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Tips for Starting Your Own Sourdough

Bread, wheat, and grains
Homemade sourdough bread is absolutely delicious and a marvelous pairing with many soups and sandwiches. Unfortunately, making sourdough requires more time and work than baking a loaf of common white or wheat bread because it relies on the fermentation of natural yeast — but don’t let that deter you from trying! If you’ve never made your own sourdough before, here are some helpful tips for effectively starting your first batch.
 
Don’t use bleached flour
 
The foundation of your sourdough starter is flour, and you can use a variety of types for your batch — rye, wheat, whole-grain, or all-purpose, just to name a few. These will all typically work if you adjust your water-to-flour ratio and give the mixture more time to react.
 
However, you should avoid using bleached flour, which will only cause more work and frustration for you. As P.J. Hamel explains on a blog post for the King Arthur Baking Company, “Bleached flour may eventually yield a decent starter, but due to its natural flora having been killed by bleaching it’ll probably take a heck of a lot longer for a starter made with bleached flour to become fully active.”
 
Make sure the water isn’t high in disinfectants
 
Using quality water is also key to promoting the success of your starter, and water that is high in disinfectants like chlorine or chloramine will take longer to ferment, according to sourdough expert Maurizio Leo on his website The Perfect Loaf. Unfortunately, many municipalities add these chemicals to clean tap water, and high levels of such ingredients can impede fermentation. If you want to give your sourdough the best chance of fermenting, pay a dollar or two for a jug of spring or bottled water from the grocery store.
 
If you prefer sticking with tap water from your kitchen faucet, Maurizio suggests filling a large jug with tap water and leaving it uncovered on the countertop overnight for the chlorine to dissipate. However, he notes, “If your city uses chloramine instead of chlorine, letting a jar sit out overnight will not work.”
 
Feed your starter every day
 
Make sure you coax it along every day. How do you do that? “Each day you ‘feed’ the starter with equal amounts of fresh flour and water,” explains Emma Christensen’s tutorial on The Kitchn. “As the wild yeast grows stronger, the starter will become more frothy and sour-smelling.” This is key to making sure the dough doesn’t die as it rests in the jar.

Don’t let it get too big

 
Although you’ll need to feed the starter during the initial 3-4 days, you’ll soon need to start reducing its size by removing portions of it, advises Hamel. That’s because as it ripens it can grow too big and hard to properly manage.
 
Typically, home bakers discard this excess since it’s not quite ready for usage as it hasn’t fully ripened yet. But, you can transfer it to a new container and continue the feeding process until it’s ready if you don’t want to waste it. Or, give it away to a friend to use!
 
Give your starter at least five days to fully develop, though it might take up to a week to be ready to use, depending on factors like the temperature of your house and if it’s consistent. Be patient and don’t give up if you don’t see bubbles forming right away. You might not make a perfect batch on your first attempt, but following these tips will start you in the right direction.
 
This article is presented by Sanderson Ford.
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