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 and I have also made it like 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. There is such an enormous range of breads you can achieve with wild yeast. I hope you try this method!
I’ve been baking bread like a fiend lately. Getting the rust out of my bread baking skills. Still some way to go to get a reliable loaf. But my results so far are encouraging. 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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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 (endless) 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.
- Feed your starter everyday (at the same time of day if possible) with 1 Cup all purpose Flour and 1/2 Cup water.
- This is called a 100% hydration starter. Because by weight you add equal amounts of water and flour.
- For best results please use a kitchen scale to make your starter and ALL STAGES of your bread recipe.
- It will make your results much more predictable. Good bread is a science as well as an art. Endlessly learning here.
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- 4 oz. all purpose flour, 1 scant Cup
- 4 oz. water, 1/2 Cup- no chlorine
- In a 2 quart (or larger) glass or plastic container add the flour and water.
- Stir until the brew is mixed well and not very lumpy. Cover loosely. Not a complete cover so the yeast can get in 🙂 And once they do the air exchange is important. This process is fermentation. The gasses need to vent.
- Cover and let sit at about 75 degrees for 24 hours.
- REPEAT this process daily with additional feedings of flour and water as noted in the ingredient list.
- Look each day to see if there are changes in your starter. look for any bubbles at the top and look through the side walls of your container. Use your nose to determine if the starter is growing. Don't worry if this takes several days to begin.
- This process can go on for 5 days or more. You will see the starter go from a thick batter to a frothy bubbly brew. The smell of the brew will also change from sweet to acidic to fruity.
- Your container needs to be large enough to allow the starter to double in size. It will go through expansion and contraction throughout this process.
- As the starter ripens and stabilizes it will begin to act predictably and you will see it cycle through its feeding stages.
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. 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.
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 🙂
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 and 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!
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
The Kitchn: This is where I began. This recipe has an excellent step by step tutorial. I created all the breads you see on this page from learning this recipe.
Books: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
The NEW Healthy Bread in five minutes a day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois
Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five minutes a day By J Hertzberg & Zoe Francois
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
Tartine Book 3By Chad Robertson