Get That Starter Started: Tips For Making Your Own Sourdough Starter Culture

Sourdough is bread made from wild yeasts that have been cultivated in a batch of fermenting flour known as starter. Like a very strange pet, sourdough yeasts are a living culture that need to be fed and maintained. Unlike normal pets, sourdough cultures can be formed from flour bought at the grocery store. Getting a sourdough starter culture to take hold requires the right conditions and a little patience. To make your own sourdough starter recipe, follow the instructions below.

To get started, you'll need stone-ground whole wheat flour and water. You'll also need to select a container for your starter culture to live in. This container could be your starter's home for months or years, depending on how long you decide to maintain it, so choose wisely. The container will need to have a lid that pops off easily. Hours after being fed, a healthy starter culture will start to release gasses that will build up inside the container and eventually push off the lid. The harder it is for these gasses to escape from the container, the more pressure will build up inside. If enough gas builds up, this could lead to a mess. 

Starting the Starter

  1. Mix a cup of warm water (fresh yeasts prefer a temperature between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and a cup of flour. Whisk the ingredients vigorously with a fork, aerating the mixture.
  2. Put the lid on the container and set it somewhere warm, like the counter near your stove. 

Keep an eye on the batter, checking it periodically throughout the day, until you notice the first bubbles forming in the surface of the starter. These bubbles are gasses being produced by wild yeasts found in the flour. The gas is carbon dioxide, and it's an indication that the yeasts are growing and fermenting. The starter may smell like vinegar, apples, alcohol, or something else, depending on your particular culture. This smell will grow stronger with time. At any rate, once you've noticed bubbles forming in the starter, it will be time to feed your starter.

The First Feeding

  1. Add a cup of warm warm water (95 to 100 degrees) and a cup of flour. 
  2. Stir vigorously with a fork, aerating the mixture.
  3. Put the mixture back on the counter in a warm location and wait a day.

Throughout the day, your starter will release more gasses, will bubble more, and appear to expand. Once all the gasses have been released, the starter will shrink back to its normal size.

The Second Feeding

  1. Throw away half the starter in the garbage.
  2. Add a cup of water and a cup of flour.
  3. Stir vigorously. 

Your starter will need to be fed, following the "Second Feeding" procedure described above, on a daily basis. Each time you feed the starter, you'll have to throw away half of everything in the container (otherwise your starter would begin to grow too large to use). The more you feed the starter, the more potent it will become. After several weeks, you can use this starter to make your very own sourdough bread, following your preferred sourdough recipe. 

Of course, making your own starter can be a lot of work. If you're not up for the task, and you want to get started on making your own sourdough right away, you can buy a starter from a bread supplier. This will allow you to make your own sourdough bread right away.  For more information, contact a professional like Klosterman Baking Company.

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