Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sourdough starter how-to

Last autumn we made our own sourdough starter with whole rye flour, and it made the perfect sourdough bread. We were simply delighted that on our first try our bread was such a success. Since then that sourdough starter passed away, but I have successfully made a new one that gives us amazing sourdough bread every time.

I did a lot of research since I had some failures along the way. A weighing scale helps keeps everything accurate. A useful guide is I am still learning but am so happy that I can bake sourdough bread weekly because of my healthy starter.

Rye Sourdough Starter

Day 1
20g organic rye flour
25g water (room temperature)

Mix all with a clean spatula or chopstick in a sterilized glass jar (with lid). Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 12 hours.

After 12 hours add
20g rye flour
25g water

Mix and cover.

Day 2 - you will notice a gaseous smell and more bubbles and perhaps it has risen.
Feed 20g rye flour and 25g water. Mix, cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place for 12 hours.

After 12 hours - feed the usual amount

Day 3 - if it has risen and/or has more bubbles (hopefully some larger bubbles), it's ready to make bread! If it doesn't have too many bubbles, give the usual feeding for the whole day. Repeat one more day if it is not yet active.

The starter depends on your surroundings, how warm it is, and how fresh the flour is. It is important not to go by the number of days it has been fed, but by the look and smell of the sourdough starter. It should be bubbly, active, and smell like fruits/beer/yeast/gas.

If your starter smells strongly like paint, throw it away and start again. 

Before making bread, it is important that your sourdough starter has been fed at least 2 - 3 times, and at least 3-5 hours in advance. (Feeding makes it active again.)

The general rule is that you feed your sourdough starter the exact weight of your sourdough starter but I have succeeded with feeding it less. If I have 100g of sourdough, I feed the starter only 50g rye flour and 55g water. You can increase this number if you require more starter for your bread.


If you already have enough starter, just put it in the fridge with a tight lid. If you don't have enough starter, feed it. I usually always have at least 40g of starter, so I always feed it 40g rye and 45g water (even if I have more starter, I still feed this amount and it's ok).

After feeding, allow the sourdough starter to sit at room temperature for at least 3 hours, before putting its lid on and storing it in the fridge.

Feed an unused sourdough starter every week - Sunday is a good day because it's easy to remember.

If the sourdough is kept out at room temperature, feed it every 6-7 hours. If you don't, you risk it starving and going bad = having that paint-like smell. It should be kept in the fridge when not being used.

Every month, wash and dry your glass jar so that your sourdough has a clean home to live in.

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