Sourdough is a tangy, chewy, slow-fermented bread with a crisp crust. A simple method of timing, patience, and a sourdough starter make sourdough for beginners easy to accomplish. The sourdough process may seem complicated, but with our ultimate guide to sourdough, you’ll be able to easily bake unique, delicious bread.
Sourdough for Beginners
Baking the perfect sourdough bread requires a healthy sourdough starter in order to rise. A sourdough starter is a fermented mixture made from flour and water that contains a combination of bacteria and wild yeasts. You can create a homemade sourdough starter, purchase one that’s ready to go, or opt for a shared starter from a friend.
Making Your Own Sourdough Starter
Growing your own starter means you know exactly where your bread product is from—plus, it grants you the ability to choose ingredients and customize your sourdough’s flavor.
Creating a starter from scratch can be a fun experience; however, there are a few things to know about the process beforehand:
- It’s time-consuming, with several months of everyday maintenance
- It takes a few months to fully develop and can fail at any point
- There are recommended ingredients to ensure quality dough
- It can be messy and sometimes exude stinky smells
Feeding Your Sourdough Mixture
A sourdough starter is a natural, living culture that must be regularly fed with water and flour to provide the best flavor, texture, and keeping quality. To feed your sourdough starter, you’ll need the following:
Clean Water Supply: To ensure your bread’s tasty flavor, use lukewarm or cold quality tap or filtered water that’s free of chlorine. Never use boiling water, or you’ll risk killing your starter.
Quality Flour: You can use a variety of bread or all-purpose flours, however, starters tend to thrive with whole wheat, whole grain, spelt, or rye flour.
Storage: Preserve your starter in a covered jar with access to air, and loosely seal it with a lid or cloth. Mason jars work great for this!
Feeding Your Sourdough Starter
Feeding your starter is simple! Use a scale or measuring cup to measure approximately the same flour and water that’s already in your starter and mix until there are no flour clumps. Once it’s fed, seal your jar and let it grow!
Keep your starter at room temperature and feed it at least once a day if you bake frequently. If you’re a sporadic baker, only feed your starter once a week and keep it refrigerated.
When is My Starter Ready?
Depending on its condition and temperature, it can take between 2 and 12 hours to become active. An active starter will look bubbly, doubled in original size, and smell fresh and fruity.
If there’s a liquid layer on top of your starter, pour it off the top or mix it back in, keep it at room temperature, and increase feedings for 3-7 days.
If you’re still unsure, try the “The Float Test” with a teaspoon of water.
Obtaining a Sourdough Starter
A ready-made starter is an option for those who aren’t ready to commit to starting from scratch. With a premade starter, you avoid the initial starter setup and feeding requirements, so you’ll be baking almost right away.
However, a starter’s flavor and quality are dependent on the environment and ingredients it’s been fed, so there’s no guarantee on the flavor you’ll end up with. Be sure to do your research and locate a reputable source for better odds of landing a high-quality starter.
Where to Find a Sourdough Starter
Ask your local bakery! With a local bakery, you already know they have tasty bread, so odds are that your bread will be equally delicious.
Ask a friend! You’ll know exactly where it’s coming from, and most bakers are happy to share a portion of their starter.
Bread-y to bake? Your starter must be active to bake. Place your starter at room temperature the night before.
There are endless recipes, but a beginner sourdough recipe is a safe bet to start with. Try a discard sourdough recipe that’s dedicated to any leftover starter you may have.
Easy Sourdough Bread Recipes
Learn More From Backwards Bread
At Backwards Bread, our volunteer program offers professional insight into bread making with takeaway knowledge for creating your own delicious sourdough. We also offer educational tours for an inside look at how Backwards Bread bakes our artisan loaves, organic sourdoughs, and pastries. Contact our team to learn more.