Easy to make basic sourdough starter recipe, ready to use in about 7 days time using just flour and water, including instructions on how to look after your sourdough starter. Use this sourdough starter to bake your own bread, rolls and other bakery treats.
There are so many different recipes for sourdough starter. And because of that, it’s hardly surprising that when you are just starting to bake your own sourdough bread, it can be very confusing to know which recipe is the best one to choose.
This is why I’ve also included my favourite recipes and tips on how to make your own sourdough starter successfully and how to troubleshoot your sourdough starter if you encounter any problems.
What is sourdough starter
Sourdough starter is basically active wild yeast that works in the same way as baker’s yeast. This is to raise a bread dough during a bread baking process, which takes a lot longer (24-72 hrs) than baking a regular bread.
A sourdough starter is essential for sourdough bread baking. The final flavour of your sourdough bread depends partly on the type of sourdough starter.
Often people have two different sourdough starters, one for white bread (made with white bread flour) and one for wholemeal breads (made with rye or wholemeal flours).
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Sourdough starter & Me
I have to admit that although sourdough bread baking is a bit of a science, I’ve never been too worried about the exact proportions, ingredients and optimal temperatures. Sure it all helps, but it’s more important to understand what’s behind all of this, and not to worry too much about the perfect recipe for a successful sourdough starter.
My own sourdough bread starter, which is about 15 years old, is a mixture of all different flours and I always use it in my sourdough bread baking course with my students.
- Suitable container with a lid
- Whisk – optional
All you will need is a clean container with a lid. This could be plastic or glass container. I prefer plastic container with a loose lid, just in case the sourdough starter gets over excited and starts bubbling over.
If you have one of those maison jars with click on lids, these can even shatter if the sourdough starter is too strong.
For mixing I usually use just fork, but once in a while I do put my sourdough starter into a mixer and whisk it to get more air in. This is usually when I’m trying to revive older sourdough starter, not when I’m starting one.
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Sourdough starter ingredients
Some people like to add grapes or apples in, some people only use natural non-chlorinated water and some are convinced that you need organic flour for sourdough starter.
The truth is, that all you need is just bread flour, water and a bit of patience.
Any flour and any water….
Everything else you add in, say the grated apples helps to speed up the process a little or to change the flavour, but you can make a perfectly good sourdough starter with just white bread flour and water.
What type of flour is best for sourdough starter
There is no right or wrong answer here. Any strong bread flour can be used, gluten free mixes are fine too and I’ve even fed my sourdough starter with low gluten flours (cake flour, all-purpose flour).
The main thing to remember here is that your starter flavour will develop depending on what type of flour you’ll use. If you prefer lighter, less soury type of sourdough bread, use white flours.
If you prefer strong flavoured sourdough bread use wholemeal flours, heritage flours and rye flour.
- White Bread Flour
- Wholemeal Bread Flour
- Heritage flours
- Rye Flour
- Gluten – Free Bread Flour
- Gluten Free Flour Mixes (maze, potato, rice, lupin or buckwheat flour)
What type of water is best for sourdough starter
Ideally, you want to use non-chlorinated water, but over the years I’ve use tap water, bottled water and boiled and cool down water and pretty much everything worked fine.
Whilst the water is important, the flour has more nutrition for the wild bacteria to start developing, so it’s more important than the water to get right.
The basic sourdough starter recipe
Mix together 50 ml water (ideally not chlorinated treated) with 50 g of bread flour in a medium size plastic tub. Cover with the plastic lid and keep somewhere warm (not next to a hot boiler, but comfortably warm – about 23-25C).
You can use gluten-free flours if you want to keep your sourdough bread gluten free.
About 12 hours later, add 100 g water, 100g flour and mix well.
Wait another 12 hours later or little longer, discard half of the sourdough starter and then feed again with equal parts flour and water by weight to match the total weight of your starter. (So if you have 70 g starter add 35 ml water and 35 g flour to it for one feeding.)
After another 12 hours, repeat the last step with first taking away half of the sourdough starter and then feeding it.
Carry on for the rest of the week or longer (the longer you leave it the easier your sourdough bread will be to digest), until the starter doubles in volume between feedings. After that, you are ready to bake!
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Sourdough Starter Ingredients Variations
Use the basic recipe and add a little bit of grated apple, a few squashed grapes or replace the water with natural grapes juice or beer. Other ingredients you can try are pineapple juice, orange juice or 1/2 boiled potato mashed up or in a dry form if you have it.
All of these ingredients have one thing in common – they will help to establish fermenting a little faster and also might change the flavour – depending on what you use.
- grated apple
- grape juice
- pineapple juice
- orange juice
- mashed potato
- natural yoghurt
Buttermilk Sourdough Starter
A buttermilk starter is best for beginners as it already contains the lactic acid bacilli necessary for the growth of good microflora. It is also one of the fastest methods of starting your sourdough starter.
Mix about 150 g of bread flour, with 150g of water in a medium size plastic tub. Add about 50g of buttermilk and a teaspoonful of caster sugar. Cover and allow to sit at room temp for about 3 days.
You don’t need to feed it every day or every 12 hrs, but do watch the buttermilk sourdough starter, just in case it bubbles too much!
After 3 days the starter should be bubbling vigorously, and you will need to feed it. Remove about 50g of the starter and feed it with 100g of water and 100g of flour.
Wait until this mixture doubles, which can take another 6-12 hrs. After that, you can use it to bake your bread or refrigerate until you needed.
Typically, you would only use about 100g of this starter to bake bread.
Beer Sourdough Starter
If you have an artisan brewery local to you, ask if you can have some barn, which will have a natural yeast starter in.
Feed the beer mixture with flour and water with about 50/50 ratio for 3 days, after which your beer starter should be strong enough to use.
Carry on looking after your beer sourdough starter in exactly the same way as a regular sourdough starter, including feeding, discarding and using for sourdough bread baking.
Your sourdough bread might have a slightly malty flavour, but that’s the beauty of working with real flavours.
How to look after your sourdough starter once it’s established
No matter what recipe you choose, make sure that you feed and look after your sourdough starter afterwards.
If you are keeping the sourdough starter at room temperature it needs to be fed and discarded every day.
If you keep your sourdough bread starter it in the fridge, feeding and discarding once a week is fine.
Please don’t through your sourdough starter disard away. There are many recipes, which can be adapted to be used with sourdough starter discard, such as breakfast pancakes, muffins, breads or rolls.
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So, here you have it, various ways of making your own sourdough starter! If you’ve tried your own, I’d love to know how you got on, so feel free to share your experience with making your own sourdough starter.
Basic sourdough starter
- plastic or glass container with a lid
- fork or spoon
- 50 ml water
- 50 grams bread flour
- Mix together 50 ml water (ideally not chlorinated treated) with 50 g of bread flour in a medium size plastic tub.
- Cover with the plastic lid and keep somewhere warm (not next to a hot boiler, but comfortably warm – about 23-25C).
- You can use gluten-free flours if you want to keep your sourdough bread gluten free.
- About 12 hours later, add 100 g water, 100g flour and mix well. Don’t discard at this stage
- Wait another 12 hours later or little longer (until you see your starter bubbling), discard half of the sourdough starter and then feed again with equal parts flour and water by weight to match the total weight of your starter. (So if you have 70 g starter add 35 ml water and 35 g flour to it for one feeding.)
- After another 12 hours, repeat the last step with first taking away half of the sourdough starter and then feeding it.
- Carry on for the rest of the week or longer (the longer you leave it the easier your sourdough bread will be to digest), until the starter doubles in volume between feedings.
- When your sourdough starter is bubbling and has a well developed slightly sour smell, you are ready to bake!
This blog post was originally written on 01/01 January 2017 and last updated on 14 October 2022