Learning to make a Sourdough Starter can open the doors for several simple and tasty recipes for you. You can prepare a Sourdough Starter and store it for future use. You can use it anytime to bake bread or satisfy your taste buds with some yummy baking recipes that are also good for your health.
What is Wild Yeast?
Before we learn how to prepare a Sourdough Starter, let us first have a clear understanding of what wild yeast is. Wild yeast is the key ingredient you will need while preparing a Sourdough Starter.
You must already be aware of yeast that is commonly used in baking recipes. Wild yeast is nothing but a natural version of the commercially available yeast. It is a naturally existing form of yeast that blows around in the air, in the bag of flour, and even on the surface of grapes.
Several centuries ago, when the packaged yeast was yet to be invented, bakers had to use a sourdough starter to ensure they had a steady supply of yeast at all times. They relied on the wild yeast present in the air to ferment the dough.
The process involved keeping a pot of live yeast culture in a flour or water medium and “feeding” it every day. The feeding was necessary to allow the yeast to stay active and alive.
Later, the use of wild yeast was replaced by the commercial, packaged yeast as it was easier for manufacturers to mass produce the later. The use of packaged yeast also made it easier for bakers to prepare baked items.
On the contrary, using wild yeast was a finicky and fussy process as it needed a medium, a sourdough starter, to be used in baking. The medium also had to be maintained and monitored constantly.
Also, wild yeast likes an acidic environment, and cooler temperatures, and works too slowly to proof bread. Hence, bakers found it convenient to switch to using packaged yeast that needed no medium, worked faster or required no specific conditions.
However, in spite of all the conveniences offered by the packaged yeast, it is the wild yeast that is still considered amazing stuff!
The texture and flavor you can get from bread and baked goods prepared with wild yeast cannot be matched by the bread prepared with commercial yeast. The flavors are interesting and more complex, while the texture is enjoyable to chew as well as sturdier.
This is why; we are making special efforts to learn how to make a Sourdough Starter so that you can enjoy the great flavors derived from wild yeast.
What is a Sourdough Starter?
A Sourdough Starter refers to the cultivation of wild yeast in a form that can be used for baking. As wild yeast is naturally present in all flours, the best way to prepare a Sourdough Starter is to combine the flour and water and let it sit for a few days.
Preparation of Sourdough starter does not need any fancy ingredient to “capture” the wild yeast because this key ingredient is already present in the flour.
Read further to find a detailed description of the quantity of the ingredients, and the exact process of preparation and feeding the Sourdough Starter.
- HEALTHY: Blend of bacteria and yeast that boosts nutritional content and creates incredible flavor
- SMART: With proper care, heirloom starters can be reused indefinitely
- VERSATILE: Make more than just bread! Try pancakes, pasta, pizza crust, muffins, cakes and more!
- PREMIUM: Made with fresh, high-quality natural and non-gmo ingredients
- SAFE: Pathogen tested by a trusted third-party lab
Equipment and Ingredients for Making Your Own Sourdough Starter
Baking sourdough bread and baked goods can become an easy process once you have prepared a Sourdough Starter. A Sourdough Starter does not require any special equipment and ingredients apart from water and flour. Additionally, there are several options you can try to suit your personal preferences.
However, your Sourdough Starter may not come out to be perfect in the first try. While the process is a very simple one, it does require you to exercise judgement about when to feed it and when exactly it is ready to use.
While expert cooks are able to master the art of preparing Sourdough Starter in the first attempt itself, you may need two or more attempts to get it perfect. Read further to find the list of ingredients and equipment you will need to make your own Sourdough Starter.
Step by step guide on making sourdough starter at home.
To begin your starter:
- 1 cup whole wheat, rye or all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
To feed your starter:
- 1 cup whole wheat, rye or all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water
- Day One: Sterilise the glass container with boiling water or wash well with warm soapy water. Combine whole wheat, rye or all-purpose flour with the cool water in the glass container. Stir everything thoroughly until combined into smooth batter with no dry flour anywhere. Close the container and leave it to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Day Two: You may or may not see a bit of growth and bubbling. If there is no bubbling at all that is fine too. Sometimes it takes for the starter longer to begin to ferment. Discard half of the starter and feed the remaining starter by adding water and flour. Mix it well to remove any dry flour until combined into smooth batter. Close the container and let the mixture rest at the room temperature for 24 hours.
- Day Three: By now surface of your starter should look dotted with bubbles and starter should look larger than on the previous day. Discard the half of the starter and add new flour and water. Stir well until smooth batter texture is achieved. Close the container and let it sit at the room temperature for 24 hours.
- Day Four: Your starter should be visibly larger than previous day and more bubbles should be formed. You will also notice that starter smells a little sour and yeast-like. Repeat the Day Three feeding process and let it sit for 24 hours at the room temperature.
- Day Five: Your starter should be almost ready. Repeat Day Four process.
- Day Six: Your starter should be ripe and ready for use in baking. Keep in mind that depending on the environment starter may take up to 10 days to growth. If you feel like your starter has not grown much in the last five days, there are no many bubbles and does not have sour and yeast smell then continue to feed it for another few days.
- Used starter can be stored at the room temperature for several days but it requires feeding every second day. You can also store the starter in refrigerator but must be removed and fed once a week at room temperature for at least 12 hours before returning to the refrigerator.
Equipment: scale or measuring cup, glass container with a lid and a mixing spoon.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 432
- Sugar: 0.4 grams
- Sodium: 7.2 mg
- Fat: 2.1 grams
- Saturated Fat: 0 grams
- Trans Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 91 grams
- Fiber: 8.1 grams
- Protein: 14 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 grams
Read further to learn the right way to store the Sourdough starter in order to prevent spoilage.
How to Store a Sourdough Starter?
Once you prepare your Sourdough Starter, you may not use the entire contents immediately. If you use a small portion of the starter, you will have to keep the rest of the contents alive by continuing with the feeding process.
However, if you do not intend to bake sourdough bread every week, feeding the starter regularly will only cause you to waste more flour unnecessarily. Hence, the excess Sourdough Starter needs to be stored so that you can use it as and when needed.
The ideal way to store the Sourdough Starter is to put it in a state of hibernation so that the multiplication of wild yeast is slowed down. This can be achieved by either freezing or refrigerating the contents.
The wild yeast can survive in the cold temperatures and later, be revived when needed to bake bread again.
- Capacity 33-3/4-ounce
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How to Refrigerate Sourdough Starter?
- Place the excess sourdough starter in a jar and close it with an air-tight lid.
- If the starter has a liquid consistency, add a mixture of 2 parts of flour and 1 part of warm water to it.
- Seal the jar and keep it in the refrigerator, preferably in its coldest areas.
- Feed the starter once or twice a month.
- When you need the starter to bake, remove it from the refrigerator. Allow it adequate time to warm up to room temperature before using. Once removed from the refrigerator, it may take about 2 to 3 days for your Sourdough Starter to become bubbly and suitable for baking.
How to Freeze Sourdough Starter?
If you plan to store Sourdough Starter for a longer duration, you can store it in the freezer. Storing it in the freezer also offers the advantage of doing away with the process of feeding it regularly.
To freeze the Sourdough Starter:
- Place the excess Sourdough Starter in a freezer-safe plastic bag or jar. Close the lid of the jar or seal the plastic bag and keep it in the freezer.
- When needed, remove your starter from the freezer and empty it in a bowl to allow it to thaw.
- Because of the extremely cold temperature in the freezer, it may take about 6 to 7 days for your Sourdough Starter to become warm and active again.
Now that you have learned to prepare your own Sourdough Starter and store it, let us have a look at some healthy and delicious recipes you can prepare using it.
Sourdough Starter Recipes
You can use the Sourdough Starter to bake bread or several other products. Read further to find some easy-to-prepare, yummy Sourdough Starter recipes you can try.Print
Being allergic or hypersensitive to Gluten can keep you from enjoying several dishes, but not a sourdough bread. You can still eat bread by using a sourdough starter for baking. You just need to replace some ingredients with the Gluten-free options.
- Gluten-free flour such as brown rice flour, white rice flour, sorghum flour, or a gluten-free all-purpose blend.
- Combine half a cup of gluten-free flour of your choice and half a cup of water in a large bowl.
- Whisk until it forms a smooth mixture. Cover with a breathable lid.
- Place the bowl in a warm area. Wait for about 12 to 24 hours.
- Feed the contents with the same flour you used every 12 or 24 hours by adding half a cup of flour and half a cup of water. Mix the contents well each time you feed it and cover it again with the lid.
- Continue the feeding process for 8 to 10 days.
You can use the Gluten-free sourdough starter, thus prepared, immediately or store it for future use.
You can prepare Sourdough pancakes for breakfast or evening snacks. The unique texture and flavors of Sourdough Starter would make the pancakes yummier and more palatable for your taste buds.
For the sponge:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Sourdough Starter
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 cup of buttermilk
For the batter:
- 1 or 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Salt to taste
- If you want to prepare pancakes for breakfast, add the sourdough starter, flour, buttermilk, and caster sugar in a large bowl and mix well the previous night. Cover the bowl with a muslin cloth and allow it to rest at room temperature to form a sponge.
- When you are ready to bake, melt the butter in a microwave.
- Break the eggs in a glass bowl and add to it the vanilla extract. Mix well.
- Add the contents to the melted butter and whisk to combine.
- Then, add the sponge, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine to form the batter.
- Heat the pancake griddle over medium heat. Pour a ladleful of batter onto the pan.
- Allow it to cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Once bubbles form at the center of the pancake, flip it.
- Continue to cook for 1 or 2 minutes until the pancake appears golden.
- Remove the pancake from the heat gently.
- Repeat the steps from 6 to 9 to cook more pancakes, one at a time.
- Serve the pancakes immediately with blueberry, maple, or raspberry syrup.
If you are a beginner, it is advisable to prepare a Sourdough Starter using all-purpose flour. Once you feel you have got the reins of preparing your own Sourdough Starter, you can graduate yourself to prepare healthier, but slightly more difficult versions of the same using whole wheat and rye instead of all-purpose flour.
- Whole wheat flour or Rye flour
- Combine 3/4th cup and 2 tablespoons of whole-wheat flour or Rye flour and 1/2 cup of warm water in a large container. Cover it with a breathable lid and keep it at a warm place having a temperature of about 75 to 85°F. Let it stand for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, you will notice bubbles appearing at the surface of the contents. Discard half of the contents from the bowl.
- Add 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of the flour and 1/2 cup of warm water to the remaining contents. Mix well and cover again.
- Continue the process of feeding every 12 or 24 hours for 7 to 10 days until the mixture has a distinct, vinegary odor with bubbles being visible throughout.
- Once ready, you can use it immediately for baking bread or other items, or store it in the refrigerator or freezer for future use.
Here are a few baking tips that will come in handy for you while preparing your Sourdough Starter:
- Be patient! You will have to commit more time for preparing the sourdough starter and bread. So, do not attempt to make a sourdough starter when you are pressed for time. Remember, it takes as long as it takes!
- If you think your sourdough bread is not as perfect or fluffy as you had expected, do not discard it. It may still be more edible than regular bread!
- Take good care of your sourdough starter by feeding it regularly. If the starter becomes too sour, it indicates a higher acidic content in the mixture. It may prevent wild yeast from multiplying and forming bubbles. In such cases, you need to dilute the acidic environment of the mixture by adding more flour to it. This would allow the yeast to thrive and start multiplying again.
- Your culture should have a fresh and fruity smell like that of blueberries, citrus fruits, or yogurt. If the smell resembles nail polish, it indicates you need to feed the starter. In case the nail polish smell persists, it might be the time to start all over again!
- Remember, wild yeast requires oxygen for survival. Stir your starter well each time you feed it to allow oxygen in the air to enter the mixture.
- Never use tap water as it may contain chlorine that can spoil your starter.
- If you notice strange colors on the culture, discard it and start again. The abnormal color may mean something that does not belong has moved in.
How to Use Discarded Sourdough Starter?
It can get a bit frustrating to discard a portion of the starter before you feed it every time. However, you need not throw it away in a trash can. It can be put to good use in the following ways:
- You can use it in recipes that require the hydration matched by your starter.
- You can use the discarded starter for flavoring recipes like crackers, waffles, or banana bread. These recipes call for an added flour without any fermentation and soaking time. Your discarded sourdough starter would add flavor to these dishes without fermenting the grain or flour in the final product.
- If your discarded starter has the Sourdough flavor and fermented flour, it can be used for the pre-digestion of grains. Add additional liquid and flour to the discarded starter and ferment it for another 12 to 24 hours.
- Add baking soda to the mixture. It will react with the starter and release gases. The gases will be trapped within the flour-water mixture and create leavening. This can offer a perfect ingredient for preparing muffins, and waffles.
- Discarded sourdough can also be used in recipes that can be baked immediately and require no additional flour. If the flour in the discarded starter is already fermented, it can be used to prepare pancakes and crepes to add a sourdough flavor to the recipes.
Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting
- Overflowing Starter
If the starter begins to overflow from the bowl after a few days, remove some of its contents to bake sourdough pancakes. Make sure at least half a cup of starter is left in the bowl and continue feeding it.
- Lack of Bubbles
If bubbles do not appear at the top of the starter, increase the feeding interval. Also, try to maintain the same feeding interval. For example, feed the mixture after every 12 hours or 8 hours and maintain the same frequency.
- Liquid at the Surface
Sometimes, liquid may collect at the top of the starter. Do not panic. It is normal. In fact, the liquid contains lactobacillus, which adds to the sourdough taste of the bread.
- Boost the Starter
You can add two tablespoons of dairy kefir, water kefir, or kombucha instead of water for any one feeding. This will add more bacteria to the mixture and boost the process of fermentation.
Sourdough Starter FAQs
Here are the answers to the frequently asked questions about the preparation of a sourdough starter:
How to find out if your starter is ready?
To find out if your Sourdough Starter is ready to make bread, drop a spoonful of the mixture in a glass of water. You know it is ready if it floats. In case it doesn’t, you can continue with the feeding process for a few more days.
How to tell if your sourdough starter is bad?
Your sourdough starter can be considered as spoilt if abnormal colors like an orange or pink tint begin to appear on its surface or along the sides.
What are the health benefits of a Sourdough starter?
Bread and other baking products prepared from Sourdough Starter are easier to digest and can help you avoid stomach upsets and indigestion. Sourdough also contains healthy gut bacteria such as lactobacillus that can improve the gut flora and reduce the risk of digestive disturbances.
Sourdough Starter offers a great way to add a unique flavor and texture to your bread and baking products. It also offers several health benefits. You can try preparing your own Sourdough Starter at home using the recipes and tips given above and enjoy a new yummy addition to your cuisine.