Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sourdough Starter

Dutch Oven Sourdough Boule I made recently with my Sourdough Starter

As I stated before I am new to sourdough bread baking and consider myself a novice. However I've been at this for almost a year now (my starter turns one on December 8th) and while I'm still working on a dough formula, I'm pretty happy with my starter. I've neglected the poor thing on a couple of occasions yet it consistently bounces back and bakes beautiful bread.

I began my starter at 100% hydration. This means equal parts flour and water. Professional bakers weigh their ingredients so use a kitchen scale if you are lucky enough to have one. I don't, so I simply mixed 1 cup of white AP flour with 1 cup of warm water. Then I waited and fed it, and waited and fed, and waited some more. After 7 days it smelled and tasted sour so I baked with it. The result was a very high quality white french bread. There was no sour taste at all.

I thought the starter needed more time but after a month and another un-sour loaf I decided that I needed to make a change. I did some research and decided to decrease my hydration to 75% so 100g of flour and 75g of water to make the conversion easy. Once I decreased the hydration I found that I didn't have to feed my starter as much. I also found that it responded better to feedings, rose consistently and became active quicker after a stint in the fridge. I also baked my first sour tasting loaf with my lower hydration starter.

Now what I'm finding is that we want even MORE sour flavor. A long rise overnight helps a lot but I'm currently experimenting with adding pineapple juice to my starter. There is a theory that adding an acid to the starter helps the sour producing yeasties to thrive. I have yet to see the results of this but I'll let you know if the pineapple juice method works.

In the meantime here is my basic recipe for Sourdough Starter. I recommend starting with 100% hydration to begin with and then adjusting to a lower hydration if you need to. 100% hydration is very common and used in most recipes.

Sourdough Starter
by Kaitlyn McFadden

* because I don't have a scale these measurements do not officially equal 100% hydration according to the pros. 1/2 cup of water will be heavier than 1/2 cup of flour. I've never had a problem not being precise but if you want to be then the measurements should be 50g of both water and flour. 

  • Clean container rinsed with boiling water. (I use an empty 48oz plastic cottage cheese container with a few holes punched in the top that allow gases to escape. The container must be larger enough to allow for expansion as once your starter gets active it will double in size after being fed.
  • filtered water
  • white flour
  • rye flour
  • wooden spoon/plastic spatula


Day 1: Mix 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white flour together in your container with a wooden spoon. Loosely cover and place in a warm draft free place. I put mine in the oven (turned off!) with the light turned on. Starters tend to be more active between 20C and 30C so if your home is colder it may take longer (as in a few days) for your starter to become active. Leave alone for 24 hours. 

Day 2: Stir in 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 cup of white flour and 1/4 cup of rye flour. Remember to use your clean wooden spoon. 

Day 3: Repeat Day 2. Nothing should be happening yet.

Day 4: Repeat Day 2. You might start to see some bubbles.

Day 5: Remove half the starter and discard (I know! It hurts, but it's necessary!) Stir in 1 cup of water, 3/4 cup of white flour, and 1/4 cup of rye flour to the remaining starter.

Day 6: You should see bigger bubbles but no significant rise. Repeat Day 2.

Day 7: Repeat Day 2. More bubbles should be seen, perhaps a rise in volume too?

Day 8: Repeat step 5. Between 2 and 8 hours after this feeding you starter should double. If it doesn't it just needs more time

You need to continue with the discard and feeding everyday for another 6 days. When you see your starter responding better try only discarding 1 cup of starter instead of half of the total amount of starter and see how it responds. Remember an active starter that can be baked with should double in size between 2-8 hours after the discard and feeding. Don't be afraid to taste your starter to check how sour it is. 

After two weeks if your starter is still active then you don't need to feed everyday. Although some sourdough experts say the best starters are fed everyday. I keep mine in the fridge between uses and revive it with 1 or 2 feedings. Just remember to bring it to room temperature before feeding.

You can find my basic recipe for sourdough here when you are ready to try baking with your starter.

If you have any questions please comment on the blog, facebook me, or email me at and I'll try must best to answer your questions and help you out along the way.

You are only a few weeks away from enjoying your own Sourdough Boule!