How to Make a Homemade Sourdough Starter
Authentic homemade sourdough bread begins with a fermented, thick, gloopy substance called a sourdough starter.
I’m excited to share with you how to make a sourdough starter. It’s really simple.
There’s no need to run to the store to buy yeast because you’ve got everything you need in your kitchen already!
But first, let’s learn a little about why sourdough bread is one of the few easily digestible sources of grain-based foods.
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Sourdough Bread is Easier to Digest Than Other Wheat Breads
I’ve mentioned in other posts that I don’t like to eat a lot of wheat. I’m sensitive to gluten and discovered years ago that my digestive issues completely disappear when I don’t eat wheat. However, sourdough wheat products don’t seem to bother me.
Why is bread typically tough to digest? Well, simply, grain that has not been sprouted, soaked or fermented contains phytates, or phytic acid, and is indigestible to humans because we do not have the phytase enzymes that are necessary to break it down.
In addition, phytates bind with minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium, rendering them unabsorbable by the body. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting grains rids them of phytic acid and allows them to be a healthy part of a real food diet. Ta-da!
A Note About Gluten Sensitivity and Sourdough Bread
Gluten is another culprit that makes wheat difficult to digest. Some people with gluten sensitivity (myself included) can eat homemade sourdough bread without any negative consequences.
Now that doesn’t mean that folks with Celiac Disease should consume sourdough bread. It just means that those of us who struggle to digest regular wheat products may be able to avoid the symptoms we usually get when we eat wheat that hasn’t been fermented.
If you’re looking for a gluten-free sourdough starter recipe, I don’t have one, but I’m planning to try one with this gluten-free flour. I’ll post about when I do. For now, check out this gluten free sourdough starter recipe.
Why is a From-Scratch Sourdough Starter Better Than a Dry Active Yeast Sourdough Starter?
Simply put, the fermentation process that happens when you make bread with pre-packaged yeast may not be long enough to make the bread easier to digest. That’s why the slow food method of true homemade sourdough bread is important even though one loaf of bread is days or weeks in the making.
Now enough with the science and nutrition lesson. Let’s get on to what you came here for!
How to Make a Sourdough Starter from Scratch
Making a sourdough starter is a fairly simple process, requiring little more than patience and love. It’s so easy that it was the second step I made toward a real food diet, right after adding raw, grass-fed cow’s milk to our diet. However, if you are not interested in waiting for your sourdough starter to “catch”, you can buy a sourdough starter.
If you’d like to do-it-yourself all the way, however, read on for instructions. Read to the end of the post for a printable version of the recipe.
1. Mix together the flour and filtered water in the glass container. (If you do not have access to filtered water, fill a container with water and let it sit on your counter for at least 24 hours. The chlorine, which kills sourdough yeast, will evaporate and the water will be safe for use in your starter.)
Set it on your counter, uncovered.
2. Wait 8-12 hours. (Do step 1 a few hours before bed and you’ll be ready for step 3 in the morning.)
3. Mix 2 tbsp of flour and 2 tbsp of filtered water into the starter.
4. Wait 8-12 hours.
5. Mix 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of filtered water into the starter.
6. Notice the pattern? Continue to repeat it (doubling the amount of flour and water at each feeding) until the yeasts from the air and the flour have begun to ferment the flour.
Once it begins to smell like beer (read: fermented) you have a working starter.
Your starter may take several days to “catch”. Give it time. Tell it you love it and that it’s the most beautiful starter in the world. It’s a living thing, after all!
Continue to feed it flour and water. Now is the time to consider buying a gallon-sized glass jar.
Keep building until you have enough starter to make the recipe and have some left over to feed and keep alive for your next loaves of bread.
How to Care For Your Sourdough Starter
Once your starter is alive and fermenting, you’ll want to keep feeding it. Don’t feed it too little or it will die.
You can refrigerate it if you’re not going to need it for a couple of days, but make sure you take it out and wake it up with a feeding about 6-8 hours before using it to bake bread.
If you leave it out on your counter for continuous use, you’ll want to feed it every 8-12 hours. You need to feed it enough so that it will double in size between feedings. That means it should be fed twice the amount of flour and water as there is starter in the container.
If the container becomes too full (and it will happen quickly, so beware!) take some of the starter out and use it for making other recipes that call for sourdough starter or dump it.
When you use the starter, add back to the container at least half as much flour and water as the amount of starter you took out. For example, if you used two cups of starter in a recipe add a cup of flour and a cup of water back to the starter container.
As you get to know your starter better, you can play with the water/flour ratio. Sometimes my starter gets too dry and sometimes it gets too wet. I have to use my intuition to know how much water and flour to add to keep the starter alive.
That’s the beauty of slow, real food cooking!
Print the Recipe!
How to Make a Sourdough Starter
- 1 tbsp of flour
- 1 tbsp of filtered water
- 1 glass bowl or jar
- 1 stirring spoon
- Mix together the flour and filtered water in the glass container. (If you do not have access to filtered water, fill a container with water and let it sit on your counter for at least 24 hours. The chlorine, which kills sourdough yeast, will evaporate and the water will be safe for use in your starter.)
- Set it on your counter, uncovered.
- Wait 8-12 hours. (Do step 1 a few hours before bed and you'll be ready for step 3 in the morning.)
- Mix 2 tbsp of flour and 2 tbsp of filtered water into the starter.
- Wait 8-12 hours.
- Mix 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of filtered water into the starter.
- Notice the pattern? Continue to repeat it (doubling the amount of flour and water at each feeding) until the yeasts from the air and the flour have begun to ferment the flour.
- Once it begins to smell like beer (read: fermented) you have a working starter.It may take several days for your starter to "catch". Give it time. Tell it you love it and that it's the most beautiful starter in the world. It's a living thing, after all!
- Continue to feed it flour and water. Now is the time to consider buying a gallon-sized glass jar.
- Keep building until you have enough starter to make the recipe and have some left over to feed and keep alive for your next loaves of bread.