Sourdough Starter

April 3rd, 2008


In my book, growing your own sourdough starter is a pretty cool thing to do.  In fact, viewed from a 26-year-old’s perspective, growing your own sourdough starter is about as cool as, say, snap bracelets were when I was ten, or as cool as all-ages concerts were when I was fourteen, or even as cool as road trips were when I was in college.  Ok, maybe not that cool.  But cool nonetheless.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while — it seems that every breadbaker out there has a starter that’s been with him or her for months or even years.  And since there are times lately when I’ve been underwhelmed by the flavor and texture of my own homemade bread, the idea of a starter has been on my mind for a while.

But when I started researching online, I was a little discouraged.  I read one website that said, in essence, “don’t even attempt this unless you’re an expert baker.”  It suggested that far too many “amateur” bakers try to create their own starter with disasterous results.

“Wow,” I though to myself, “is mixing flour and water really that hard?”  And, of course, my gut reaction was correct, because within a week, I had a healthy, stinky, bubbly sourdough starter that was ready for its first bread recipe!  Here’s what it looked like on about Day 4:


Yum… Well, ok, maybe “yum” is the wrong word.  But it’s kind of interesting, in a fourth-grade science project way, isn’t it?

And, more importantly, what a great little bread it was.  I used my bread machine, just out of sheer laziness, and ended up with a crusty loaf of thick, sourdough-y bread.  And my starter was only a week old!  I’m letting it sit at room temperature for another week or two before moving it to the refrigerator, but I know it will only get better from here.

So, without further commentary, I’m going to give you the steps to make your own little sourdough starter, and then the recipe that I used for my sourdough loaf.  Don’t laugh, because the steps are really quite simple.

Sourdough Starter


1. On day 1, mix a cup of flour and a cup of water, stir and leave at room tempterature in an uncovered container (I used an old plastic risotto container, which I had washed out).
2. Approximately 24 hours later, on day 2, pour out half the mixture and discard. Add 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp of sugar and 1/2 cup of water to the remaining mixture and stir well.
3. Repeat step 2 each day for a week.
4. After a week, your starter should be bubbly and thick. You can now replenish it with additional flour and water every other day. So, repeat step 2 once every 48 hours for the next 8 days.
5. After two weeks, move the starter to your fefrigerator. You can cover the canister but make sure there is still air that comes in and out (cut a hole or two in the lid, if you’re using one). You can replenish your starter once a week from now on, indefinitely. From this point on, any starter that you pour of can be used as the “starter” for sourdough bread, and it will only get better as it ages and develops flavor.

Sourdough Bread

1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup water
1 tsp rapid-rise commercial yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar

Mix all ingredients together according to your breadmaker’s instructions. Set the breadmaker to make a 1-lb loaf with a medium crust, on the “White” setting. Allow to cool, slice, and serve.

Makes 1 one-pound loaf.

Tags: breads · food

42 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kitt // Apr 3, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Good for you! I’m not allowed to make sourdough starter because, unlike the dog, it won’t remind me it needs to be fed.

    And then the ASPCY would be after me.

  • 2 Susan // Apr 3, 2008 at 9:28 am

    Congratulations! The bread looks delicious and I’m looking forward to seeing more sourdough breads from you.

  • 3 Erin // Apr 3, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Oh!  Scary!  Scary!  I’m way too much of a chicken to try this so I’ll have to live vicariously through your starter bread baking adventures.

  • 4 Elle // Apr 3, 2008 at 10:04 am

    I have always wanted to try this!  I’ve got the recipe lying around somewhere for the Nancy Silverton La Brea Bakery one that you put squished grapes in.  Yours looks much simpler!  It would be a good science project to do with the kids.  Your bread is beautiful!

  • 5 Jen (Modern Beet) // Apr 3, 2008 at 10:35 am

    This is awesome!  Most of the homemade breads I’ve ever made have turned out less than stellar, so I’ve shied away from doing anything like a sourdough starter.  Thanks for demystifying the process!

    And I totally hear you on that feeling of excitement a-la snap bracelets!  I made bresaola last month and had the same reaction -wheeee!  cured meat at home!

  • 6 katy // Apr 3, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I really liked this bread, and have another recipe that features it coming up (aren’t you excited?!?) — I also used this starter to make 100% whole wheat bread using King Arthur flour, and it was just amazing — one of the best breads I’ve made, if I do say so myself!

  • 7 VeggieGirl // Apr 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve actually never grown my own sourdough starter… thanks for the recipe!! There’s nothing like a fresh-baked loaf of bread to brighten one’s day in the kitchen :0)

  • 8 Jessica // Apr 3, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I made a sourdough starter a couple of months ago, and was about to made bread this week, but i forgot to feed my starter, and it died. . .or i guess is unable to be revived.

  • 9 a. grace // Apr 3, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    i’ve grown pathetically attached to my starter (his name is ebenezer).  he always comes through for me. 🙂

    meanwhile, that’s an awesome cascade of bread in the top photo!

  • 10 mimi // Apr 4, 2008 at 12:03 am

    looks great, what a nice crust! is your birthday coming up soon or something? that’s a couple “26” posts in almost a row if i read that correctly 🙂

  • 11 Kristen // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:50 am

    you continue to impress me, katy!  I’m back in NY for two weeks and would love some bread… or whatever you are making (a not so subtle hint to feed this weary traveler) 🙂

  • 12 Mary Coleman // Apr 4, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Ok, if you can do it, I can do it. I am trying to become a better baker and really want to stop buying overprocessed breads and make my own. You’ve inspired me!
    I love you blog as well. Thanks for coming by mine so I can find yours.

  • 13 adele // Apr 4, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Wow. Sourdough is perhaps the only bread that Nathaniel, my bread-baking friend, has had no luck with. I’ll have to send him your directions. 🙂

  • 14 Deborah // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I really need to try this one day – sourdough is my husband’s favorite.  I just have never taken the plunge!

  • 15 Silvia // Apr 4, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Hi! It’s the first time for me visiting your blog.
    Really a fantastic blog with wonderful recipes!You are truly good in cooking!
    Have a nice day and I’ll come again soon to see your posts!

  • 16 Susan from Food Blogga // Apr 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Sourdough bread is one of those foods I really, really want to like, but can never seem to get all head-over-heels about. Your photos are making me reconsider. 🙂

  • 17 Coffee and Vanilla // Apr 5, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I have never tried to make sour dough bread but I always wanted… I’m just too lazy 😉
    Have a good weekend, Margot

  • 18 cooking // Apr 6, 2008 at 4:16 am

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  • 19 Babeth // Apr 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Great job! I tried once and I must admit yes it’s pretty cool for a foodie 🙂

  • 20 White On Rice Couple // Apr 6, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I have not had much luck with sourdough bread. Yours looks inspiring. I’ll have to try it again!

  • 21 Helen // Apr 6, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    oooh, I want to try this! Only problem is I don’t have a breadmaker. I keep meaning to buy one and this could be the opportunity. I think I may have maxed my food equipment budget this month though…..!

  • 22 holler // Apr 6, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Sounds a bit scary Katy, but never the less I am very, very impressed!

  • 23 mike // Apr 7, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Yeah! Starter is definitely cool. Now I will start one tonight. It’s also fun to share/spread starter amongst friends or relatives too! delicious bread for all

  • 24 MyKitchenInHalfCups // Apr 11, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    So let’s hear about that 100% whole wheat!
    I think with cooking/baking you’ve just got to give it a go.

  • 25 Ivonne // Apr 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm


    I have been saying FOREVER that I’d finally grow my own sourdough starter … you’ve inspired me!

  • 26 Rebecca // Apr 25, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Ok, I’ve made 2 loaves so far and it keeps sinking in the center!  Smells great, but doesnt work…  Any ideas?  I’ve worked too hard remembering to feed the starter to give up now!

  • 27 sugarlaw // Apr 25, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Rebecca — Don’t give up!!!  I’ve had loaves that sink in the middle too — there are several possible culprits.  Ironically, either too much yeast or not enough yeast can cause it, as can having too much liquid in the recipe.  One of the problems with breadmaker recipes is that, because you’re not kneading and shaping the dough yourself, it’s hard to judge whether your dough has the right texture.  If you knead it yourself, you can add more flour or water to get the right consistency, but in the breadmaker, you just have to put the ingredients in and let it go.

    My first suggestion is to look at your dough (big surprise, right?).  If it seems overly moist, take out 1/4 or 1/3 cup of water from the recipe and try again.  If the texture of your dough seems okay, and the only problem is the sinking, then it’s probably too much yeast.  Because there is actually quite a lot of yeast in this recipe, would be to eliminate 1/2 tsp or even 3/4 tsp of the commercial yeast, and try again.  Again, if you knead and shape your dough by hand, you’ll get a better idea of what’s going on with the dough as you go along.

  • 28 bill // Apr 30, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Its clear that I’m going to have to upgrade my general opinion of lawyers, if you keep being this interesting, helpful, and inventive.  Very nicely done!

  • 29 choux // May 9, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Will this starter work just as well in a glass bread dish?  Does it have be for a breadmaker?  I’m on Day 2, would be very grateful for a reply. ..I can toss it now w/ no regrets since I used self-rising flour to start 🙁

  • 30 katy // May 9, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    You can grow it in a glass jar, just make sure that it’s not airtight — it needs to be able to breathe for the yeast to grow!  So either leave it uncovered or cut some holes in the lid of the jar, so that air can get in and out.

    I think the recipe could be made without a breadmaker (almost any bread recipe can) but I haven’t tried it myself — so let me know how it works!

    Good luck!

  • 31 Columbus Foodie » Blog Archive » April 2008 Roundup // May 23, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    […] Sauteed Vegetables from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, Cheddar Corn Chowder from Sugar & Spice, Sourdough Starter from sugarlaws, Baby Beluga Soup from Suite Apple, Mexican Chopped Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing […]

  • 32 judi0044 // Jul 24, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Still trying recipes to use my starter and decided to try this one. My brand machine recipe book calls for 2 c. flour for the basic recipes. The 1 1/2 c. flour didn’t work for me in this recipe – way too wet. Don’t know if our extreme humidity had a bearing. I ended up adding up to 1/2 c. additional KA bread flour. (I stopped the machine after kneading, added several tablespoons and watched it closely while it re-mixed.) When it finished, the dough looked good – shiny and elastic – and when it finished rising it filled the pan nicely which doesn’t always happen.

  • 33 Tempyra » Blog Archive » Sunday Readings: The Bread Edition // Aug 10, 2008 at 9:38 am

    […] How to make sourdough starter […]

  • 34 Marcia // Sep 6, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Can this starter and bread recipe be doubled?  I’ve always wanted to make starter.  My bread machine is a 2 pounder, which is double the loaf that your recipe calls for.  My swedish rye bread recipe has been flopping lately, so I thought maybe this one would work for me.

  • 35 katy // Sep 6, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Marcia — Yes, you can definitely double the recipe (although add some extra flour, I think, based on the comments to this post!).  You don’t need to double the starter recipe — just either pour out one cup, or pour out half a cup once a week for two weeks until you have a full cup.

  • 36 Jeri Mitchell // Sep 29, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I’ve tried this delightful starter and recipe and now have a huge problem. I let a few people try it and now I have 9 orders for the end of the week! That’s exciting because these people are willing to pay me to bake the bread. The problem is, will I have enough starter? Can I add enough more in the mother starter, or will I have to divide the mother starter and start feeding 2 separate ones? I’m just not sure where to go from here. Thanks for any help!

  • 37 Kenny East // Oct 16, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I liked slap-sticks. I relate to everything you are saying. Well except, I am midway with my starter, which I hope to make into a nice loaf here shorty.

  • 38 Kat Sherman // May 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Wow!!!!  What a great idea!!!!  Your bread looks wonderful!!!!  Can you make sourdough starter with whole wheat flour??  Just wondering…we are on a kick for whole grain breads, but we love sourdough!!!!

  • 39 Sarah // Aug 25, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Hey Katy, can you give us a non-bread machine recipe to use this starter with? Thanks!

  • 40 admin // Aug 30, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Sarah — You can use the same recipe without a bread machine.  Just knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth.  Shape it into a loaf, let it rise for another hour, and bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes.  That should work!

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