The basis of all sourdough is the “starter” which is nothing more than a small batch of fermented water + flour. You can either get a supply of starter from a friend like I did OR develop your own.
Here’s a basic startup guide to developing a sourdough starter from scratch:
- Mix together equal parts tepid water (approx 74°F) + unbleached flour (must be unbleached to protect the wild yeast), stir, and leave at room temp overnight. A basic ratio here would be 50g water + 50g flour.
- The next day, in a fresh bowl, mix together 50g of your starter + 50g water + 50g flour. The leftover starter is called “discard” and can be tossed in the trash. Leave your refreshed starter at room temp overnight. This is what is referred to as “feeding.”
- Repeat for 4-5 more days until your starter smells lightly vinegary and has visible bubbles throughout.
Now that you have an active sourdough starter (either be inheritance or by the process above) you are ready to start baking! Well, almost. You’re a few days out, so be patient. Before we move onto the baking process, you’ll need to know how to maintain that active starter now that you got it going.
Here’s a basic guide to weekly sourdough starter maintenance:
I maintain 150g of starter in my fridge and feed it weekly, usually on Thursday or Friday. The leftover starter is also fed and left to ripen for baking during the weekend. This is my preferred method because it’s less wasteful and honestly just a little easier to keep track of if you’re not baking every couple days.
- To feed the fridge starter, 50g of my existing starter gets mixed with equal parts water & flour and goes back in the fridge until next week = 150g of fed starter.
- The remaining 100g (aka “discard”) gets mixed with equal parts water & flour and left on the counter overnight to ripen for baking with the next day = 300g of ripe starter / levain.
What to read next:
- Intro: My Sourdough Journey
- How to Maintain a Sourdough Starter
- A Guide to Baking with Sourdough
- Recipe: Classic Sourdough Bread