How To Make A Sourdough Starter + Bread

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Have you wondered how to make a sourdough starter? It’s crazy! I keep hearing people can’t find yeast. So, my friend, Jess called me and said: “I think you need to show people how to make a sourdough starter.”

So here I am, making it with white bread flour. Yes, you can make it with all-purpose white flour. I only stock white bread flour. Just giving you the heads up.

People need to understand that the starter we have you make in this blog post is a substitute for commercial yeast in the bread recipe included. Yes, you can make your own yeast substitute, and it works and tastes great when you make this delicious sourdough bread.

How To Make Sourdough Starter

Day One

Step One

You start with 1 cup of all-purpose white or bread flour and 1/2 cup of cool water (it must be filtered or reverse osmosis water). The tap water has too much chlorine for it to work, or at least at my house that’s the case.

Please start with a crock or quart glass wide-mouth mason jar. Add the flour to the jar with a canning funnel and then add the water. I use an 11-inch Danish Whisk to stir my starters. The 13-inch size doesn’t fit inside my wide mouth quart mason jars.

Stir the two ingredients until smooth and you can’t see any dry flour. Cover the jar with a cloth or a wide-mouth Ball White Lid, just barely turn the lid on the jar. It must have air to breathe and grow. Set it on your countertop.

How To Make Sourdough Starter

Step Two

Here’s what it looks like. Please remember, the starter is alive and it needs air to breathe. Don’t tighten the lids, only turn slightly to close.

Sourdough Day 1

Step Three

You can see it looks lumpy and quite a bit like oatmeal. It’s not runny or dry. It will be a little stretchy and smell like bread dough. Place the jar on the counter in a warm (70 degrees or above) area for 24 hours.

Day Two

The jar looked exactly the same on the second day so I didn’t take any pictures. If you look at your jar you may or may not see any activity for the first 24 hours. That’s okay.

Discard (1/2 cup) of the starter in the jar and add 1 scant cup of flour and 1/2 cup filtered water to the jar.

Mix well and put the lid back on and turn only slightly. Remember, the starter needs to breathe. Now we wait another 24 hours. This is so fun! I love watching for the bubbles, the bubbles mean it’s alive and well.

Day Three

Sourdough Day Three

You can see that the sourdough yeast has doubled in volume, if not tripled.

This is a great sign, it’s alive and growing. If you are wondering how I remember the 24 hour time period, I set the timer on my phone for 2:00 p.m. every day.

Today, day three, you feed the starter every 12 hours, yes, twice during the 24 hour period. Now I have to set my timer twice a day. Remember we keep the jars at room temperature right now.

Here again (two times today), you discard 1/2 cup of the starter, add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water to the jar. Stir until you can’t see any dry flour.

Place the lid on the jar and turn slightly, not tight. They need to breathe.

Day Three View From Inside Jar

It’s working, you can see the bubbles, this means it’s alive and well.

Sourdough Day 3

Float Test

Starter Float Test

Okay, now if you’re wondering whether your starter is ready to make bread, pancakes, or whatever, here’s what you do. Grab a glass of filtered water and drop a teaspoon of your starter into the glass.

If it floats, it’s good and ready to use. No worries, if it sinks, it just means your starter needs to be fed again and let sit for another 6-12 hours at room temperature.

The black arrow shows my 1 teaspoon of starter is floating, yay! It’s good to go!

How often do I need to feed my starter that’s in the fridge?

Some people wonder if we have to feed the starter every day if it’s stored in the refrigerator. No, it doesn’t. It is suggested that feeding once a week is sufficient. Just set a timer on your phone or calendar app to remind you to feed it every week.

Do I store the starter on the countertop?

The problem with storing the starter on the countertop is the need to continue the “feeding” process every day. Unless you’re ready to put the starter to use and make some bread, then you should consider storing the starter in you fridge as outlined in the next topic.

Do I store my starter in the fridge?

As mentioned above, you are better off to store the starter in your fridge if you don’t plan to bake the bread when the starter is ready for use. You should plan to feed it weekly, but don’t worry if you miss a week from time to time.

When you need to feed the stored starter, just pull it from the fridge, throw out all but 25% of the starter, and then add one scant cup flour and 1/2 cup filtered water and stir as before.

Place the lid on loosely. Put this mixture aside for one to three hours before you put it back in the fridge.

This feeding step can be repeated for an extended period as long as you consistently feed the starter.

When you decide it’s time to use the starter by making the bread, pull the starter from the fridge and add the flour and water as with all your other feedings, but don’t throw any of the starter away.

You’ll want to wait for the starter to get bubbly again. Once it does, it’s ready to use.

The bubbles may take a few hours to appear, so be patient. Maybe you’ll want to pull it out in the morning or early afternoon with plans to make the dough later that day, and then plan to bake right before bedtime or early the next morning.

What do I do if it goes dark on the top of the starter?

Starter stored in the fridge for an extended period may end up having a layer of liquid on top in your container. Simply pour off the liquid and prepare / feed the starter as mentioned above.

If there is also a slight black color you should be ok to use it too. Be sure to scrape the black part off, feed the starter and use it or place it back in the fridge.

If the starter is dark black, brown, white, or red spots there is a chance you’ve developed mold in the starter. That seldom happens if properly stored in the fridge.

If there is any question if mold is present, you’ll want to throw all the starter out and start over. This is seldom a problem, but can happen from time to time.

What container is the best to store the starter in?

A crock or glass quart mason jar. I use the Ball White Lids and just barely turn the lid, not too tight, not too loose.

Let’s Make Sourdough Bread Now

Step One

 Stir the starter with the water, add the honey, and the flour, one cup at a time. Mix or knead until the bread pulls away from the mixing bowl sides.

Sourdough in the mixer

Step Two

Grease a large mixing bowl, (I used butter) and place the ball of dough in it.

Sourdough in a bowl

Step Three

Cover with a wet towel. Let it rise (ferment) for 6-12 hours.

Cover with wet cloth

Step Four

If you want to use a Dutch oven then you will use a 6-quart Dutch oven. Place a sheet of parchment paper (greased in the middle) at the bottom of the Dutch oven. This is the Lodge Dutch Oven I used.

Take the dough out of the bowl that it’s been rising in and place the dough ever so carefully onto a floured countertop.

You will gently remove a few air bubbles and place the rounded dough in the Dutch oven on top of greased parchment paper. You grease the parchment paper in the area where you will put the dough so the paper doesn’t stick to the dough during the baking process.

Place the lid on and let the dough rest 20-30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Use a sharp knife and make a few slices on top of the dough. Bake the bread in the Dutch oven with the lid ON.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake it another 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Dutch oven ready

Step Five

Finished product.

How To Make A Sourdough Starter + Bread

Sourdough Bread w/White Flour

Sourdough Bread w/White Flour by FSM
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Rising Time
12 hrs
Total Time
40 mins
 
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 people
Author: Linda Loosli
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup sourdough starter (do the float test first-1 tsp. of starter in a glass of water, if it floats it's ready to use)
  • 1-1/4 cup filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 3-1/2 cups white bread flour
Instructions
  1. Cookie Sheet Instructions: I used my Bosch but you can make this by hand if you like in a large mixing bowl. Stir the starter with the water, add the honey, and the flour, one cup at a time. Mix or knead until the bread pulls away from the mixing bowl sides. Sprinkle the countertop with a little flour and mound the dough into a round ball. Grease a large mixing bowl, (I used butter) and place the ball of dough in it. Cover with a wet towel. Let it rise (ferment) for 6-12 hours. When the dough is ready, form it into a round circle and place the mound on a greased cookie sheet and let it rise 2 hours. Cut a slit with a sharp knife on top to give it some character. Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes. After baking lather butter in the top if you like a soft crust. Otherwise, leave it as it is.

Dutch Oven Instructions
  1. If you want to use a Dutch oven then you will use a 6-quart Dutch oven. Place a sheet of parchment paper (greased in the middle) at the bottom of the Dutch oven. Take the dough out of the bowl that it's been rising in and place the dough ever so carefully onto a floured countertop. You will gently remove a few air bubbles and place the rounded dough in the Dutch oven on top of greased parchment paper (the area where you will put the dough) in the Dutch oven. Place the lid on and let the dough rest 20-30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Before baking use a sharp knife and make a few slices on top of the dough. Bake the bread in the Dutch oven with the lid ON. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake it another 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Feeding The Starter After Using It
  1. When you need to feed the stored starter, just pull it from the fridge, throw out all but 25% of the starter, and then add one scant cup flour and 1/2 cup filtered water and stir.

    OR if you use some of the starter (like for bread), scoop out what you want to use and feed the jar with one scant cup flour and 1/2 cup filtered water and stir.

    Place the lid on loosely. Put this mixture aside for one to three hours before you put it back in the fridge.

How do I store the sourdough bread after it’s baked?

I use bread bags and set the bread on the countertop.

How long will the bread keep on the counter?

Because there are no preservatives in the bread its best for 2-3 days only.

Can I freeze the loaves after baking?

Yes, you can freeze this bread after baking in a tightly wrapped bread bag or container. It will keep up to 3 months in your freezer.

Can I use Gluten-Free Flour?

Just a note about cup for cup King Arthur Gluten-Free flour, they don’t recommend it for making bread. It’s perfect for cakes, cookies, and brownies.

You can make sourdough flatbread, but not the typical loaves of bread you may want. Sorry, It’s not going to work. It’s not designed for bread or at least bread as you and I know it. Here is their sourdough flatbread recipe: King Arthur Sourdough Flatbread

Final Word

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of helping Melissa Richardson (The Bread Geek), author of “The Art Of Baking With Natural Yeast,” teach a few classes in St. George, Utah.

She put herself through college making freshly ground whole wheat bread made with natural yeast (no commercial yeast). She has been a great friend for many years.

I learned how to make natural yeast from her. I learned how to make sourdough bread using a sourdough starter from Chef Brad. Life has been good to me and I know God wants me to teach the world how to make sourdough and natural yeast bread. We can do it, I promise. May God bless this world, Linda

10 thoughts on “How To Make A Sourdough Starter + Bread

  • April 13, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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    Hi. I have a question about the sourdough starter. When the bread is finished does it taste like sour dough or does it taste like regular bread??

    Reply
    • April 13, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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      Hi Cheryl, it tastes like sourdough. I make regular white and whole wheat bread every week. This is different. Now, I wanted it to taste like sourdough so I let it the ball of dough rise 12 hours. It may taste less sourdough if you let it rise less. You will have to decide what flavor you like. I have a store here in So. Utah that makes sourdough bread. I LOVE it. I will never buy it again after making this loaf. I hope this helps, Linda

      Reply
  • April 13, 2020 at 4:51 pm
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    Thanks Linda I’ll give this starter a try so far I have not had good luck with making it.
    I love sourdough bread so i’ m certainly going to try it wish me luck!!

    Reply
    • April 13, 2020 at 5:25 pm
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      Hi Debbie, just make sure your flour is fresh, I only buy what I can use in a year. Use Reverse Osmosis water or bottled filtered water. It’s so easy, my daughter has now made sourdough pizza, bread, pancakes, and breadsticks. I told her if we could get every family to learn to make it their family would never starve. It’s ready to make bread in 4 to 5 days. It’s amazing. Don’t give up. I will coach you through it. Linda

      Reply
  • April 14, 2020 at 12:00 am
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    I am a professional and baker. I never use reverse osmosis water and you can tell why. I said professional and we don’t do that in our restaurants.

    Reply
    • April 14, 2020 at 6:18 am
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      Hi Cody, that’s good to hear. The water in our area has way too much chlorine so I was taught to use filtered water. Thank you, Linda

      Reply
  • April 17, 2020 at 3:04 am
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    Can I use fresh ground soft white wheat for this (bread setting on a Wonder Mill)? Thanks

    Reply
    • April 17, 2020 at 6:42 am
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      Hi Angel, I used to teach classes on baking at a fancy Kitchen Store. I only buy hard white wheat when I make my wheat bread. Soft white wheat is better for cookies, cakes, pastries, etc. I will say, I have heard a few bakeries use it to make sourdough bread. I have not tried it. It would be an inexpensive test, why not try it. Keep me posted if it works. Thank you, Linda

      Reply
  • April 18, 2020 at 3:38 pm
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    I can not get my starter to look like day 3. I keep feeding it, but it never raises to that level. I even tried putting it in the oven with the light on, but still nothing. It smells like it should. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
    • April 18, 2020 at 4:27 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Arlene, please do not put it in the oven, it doesn’t need that. It smells good, that’s awesome, can you see air bubbles, that means it’s alive and growing. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like mine on day three. It may take 4 days or even 5 days. Today, day three, you feed the starter every 12 hours, yes, twice during the 24 hour period. Now I have to set my timer twice a day. Remember we keep the jars at room temperature right now. It will work, it takes patience. Here again (two times today), you discard 1/2 cup of the starter, add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water to the jar. Stir until you can’t see any dry flour. Is your flour fresh? Are you using filtered water? It does not like chlorinated water. If this doesn’t work, let me know. Please do not turn the lid on tight, it needs air to breathe. Keep me posted, I will walk you through this, Linda

      Place the lid on the jar and turn slightly, not tight. They need to breathe.

      Reply

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