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How to Make Sourdough Starter

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There are MANY different ways to make a wild yeast sourdough starter. We are starting with this basic and reliable method. This will open endless possibilities for your bread baking adventures.

Over the years, I’ve made sourdough starter for bread making several times.

I tend to be an on again-off again bread baker. In the past I have made starter using active dry yeast. I have also made homemade sourdough starter with this wild capture method.

Using a wild yeast starter like this one will give an HUGE boost in flavor and texture to your breads. I highly recommend this method if you are looking to create artisan breads like you see here.

Sourdough Starter
Sourdough Starter with 100% hydration

There is such an enormous range of breads you can achieve with wild yeast. I hope you try this method!

Sourdough Whole Wheat Artisan Bread
Sourdough Whole Wheat Artisan Bread

I’ve been baking bread like a fiend lately. These are hearth breads. I made them in my oven with a dutch oven. I have NEVER attained bread like this until I tried this method. We love this stuff!!

Roasted Garlic Sourdough Bread
Roasted Garlic Sourdough bread.

This starter made all of these breads. And MANY discard recipes of sourdough Pie Crust and pizza crust, sourdough pumpkin muffins and sourdough waffles. We love them all. Once you get your starter stable and lively watch out! A new world of baking opens.

How To Make Sourdough Starter With Wild Yeast
My Wild Yeast sourdough starter with a Tartine Bread I made from it. Dave is currently residing in bread heaven.

Spiking the starter with commercial yeast will get it growing faster…but. For the best flavor I recommend the old fashioned method. People have been baking bread this way for thousands of years.

Artisan bakers know and use this method because the flavor and texture of the breads they make with wild yeast starter is superb. All you need is good flour and water, a clean container and a sort of warmish spot for the container to sit for a week or so.

Sourdough Starter With Wild Yeast
Sourdough starter with Wild Yeast in this active form shows bubbles on the side walls of the jar. This starter is ready to use.

Why wild?

Back in the day…prior to the advent of mass production (around the 1930s) Commercial yeast was NOT used to create bread. Your local small baking shops and home kitchens relied on wild yeast to make an endless variety of breads using flours of all sorts.

Did you realize the modern large scale grocery stores began in the 1040s?? (I was shocked to realize how recently it began.) When mass production of bread began, commercial yeasts became popular. Commercial yeasts are necessary to control and refine the efficiency of and speed of mass production bread rise.

Unfortunately in this process, our modern day, mass produced breads have lost MUCH of their flavor and character in the process. Thus the value of wild yeasts. And the artisan loaves.

This wild yeast starter gives you the basis to bake a truly elegant artisan loaf at home with complex flavors. Eventually, You can blend your own flours if you wish and create for yourself breads truly unique and beautiful.

To begin, you can use this method of making a starter and still gain extra flavor in any bread recipe (and many discard sourdough starter recipes) that needs a starter.

Wild yeast is just as easy to work with and maintain as a commercial yeast starter. It’s just a bit more time to get it going.

How To Make Sourdough Starter With Wild Yeast
This starter has launched me on a quest for the perfect Artisan sourdough bread. I’m off to a good start. We LOVE this bread.

Don’t be in a hurry. Grow a good starter and you will have it for as long as you feel like tending it. After the initial growing stage keeping a starter is not a lot of work. And you can dry it for long term storage if you want to.

Wild Starters work due to local wild yeasts and bacteria in our environment, on the baker’s hands and the flours we choose. The process of fermentation is what makes the flour/water mixture bubble to life. This takes several days or up to one week or more of regular feedings of a precisely measured flour water brew.

You can make starter out of MANY different types of flour. Whole wheat and rye are two popular choices. I have linked at the bottom of this post recipes from both King Arthur flour and The Kitchn. They will walk you through their methods and you will learn a lot about the processes and drying your own starters and other good stuff.

Be prepared to read and look at videos a lot. There is so much information!

I have also linked several books that will help you with the process of making various wild starters and bread recipes and bread making methods. They contain an enormous amount of information and recipes and are staple resources in my opinion. You can branch off into endless directions with these books. These resources have all been a huge help to me. You can get the books out of your local library if you want to see what they offer.

This Is An Aged Sourdough Starter That Has Passed The Float Test And Is Ready To Bake.
This is an aged sourdough starter that has passed the float test and is ready to bake.

For today, I will give you this recipe I found on The Kitchn. I was following their recipe for Tartine style bread. This starter recipe is simple  and reliable as a beginning for making delicious breads and sourdough discard recipes.

How to make Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter:

If you are really lucky, as I was this time, someone will give you a piece of their starter to get you started. Or you can buy your starter online from King Arthur Flour of other reputable company. Then you only have to feed it and in a day or two it will bubble to life with verve and energy.

If you are all about launching into this form of baking without a clue what to do never fear.

  • Check out the resources I’m offering you.
  • Get a vision for what you are wanting to do by researching your options.
  • And in the meantime, get out the flour and water and put them in a container as I describe here. That will be bubbling along before you know it and you are off and running on your sourdough bread baking adventure.

Instructions:

Day one: Use a quart jar container or something about that size in either plastic or glass (Mason jars work great).

  • Feed your starter everyday (at the same time of day if possible) with 1 Cup all purpose Flour and 1/2 Cup warm water.
  • A 100% hydration starter is what I use. By weight you add equal amounts of water and flour.
  • For best results please use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients for  your starter.

Day Two:

  • Discard one half of your starter (about a 1/2 Cup).
  • Feed your starter 100 grams of flour to 100 grams of warm water.
  • Mix it up, cover and let sit 24 hours.

Day Three: you should see small bubbles appearing by now and the concoction will smell aromatic with a slight fruity aroma..

  • Begin feeding your starter twice a day 12 hours apart if you can. For EACH feeding:
  • Stir down the starter.
  • Remove all but 4 oz. starter and discard.
  • Feed your starter 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water.
  • Cover loosely and let sit until next feeding.

Day Four:

  • Discard all but 4 oz. of starter and repeat your feeding of 100 grams each flour and water.

Day Five: By now you should see a bubbly starter with some action. The fermentation process is getting a good start. 

  • Repeat Step four. You should see after this feeding the starter rising and falling as the day progresses. This means your yeast are going through their lifecycle of eating and digesting the four and water you feed them.
  • If you do NOT see this rising and falling and bubbling action. Repeat feeding every twelve hours as instructed in step four until your starter gets active.

TIP:

If you get to day four and see no small bubbles forming in your jar try using whole wheat or rye flour for a few feedings. High enzyme content in your flour will help boost the starter and get it going.


Sourdough Bread And Starter
Dutch oven sourdough bread and starter

There is so much to learn about sourdough.

The process of making a starter is EASY. It takes time but no expertise. The adventure begins when you put it in a recipe. And when you have quarts of discard sourdough starter in your fridge and you are too stubborn to throw it out. Hello me. Good thing we like sourdough and sourdough discard recipes 🙂

How To Make Wild Sourdough Starter-Pin Image
Our instructions for how to make a wild sourdough starter are easy to follow and yield a strong starter. Perfect for Artisan style sourdough breads. #howto #sourdoughstarter #bread #recipe #easy #wild #artisanstyle #withyeast

Just the many names starters have and learning what each means to the breads you want to bake is a lot to take in.

They all have a history and culture behind them. Each bread they make is individual in culture, history  and character.

Each name labels a different actual formula concocted for a specific result.Starter. Sourdough starter. Levain. Starter sponge. Mother sponge. Biga. Chef. Poolish.

We are getting you off to a good basic beginning with our recipe. There are many miles to go in just this one aspect of Sourdough bread baking. I just made my first whole wheat loaf. I have MUCH to learn 🙂 Let’s learn together.

Sourdough Starter With Wild Yeast
Yield: 16 tablespoons

Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 14 days
Total Time: 14 days 10 minutes

A wild yeast sourdough starter collects the wild local yeast always found in your environment and flour and makes your own unique and flavorful starter. Once it gets bubbly you're all set to make the best sourdough recipes!

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. all purpose flour, 1 scant Cup
  • 4 oz. water, 1/2 Cup- no chlorine

Instructions

Instructions:

Day one: Use a quart jar container or something about that size in either plastic or glass (Mason jars work great).

Feed your starter everyday (at the same time of day if possible) with 1 Cup all purpose Flour and 1/2 Cup warm water.

A 100% hydration starter is what I use. By weight you add equal amounts of water and flour.

For best results please use a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients for  your starter.

Day Two:

Discard one half of your starter (about a 1/2 Cup).

Feed your starter 100 grams of flour to 100 grams of warm water.

Mix it up, cover and let sit 24 hours.

Day Three: you should see small bubbles appearing by now and the concoction will smell aromatic with a slight fruity aroma..

Begin feeding your starter twice a day 12 hours apart if you can. For EACH feeding:

Stir down the starter.

Remove all but 4 oz. starter and discard.

Feed your starter 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water.

Cover loosely and let sit until next feeding.

Day Four:

Discard all but 4 oz. of starter and repeat your feeding of 100 grams each flour and water.

Day Five: By now you should see a bubbly starter with some action. The fermentation process is getting a good start. 

Repeat Step four. You should see after this feeding the starter rising and falling as the day progresses. This means your yeast are going through their lifecycle of eating and digesting the four and water you feed them.

If you do NOT see this rising and falling and bubbling action. Repeat feeding every twelve hours as instructed in step four until your starter gets active.

TIP:

If you get to day four and see no small bubbles forming in your jar try using whole wheat or rye flour for a few feedings. High enzyme content in your flour will help boost the starter and get it going.

Notes

The ingredients listed are for one feeding. Repeat this process daily with the same amount of flour and water listed.

When day 5 arrives the starter should be bubbled and webbed all the way through. It should have a distinct smell. Sort of sour and vinegary. It will get looser as it matures too. 

The final test of a starter is will it float? Put a teaspoon of starter into a glass of room temperature water. If it floats, it's ready to use. If it sinks or almost floats. Feed it again and give it another day.

Maintain your starter by discarding half of it everyday now and continue feeding it.

TO PREPARE A STARTER FOR BAKING:

Once the starter is active and bubbling feed it this way to bake bread. You need EQUAL parts starter, High protein bread flour and water.

For example:

100 grams starter

100 grams flour

100 grams warm water

Mix them all together and loosely cover. In four to 8 hours this should pass the float test and be ready to bake.

If your starter is still too young feed it up to three times a day until it doubles, bubbles and floats.

*Adding in fresh ground whole wheat flour or rye flour to your starter will also get it more active.

When you no longer need the starter for recipes but wish to keep it. Discard half of it, Feed it again and put it into a container that will allow doubling. Cover it (tightly now) and put it into your fridge. You can recharge it for recipes easily by taking it back to the counter, getting it warm and fed and allowing it time to build again for recipes until it floats.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

RESOURCES:

If you are looking to buy sourdough starter rather than build your own CONTACT SASHA HUNTER. She sells her well established starter all over the U.S.

If you are looking for bread info and inspiration check out Karen Kers Bread Bakers and Artisan Bakers FB group

King Arthur website is full of AMAZING information and tips on all kinds of baking, including sourdough

Further Reading:

  1. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
  2. The NEW Healthy Bread in five minutes a day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois
  3. Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five minutes a day By J Hertzberg & Zoe Francois
  4. Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
  5. Tartine Book 3 By Chad Robertson
Making A Wild Sourdough Starter-Pin Image
Our instructions for how to make a wild sourdough starter are easy to follow and yield a strong starter. Perfect for Artisan style sourdough breads. #howto #sourdoughstarter #bread #recipe #easy #wild #artisanstyle #withyeast

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Scratch Made Sourdough Starter Tutorial-Pin Image
There are MANY different ways to make a wild yeast sourdough starter. We are starting with this basic and reliable method. This will open endless possibilities for your bread baking adventures.

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