Learning how to make a strong, active sourdough starter for fermented bread and baking is the key to successful sourdough recipes.
Before shaping, pouring, and rolling dough it all starts with a bubbly, vinegar-smelling sourdough starter.
Those are some of the clear visual signs that your sourdough starter is mature and ready for fermented bread and baking.
All of those bubbles, which are actually air pockets signal that the fermentation process is going well.
A bubbly starter also indicates that you have been doing a good job feeding your sourdough starter.
kudos to you!
I think that’s one reason why I feel so proud of the many recipes I can make with my sourdough.
Because even as a busy mom, I have been able to work into my schedule the task of feeding my pretty large bowl of starter every day.
(You can place your starter in the refrigerator to take a break from daily feedings as needed.)
These feedings are fun, therapeutic, and a reminder that this is one way to provide a dose of health benefits for my family.
Thankfully you don’t have to have a fancy bread oven, but just a few simple tools and time to start baking fermented bread.
So, if you’re ready to learn how to make sourdough starter for fermented bread and baking let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
HOW DO YOU FERMENT BREAD NATURALLY
A sourdough starter that is mature and fermented usually takes about 7 days to develop.
There will be daily feedings but overall it’s a pretty simple process.
TOOLS YOU WILL NEED:
- A medium to large-sized jar or glass bowl
- 1 cup measuring cup
- 1 wooden spoon
- Flour sack towel (or similar)
- Large rubber band
- Distilled/purified or filtered water
*Please note Any grain-based flour works for making a sourdough starter. Flours made from rice, rye, spelt, einkorn and wheat all work. However, bread flour works the best and may yield the most reliable starter. Even if you raise your starter on bread flour, you can still make bread with other flour. All-purpose flour works fine too.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR FERMENTING SOURDOUGH STARTER NATURALLY
In your glass jar or bowl add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and mix.
You may choose to use less water if the mixture is too runny or more water if the mixture is too thick.
The consistency you are aiming for is a thick cake batter.
All the water in your flour and water mixture is not immediately absorbed.
By the next morning, your mixture may look runnier because the flour has had enough time to absorb all the water.
You will develop a good feeding routine and flour-water ratio the more you feed your starter.
Once the flour and water are combined in the bowl you want to mix them well.
Place the flour sack towel over the bowl to cover.
Then, use the rubber band to secure the towel on the bowl.
This is critical for keeping your sourdough starter clean and free of gnats or flies.
To help create a routine, I find it easy to feed my starter in the morning when I first enter the kitchen.
On day 2, before you feed your starter you need to discard (scoop and throw out) about a half cup of the flour and water mixture.
Then repeat the process of adding flour and water, mixing, and covering.
Allow the starter to sit again overnight and repeat the same process the following morning.
You will repeat this process of feeding, mixing, and covering your starter for about 7 days total.
Between days 3 and 4 you may begin to notice bubbles in your starter.
At this point, your starter is halfway ready and will soon be considered a fully matured starter.
At around day 7 your starter should be ready.
HOW TO FEED A MATURE SOURDOUGH STARTER FOR FERMENTING BREAD AND BAKING
Now that you have established a feeding routine, adjusted your flour and water ratios as needed, and see the physical activity that lets you know your starter is mature, keeping it fed is quite easy.
You no longer have to do daily discards or follow a strict regimen.
You no longer have a bowl of flour and water.
Your mixture has transformed into a sourdough starter and can be used in any recipe that calls for a starter to be added.
This will now substitute packaged yeast and will give your recipes natural yeast as needed,
Creating your sourdough starter will give you control over the ingredients in your breaded recipes which is a major benefit of cooking from scratch.
To keep your starter fed you will simply add about 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water daily. (Remember this can be more or less depending on the ratio that works best for your starter.)
Also, remember you can place your sourdough starter in the refrigerator to take a break from feedings. I would only recommend this once you have a fully matured starter.
Cover and secure with a rubber band.
And that’s it!
It is important to know that you do want to feed your starter every day to prevent your starter from spoiling.
SIGNS THAT YOUR STARTER MAY HAVE SPOILED:
Typically sourdough starter is pretty resilient and almost impossible to destroy when consistent good feedings are routine.
When your starter is stored and covered properly.
And when using appropriate flour.
But, if your starter has begun to develop pink, orange, or black mold it’s best to throw it out.
The same is true for fuzzy mold as well.
It’s normal for a crust to develop around the rim of the bowl or jar but a healthy sourdough starter should not have mold.
And remember, if you do have to toss your starter completely it takes about 7 days to develop and mature another starter.
HOW MUCH SOURDOUGH STARTER TO USE FOR A LOAF
There are endless recipes for making a sourdough loaf of bread.
Often it depends on your preference of taste and texture.
Some popular types of sourdough bread recipes include:
- Whole Wheat
- Whole Grain
- Spelt Flour
- Brown Rice
- Honey Wheat
- Soda Bread
Just to name a few!
My favorite classic soft, sandwich loaf bread recipe calls for only 3/4 cups of sourdough starter.
This could vary depending on the type of bread recipe you are baking.
Apart from bread, there are other recipes like sourdough waffles that call for 1 3/4 cups of starter.
Keeping a batch of sourdough starter ready to use for recipes is best, especially if you plan on cooking more meals at home and from scratch.
How To Make Sourdough Starter For Fermented Bread And Baking (From Scratch)
Fermented sourdough starter to use in delicious sourdough recipes and for baking bread. You can begin using your fermented starter in place of yeast for many recipes from scratch. Your starter can also be used to make recipes such as sourdough pancakes, sourdough waffles, pizza crust, and more!
1 cup water
1 cup flour
- In a large jar or glass bowl pour 1 cup of flour.
- Pour in 1 cup of water and mix well. Over time you may choose to add a little less or more water depending on the consistency preference of your choice. A good reference point is mixing the flour and water until it is the consistency of thick pancake batter. Also, remember it takes about 30 minutes or so for flour to completely absorb all the water poured. You may have to wait to see the exact consistency of the flour and water mixture.
- Once the flour and water are mixed cover with a tea towel or a flour sack and allow to ferment for 24 hours.
- After the flour and water mixture has fermented for 24 hours, use a measuring cup and scoop out about 1/2 cup of discard. (Discard the flour and water mixture before the completed 7-day fermentation.)
- Once the discard has been removed repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 for 7 days.
- You may start to see bubbles in the flour and water mixture around day 3 or 4. The starter is not fully matured this is an indication that the starter is being fed properly.
- By day 7 your starter should be bubbly and active. At this point, you have a fully matured sourdough starter that you can begin to use in sourdough recipes.
- When covering your sourdough starter there still needs to be slight airflow into the container. Do not use an airtight seal as this will not allow the fermenting process to develop.
SOURDOUGH AND FERMENTED BREAD BEGINNER’S GLOSSARY
When I first began to get into fermenting bread and sourdough baking I had a problem.
There were so many terms and definitions that I did not understand.
One thing for sure as you begin to gather your sourdough recipes is that you will read and hear tons of terms and definitions that may sound confusing.
To help with that here is a list of some common terms that you may hear as you enter the world of sourdough.
- Acetic Acid: Acetic Acid is produced by the good bacteria in your sourdough. Acetic acid gives your sourdough breads its “sour” taste.
- Activation: Getting your sourdough starter ready for baking. Whether it’s your starter or a starter purchased.
- Alveoli: The air pockets (gas bubbles) in the bread crumb.
- Amylases: An enzyme that converts starches to sugar.
- Autolyse: Mixing and resting flour and water before adding sourdough starting.
- Baking Timeline: The schedule you follow when preparing and baking sourdough bread.
- Banneton: A basket used to provide structure for loaves of bread during proofing.
- Batard: Similar to a traditional baguette but shorter and or wider.
- Belly: When the surface of a rounded loaf of bread opens while baking in the oven.
- Bench: A work surface.
- Bench-Rest: Let the dough rest on the work surface before shaping.
- Boule: A round bread loaf shape.
- Bulk Fermentation: The process in the baker’s timeline before cutting and shaping that allows the dough the rest and ferment. This is also referred to as the “first rise”.
- Coil Folds: Stretching the dough upwards and folding over from the center.
- Cold Retard: Allowing the dough to rest in a container or banneton after it’s been shaped.
- Couche: The fabric used inside of a banneton or container for the final proofing.
- Crumb: The texture inside of a baked load.
- Danish Whisk: A Danish dough whisk consists of three differently-sized coils stacked around each other designed to cut through dough without over-mixing or getting stuck.
- Degas: To push all the air and gas bubbles out by flattening the dough.
- Dutch Oven: A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dutch ovens can be made of seasoned cast iron; however, some Dutch ovens are made of cast aluminum or ceramic.
- Elastically: In the baking world, this refers to the stretchiness of the dough.
- Enriched Dough: Dough enriched with fats and oils.
- Ferment: Fermentation is the breakdown of carbs like starch and sugar by bacteria and wild yeast and is an ancient technique of preserving food.
- Gluten: Gluten is a family of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. Gluten gives bread its chewy, spongy texture.
- Hooch: Hooch is the liquid that forms usually on the top of a sourdough starter that needs to be fed.
- Hydration: Hydration refers to how much water is added to a sourdough starter.
- Lactic Acid: Organic acid produced by the good bacteria in the sourdough starter. It helps control bad bacteria.
- Lame: The handle on a blade used to score bread.
- Levain: Use a portion of your sourdough starter to build a separate starter for another recipe.
- Maillard Reaction: A chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned or golden brown food its distinctive flavor. This reaction causes baked bread to turn brown.
- Oven Spring: The final burst of rising just after a loaf is put in the oven.
- Peel: A wooden board is used to transfer bread to and from the oven.
- Phytic Acid: Phytic acid found in grains that produce flour reduces the absorption of minerals. The Lactic Acid in sourdough breaks down the phytic acid making sourdough bread more nutritious to eat.
- Poke Test: This is a way to quickly test if your dough has fermented properly. Under proofed dough fills right back up immediately when you poke it. Over-proofed bread does not fill up when you poke it. Perfectly proofed dough fills up slowly when you poke it.
- Proofing: The fermentation that happens in the final rise right before the dough is baked.
- Resting: Allowing the dough to rest in between folding or kneading.
- Scoring: Also referred to as slashing helps to control where the dough will open during baking.
- Second Rise: The second rise is also known as proofing it’s the dough’s final rise that happens after shaping and before baking.
- Shaping: Shaping your dough into the desired loaf.
- Sourdough discard: Unfed immature starter removed before you feed your sourdough starter.
- Sourdough Starter: A combination of flour and water that is fed and fermented every day.
- Stretch and Fold: Pulling each side of the dough over itself. Stretching and folding helps develop the gluten network.
- Tensioning: Creating tension across the top of the dough during the shaping process.