it to a 1 quart capacity crock for storage. You’re going to want to store the starter in the refrigerator once you’ve finished making it unless you plan to feed it daily – otherwise, it can be fed weekly if stored in the refrigerator.

    by Tracy on Apr 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

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About Sugarcrafter

Hi there! I’m Tracy, and I live in upstate NY. My husband and I met in college and have been married since 2005. A Canning, baking, writing, photography, and even cleaning (yes, cleaning – it can be oddly relaxing), are all things that I enjoy. This blog brings all of those passions together – but […]more →