If baking whole grain sourdough bread is one of (or your only) bread baking goal, you’ll find it’s not complicated to develop a starter. It just takes time.
You will also find that a whole grain starter has a stronger flavor than a starter developed from all-purpose flour. If you’re new to sourdough bread baking, it may take some time to find the right mix of grains and exact starter flavor/intensity to suit your taste. Trust me when I say it’s well worth the time it takes to explore your options and zero in on your preferred flavor.
Here’s the super simple sourdough starter recipe:
½ cup flour (any variety)
1/3 cup water (use filtered water or allow your water to sit on the counter overnight so the chlorine evaporates)
Don’t skimp on the water or your mixture will be too dry and not ferment properly.
In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the flour and water. Do NOT use a metal spoon. Silicone or wood is preferred.
Once mixed, place the flour/water in a glass container. A quart jar works very well. Wide mouth is ideal but regular mason jar works, too.
Cover the jar with either a paper towel or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band or the jar ring. I use a screen that fits inside my jar lid. You just have to keep the jar open so the fermentation can progress.
Allow the mixture to sit for 24 hours.
The next day, Day 1, you may or may not see some bubbles forming in the flour/water mixture. Either way, mix another ½ cup flour and 1/3 cup water and stir it into the jar.
On days 2 and 3, remove (pour out) ½ cup of the mixture. Place it in a container (my favorite is a pint jar) and cover it so it doesn’t dry out before you can use it. Mix ½ cup flour and 1/3 cup water; stir it into the starter.
Day 4: by now you should be seeing bubbles in your starter. You may also detect a “fermented” odor coming from the jar. It’s time to “feed” the starter 2x/day, as close as possible to every 12 hours.
Day 5-7, “feed” the starter 2x/day, removing one-half cup each time and using the same ½ cup flour and 1/3 cup water to replace it. On day 7, the starter will be ready to use to bake bread.
The amount of starter you use in your bread recipe will vary according to the amount of flour and size of the loaf you’re making. Watch for more information on how to modify a bread recipe to convert it to a sourdough bread recipe.
Also, know that you will achieve the best baking results with sourdough bread by implementing these two practices:
- You can bake sourdough bread in a regular bread pan. It will rise beautifully and may give you a larger loaf than you achieved with commercial yeast. However, you will have a somewhat tougher crust. I don’t know the science behind this, but the crust is better if there’s a source of steam during the baking.
- To resolve this crust issue, consider investing in a bread cloche. The cloche cover traps steam as the bread bakes, giving a crispy crust. Cloche price ranges start at around $50 on up to $360+. The main feature is a tight seal, which traps the steam.