Sourdough starter

4 May

Sourdough starter

Sourdough bread baking is on the rise (pardon the pun). To get in on the action, the first thing you need to do is acquire some sourdough starter.

There are three ways to go about this. The easiest way is to get some from a “culture-d” friend (like me). You can order dried starter culture through the mail, which should arrive with instructions on how to activate it. Or you can make your own.

The internet is full of recipes for sourdough starters, ranging from simple mixtures of flour and water to complex processes involving specific flours, pineapple juice, grape skins and who knows what else.

There are bread baking forums with posts about the ideal house temperature to establish your starter, careful instructions on how to maintain it once it’s active, and even businesses offering to care for your starter when you go on vacation.

I appreciate that sourdough starter is a living thing, but in many years’ experience I’ve found it extremely hard to kill. Mine seems to thrive on benign neglect.

I typically bake sourdough bread once a week, making two loaves at a time. But I have gone several weeks – and sometimes months – without even taking it out of the fridge. When that happens, I just feed my starter and give it an extra day or two perk up before using it.

After a while in the fridge, sourdough starter will separate, forming an unappealing layer of grayish liquid on top (known as the hooch). This is totally fine – you just give it a good stir before using it. What you don’t want is for your starter to turn pink. I’ve never had that happen, but if it does, it’s game over.

My dad got very into making sourdough bread when we were kids. Eventually he was baking so much of it that he had several ice cream buckets full of starter that he used in rotation.

I take a very different approach, keeping only a modest amount of starter in a jar in the fridge. When I want to bake, I measure out the amount I need, add an equivalent amount of flour and water to the jar, and pop it back in the fridge until the next time.

My current starter is about six years old, but I made a new batch for this post so that I could take photos. This is my dad’s sourdough starter recipe.

Sourdough starter

  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 3 Tb plain yogurt
  • 1 cup bread flour
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk to 100°F (37.8°C). Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt.
  2. Pour the milk into a clean container. Cover tightly with clingfilm, but puncture the surface with the tip of a knife to let gases escape. Leave in a warm place for 24 hours, or until the mixture starts to thicken and resemble yogurt.
  3. If a clear liquid has formed on top, whisk it back in. If the liquid or starter is pink, discard the mixture and start again.
  4. Whisk the flour into the mixture. Cover again and leave in a warm place for two to five days until the mixture is full of bubbles and has a good sour smell.
  5. Store the starter in the fridge until needed.
Sourdough starter – Day 1

Sourdough starter – Day 1


Sourdough starter – Day 2

Sourdough starter – Day 2


Sourdough starter– Day 3

Sourdough starter– Day 3


Sourdough starter – Day 4, ready to use

Sourdough starter – Day 4, ready to use


17 Responses to “Sourdough starter”

  1. mash29 May 4, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    I keep saying ‘One day I’ll make some sourdough’ and not actually doing it. This might finally give me the kick!

    • Andrea May 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

      Hope you do give it a try – it does take time, but very little work and the finished product is wonderful!

      • mash29 May 19, 2016 at 9:54 am #

        Yes, I can’t wait to give it a go. Our kitchen is in the process of having some work done at the moment but once we’ve properly moved back in, I’ll try it!

      • Andrea May 19, 2016 at 10:24 am #

        Let me know how you get on 🙂

  2. Linda May 4, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    Love sourdough bread – but I’ve never made it – Pinned this recipe! 🙂

    • Andrea May 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

      Thanks, Linda – hope you give it a try soon!

  3. Margo May 4, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Would you believe that I have lost my recipe for sourdough starter and am so happy to see your dad’s posted! I have failed miserably with online versions I have tried.

    • Andrea May 4, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      This is it – he may even have got it from you in the first place!

  4. Lucy May 4, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    Looks so yummy and only 4 days before it’s good to go! Thanks for sharing. Does the yoghurt need to be live?

    • Andrea May 4, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

      You are very welcome. I used a natural plain yogurt from the supermarket, which worked just fine!

  5. Kristy Rhine May 12, 2016 at 1:42 am #

    I nominated you for the ONE LOVELY BLOG award. 🙂 You don’t have to respond, but wanted you to know! I do enjoy your blog! 🙂

    • Andrea May 12, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

      Thank you, Kristy — that’s very kind of you. I appreciate you doing that, and taking the time to tell me that you enjoy the blog!

  6. creativeshare July 23, 2016 at 5:34 am #

    Reblogged this on CreativelyShared and commented:
    Yet another way to produce a sourdough starter… awesome!

  7. creativeshare July 23, 2016 at 5:37 am #

    I am always interested in alternative methods of creating a sourdough starter… thank you Andrea!

    • Andrea July 23, 2016 at 7:04 am #

      You’re most welcome!

  8. Laura Etten January 13, 2018 at 12:46 am #

    Do you have a recipe now so I can use the starter?

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