Making sourdough bread can take a lot of time to make. Its no secret that the best way to make sourdough is to use a sourdough starter recipe. The way I see it, if you are going to spend the time and make a sourdough bread then you should do it with a sourdough bread starter to get the best end result you possibly can! After reading this you will know everything you need to know about carrying this out.
Homemade Sourdough Bread Starter Recipe Terms
Activation- The process of feeding or refreshing asourdough starter.The purpose of this is to have a useable culture within 6-8 hours to be used in baking.
Starter- This term refers to the recipe itself. This is the fermented mixture of flour and water used as a leavening agent use to make sourdough breads. It may also be referred to as culture, mother culture, leaven, head, or sponge.
Feeding- This term refers to adding more flour and water to your sourdough starter to refresh the acidity and PH levels. This allows the starter to continue to ferment. You may also see this process referred to as “refreshing” or “maintaining”.
Fresh Starter- Also known as “active starter”. This refers to a starter that has just been fed or refreshed.
Hydration- This refers to the ratio of flour and water in your sourdough bread starter recipe.
Hooch- The liquid that will sometimes appear on top of your sourdough starter. This is often the product of a neglected starter due to infrequent feedings.
Lactobacilli- Also known as “natural yeast” or “good bacteria”. This is a bacterium that creates lactic acid and creates carbon dioxide. It will give your sourdough bread its characteristic tang and helps with leavening.
Homemade Sourdough Starter Ingredients
When making a sourdough starter, you need to use a flour that is nutrient rich and unbleached. This limits your flour to whole wheat options. Flours made from einkorn, rice, spelt, and rye will suffice in this process. The most common flour people use for their homemade sourdough starter is bread flour.
Bread flour yields safe results. The reason why bread flour is the most used, is because it produces the best yields. In other words, you get more bang for your buck. It’s also an exceptionally reliable starter. So, if you are a beginner baker then bread flour may be the best choice for you.
The reason you want to use whole wheat four is because of the content of the flour. Whole wheat flour contains nutrients from the wheat that is otherwise discarded. This is the stuff that is going to produce the “natural yeast” in your sourdough bread starter recipe. This translates directly into the rise of your bread during the cooking process.
Although whole grain is best, it has its downfalls. The high nutrient content of the whole grain flours is a plus, but it makes a temperamental homemade sourdough starter. It can be unpredictable when growing. There is definitely a risk when using these types of flours, but the reward is the best flavor in your final product.
The water you use in your sourdough starter is important. This is where most newbies fall short and don’t know why. The water you use must be a filtered water. You cannot use tap water because of the chlorine and other additives in it will kill any fermentation.
Make sure your water is filtered. If you are unsure your water is filtered, then you have a couple back up plans. You can bring tap water to a boil which will cook out any effects of unwanted additives, but then you need to cool down. You can also use your fridge. All water in your refrigerator is filtered. So use the spout or melt ice.
When feeding your starter, the water has to have particular qualities as well. The same rules apply to feeding the starter when it comes to using filtered water. There is another major rule you need to follow as well. When feeding your starter, you need to use warm water. The water needs to be around 100 F. This will ensure the “natural yeast” bacteria wont die or become dormant when you add it.
How to Make This Homemade Sourdough Bread Starter Recipe
First off, we will start with the starter! This process takes up to a week, so you need to be sure to plan ahead. Begin by mixing equal parts by weight of flour and water in a glass jar. The jar should then be covered with cheese cloth or a lid and kept in a warm area.
The second day the sourdough bread starter needs to be agitated. All you need to do is to stir the starter with a clean wooden spoon.
The third day we start the feeding process. We will do this feeding every day until day 7. To do this, you take half of the starter and add it to a 1:1 ratio of flour and water and stir until smooth. Cover with cheese cloth and set in a warm place. You repeat this process until day 7. You do not need to discard half of your starter every day, if you don’t will end up with a lot!
You will know your starter is done by a few attributes. The starter will double in size within 6 to 12 hours of the last feeding. The sourdough starter recipe will look airy and puffy with lots of bubbles on the top surface.
Homemade Sourdough Bread Starter Recipe Tricks and Tips
When making a sourdough starter recipe, it will call for you to keep a starter in a warm place. This means and area that is somewhere between 68 F and 70 F. This creates an ideal environment for the bacteria to grow that is necessary for this type of fermentation.
If you don’t have any places in your kitchen that maintain this temperature, don’t worry! You can always use your oven with the light on. If the light is on constantly, and you don’t open the door to often, the temperature will sit right around 70F.
Your starter will let you know if it hasn’t been fed enough. You will notice a thin liquid develop on top, this liquid is called “hooch”. You can mix this liquid back in or pour it off. If you keep the hooch, then your bread will be a touch sourer flavored. If you discard it, then your bread will have a milder flavor.
Weigh your Ingredients
Use a digital scale to weigh your ingredients. It is safe to say that making a homemade sourdough bread starter recipe is an exact science. Be as precise as you possibly can by weighing your ingredients. You can find kitchen scales for 15 dollars now days. Just be sure the scale weighs to the tenth of a gram.
Seal your jar
This won’t create an airtight seal, but the more it’s sealed the better. I like to use cheese cloth, but I fold it over itself 3-4 times. I then use a rubber band around the neck of the jar. You can also use a hinged lid jar that creates an airtight seal.
Recipes will almost always ask you to stir flour and water into your sourdough starter. Use metal utensils to mix these ingredients into the starter. Wood won’t affect the bacteria in the mixture, but other materials may hurt it.
There are a few characteristics to look for when you are checking for doneness. You will know its done when it has doubled in size on the 7th day. There will also be bubbles forming on the top and through out the culture. It will also have a pleasant yeasty aroma.
Storing your sourdough starter depends on your baking frequency. If you bake a few times a week, then I would store it at room temperature, that way there is no waiting period of pulling it in and out of the fridge. You will have to feed this culture at least once per day if stored at room temperature.
If you don’t bake quite that often, then store it in the fridge. Make sure that the sourdough bread starter recipe is covered at this point, and you will only need to feed it once week. You can also feed the starter cold, so you don’t need to warm it up.
Homemade Sourdough Bread Starter Recipe FAQS
1. My kitchen isn’t 70 F. Where can I put my sourdough bread starter to stay warm?
When in doubt, use your oven with the light on. As long as the door stays closed, the heat from the light will keep an ideal environment for fermentation of the sourdough bread starter.
2. What is this liquid on top of my starter?
That liquid is called Hooch. This liquid is equivalent to the leftover liquid when making yogurt called whey. Hooch has its purpose. You can stir this back into your starter or pour it off. If you keep it, it will make your bread a bit sourer. Discard it for a mild flavored sourdough.
3. Why isn’t my starter rising?
Most of the time, it is the flour you are using. At minimum it needs to be whole wheat flour and definitely needs to be unbleached. Bleached flour ruins any opportunity at fermentation.
4. Why does my sourdough bread starter smell like this?
Your sourdough starter should have a “yeasty” smell like bread. If it starts to smell like alcohol, then it needs some love. Fix this by doubling up on the feedings per day until it smells yeasty again. If you begin to see mold, then throw away and start over.
5. Doesn’t Sealing the starter cause it to explode?
No, not this way. Note that there is still room for the carbon dioxide to exit the jar through the cheese cloth. It just lets it out a slower rate this just makes a more flavorful starter in the end.
6. Can I switch the flours I feed my starter with?
Yes, but if your starter is used to getting a particular flour, then slowly implement the new flour by mixing it with the other. It may grow slowly at first, but it will speed up.
7. How long does it take to make a sourdough starter recipe?
This homemade sourdough bread starter recipe will take approximately 7 days or so. It all depends on the temperature it is kept at.
8. My starter is smelling alcoholic. I have increased the feedings, but it still smells like alcohol. What’s wrong?
Try discarding more of the starter next feeding. It sounds like the acidity and PH are off a bit. By discarding more, it will reset the PH levels back to a healthy area.
Homemade Sourdough Starter Recipe
Yield: 2 Cups Starter
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Fermentation Time: 7 Days
150 Grams Whole Grain Flour
150 Grams Filtered Water, Unchlorinated
1 bag Bread Flour, for Feeding
In a glass jar, mix the flour and water with a wooden spoon. Be sure to incorporate all the dry flour in thoroughly. Close the lid on the jar, or use cheesecloth folded over itself secured with a rubber band. Let sit out in a warm place (68 F to 70 F) for 24 – 48 hours.
Check your starter for bubbles. If you don’t see any let it go for another 12 to 24 hours. If there are bubbles, its time to feed it. To feed it, discard half of the starter by weight. This will reset the PH levels. Next, Add 150 grams of bread flour and 150 grams of bread flour. Mix this mixture until its fully incorporated. Let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
You should be starting to see some decent activity in your starter by now. Discard half of the starter once more. Then add 150 grams of bread flour and 150 grams of bread flour. Mix this mixture until its fully incorporated. Let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
Day 4 -6
Continue the feeding process for the next few days by adding 150 grams of bread flour and 150 grams of bread flour. Mix this mixture until its fully incorporated. Let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.
If you notice one day that your starts are smelling alcoholic, or like rubbing alcohol. Don’t worry. You just need to double your feedings at this point. You will use the same feeding formula but do it twice a day!
Feed your starter once more by adding 150 grams of bread flour and 150 grams of bread flour. Mix this mixture until its fully incorporated. Let this mixture sit out at room temperature for 6-8 hours. You will know it is done by the number of bubbles in the mixture and if it has grown in volume.
If these things have occurred, then your sourdough starter is ready to use!
If you like this sourdough bread starter recipe, then let’s put it to the test!
Check out my homemade sourdough bread recipe with starter!