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How to make sourdough starter from scratch?

by | 19 Jan 2024 | 0 comments

From just flour and a bit of tap water, a world of tasty bread, pitas and focaccia rolls out before you. Start here, with this simple guide, to make your own sourdough starter and keep on baking! Why shouldn’t you start here?

Why make your own sourdough starter in the first place?

Let’s clear out one thing that most YouTubers, bloggers and other content creators don’t talk about.
Baking sourdough is not easy. Not the sourdough you know from all the pretty pictures on the internet. It will be messy and sometimes frustrating. Not because the recipe you are following is bad, but because you are not its author.
Let me clear it out.

In making sourdough bread you need flour, water and a lot of patience. Your water is different than your favourite YouTuber’s. Same for your flour. And to get the effect you are craving, you will need to try many different techniques and recipes until you find your own.

And before you even start making bread, your little baby, the colony of yeast bacteria, called a sourdough starter, will demand patience and discipline from you. Daily, and later on, maybe weekly, you will feed it and nourish it to let it thrive in the jar and grow enough to let your dough raise properly.

If you think you are ready for this, we can go further, into the actual sourdough making.

What flour should you pick for sourdough?

Sorry for the prolonged introduction, but it was necessary to save you from further mistakes that many hobby bakers make at the start and it’s the thing that let me actually have fun baking (even when loaves turn out far from perfect).

What type of flour should you pick? You need one that is neither bleached nor too processed. Natural, wholegrain bread flour is best for this. If you are living in the EU, you can look for the green stamp on the package, signalling that its contents were made using natural products grown under strict eco laws of the EU.

Start with typical wholegrain wheat bread flour and work from there. You can use it for both baking and starter feeding.

And how do you know it’s good flour for bread? Look at its nutritional value. Flour that contains at least 10% of protein (10 g of protein in 100 g of flour) is the lower borderline of what you are looking for. Picking a good bread flour with at least 12% of protein is your best bet.

Tip: Buy straight from the mills. Plenty of them got their own websites, selling all kinds of flours, as much as five times cheaper than the supermarket down the road. If you find one that has a good protein content, pick a bigger bag, about 5 kilos. Don’t worry, you will use it.

Wholegrain wheat flour in macro

You need only flour, water and… patience

How long does it take to go from making a starter to baking?

Day 1: Mix in equal parts water and flour in a clean, sterilised jar. Use water that sits between 22°C and 29°C. 30 grams of flour and 30 grams of water will be a good start.

Day 2: Add another part of water, mix well and add a part of the flour. Mix.

Day 3: Repeat the previous step.

Day 4: Now you will start with the 1:1:1 ratio of feeding. This means taking one part of your young starter, adding a part of water and, after mixing thoroughly, a part of the flour.

From Day 5 and on, repeat the Day 4 step, feeding the starter in a 1:1:1 ratio. After a few days to a week, you will see some activity in form of bubbles. The smell will change too, going from purely grainy to more yeasty with some acidity.

Don’t lose patience! A sourdough starter might grow up from a week to even a month without significant raise. Keep calm and wait!

How old should be your sourdough starter for baking?

Keep your starter at room temperature and don’t forget to feed it daily until it becomes strong. And when does it happen? When will your wild yeast be ready for the first loaf?

It takes at least a month to grow a healthy starter that is capable of leavening your dough. But as with everything in the art of making sourdough, there’s no clear timeframe for it. You need to watch your starter, learn the feeding cycle and wait. If it doubles after feeding, and it’s past the one month of growth, you can start baking!

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