Flour + Water = Starter

Ah, summer… corn on the cob, lazy reading in the hammock, and… sourdough starter, of course!

Mature sourdough starter

I’ve been taking advantage of this warm weather to try raising some starters from scratch. I had done it before in a week-long class (in fact, that’s the starter I’ve been using for months), but we were able to keep our cultures at a constant 80 degrees F, and we added extra malt to jump-start the process. I wanted to see how it worked with just flour and water, in the warm but fluctuating room temperatures of my non-air-conditioned house in these beautiful early summer weeks in northern California.

Success! Raising a starter seems to be something that is perceived as mysterious, complicated, or hard. But in my experience, it’s not; it just requires attention and patience.

I did this a couple of times, once with rye and once with whole wheat flour. Both worked, but the rye worked better, so that’s the one I’m summarizing. (Note: this ends up as a white starter. The rye is just in the beginning, to get things going.)

Ready to try it?

Sourdough Starter from Scratch

Ingredients:

  • White flour (bread or all-purpose), preferably one that contains malted barley flour. Most white flours do, but some do not, especially if they are organic. Check the label.
  • Rye flour.
  • Water. I use bottled (not distilled) water because I don’t want the chlorine in tap water, and I do want the minerals that are removed by my water softener. If your tap water is not softened, you could let some sit out for a few hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate. All the water should be at about 85F; the yeast you want to nurture likes warmish water. I heat a small amount of water in the microwave and mix it with room temperature water, checking it with an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t have one, the water should feel about neutral to the touch.

Equipment:

  • A 1-quart or larger container with a lid, preferably transparent and with straight vertical sides (this makes it easier to gauge the activity of the culture).
  • A kitchen scale. If you don’t have one, get one. In the meantime, I’ll give the approximate volume measurements. But just this once; really, weigh your ingredients! (I never said I wasn’t opinionated.)
  • An instant-read thermometer is useful for checking water temperature.
  • A rubber spatula or plastic dough scraper.
  • Transparent tape.
  • A way to heat water.
  • A warm(ish) place, preferably around 80F. The room I used fluctuated from low 70’s to mid 80’s. A room thermometer is helpful.

General process:

  • The stuff you’re growing is a “culture” before it is mature and stable enough to bake with, at which point it becomes a “starter.”
  • The volume measurements I’ve given do not corresponding exactly to the weight measurements, but the proportions are the same. Don’t mix weight and volume measurements.
  • You will initially leave the culture alone for 24 hours, after which you will “feed” it at 12-hour intervals; choose your starting time accordingly. I arbitrarily assume you’re starting in the morning.
  • Feeding involves removing and discarding a portion of the culture, and adding water and flour to what remains: first mix the culture and water together thoroughly, then add the flour and mix until thoroughly blended.
  • Before you begin, it’s helpful to mark the weight of the container on the bottom with a Sharpie, or note it elsewhere. Then when it’s time to discard some of the culture, you can just keep taking some out and weighing the container until you know that the remaining culture is the right amount. I do not wash my container between every feeding.
  • Contrary to a somewhat popular belief, it is OK to use a stainless steel spoon for mixing.
  • After mixing, use a spatula or dough scraper to squeegee the sides of the container so they’re nice and clean. This helps you see how much the culture has risen, and keeps things tidy.
  • When you’re done mixing, smooth the top of the culture flat as much as possible. Place a piece of tape running straight up the outside of the container, and mark the level of the culture. This is how you will know how much it has risen.
  • Replace the container lid when you’re done mixing. If it’s a screw on lid or mason-jar type, you may want to leave it a little loose to give accumulated gas an escape route. If it is a plastic snap-on lid, you can snap it tight; the lid will pop off if the pressure inside gets too high.

Day 1 AM:

  • Make sure your container is clean, well-rinsed, and dry.
  • Mix 100 g water, 50 g rye flour, and 50 g white flour (or 1/2 c. water and 3/8 c. of each flour.)
  • Leave the culture in its warm spot for 24 hours.

Day 2 AM:

  • Hopefully you will see signs of life. Has the culture risen a little? Are there any bubbles in it, even one or two? (These are sometimes best seen by picking it up and looking at it through the bottom of the container.)
  • Bubbles in culture after 12 hours

  • It is possible that you will see a large rise (50% or more) at this point. Don’t be fooled; this does not mean you’ve birthed a miracle baby. In the initial stages of a culture, a type of bacteria called leuconostoc may predominate; it produces a lot of gas and causes the rapid rise. This bacteria is not desirable, but not harmful either, and it will eventually die out as the beneficial critters settle in and the culture becomes more acidic. You may also notice that the culture has a rather unpleasant odor; don’t worry, this too shall pass.
  • (If you see absolutely no sign of life whatsoever, I suggest leaving it alone for another 12 hours before proceeding. If there is still nothing, why not forge ahead anyway and see what happens?)
  • Discard all but 75 g of the culture. Feed this with 75 g water, 25 g rye flour, and 50 g white flour (1/3 c. starter, 1/3 c. water, 5 teaspoons rye flour, and 1/3 c. white flour).
  • Set it back in its warm spot for 12 hours.

Day 2 PM:

  • You may see signs of activity, but the culture may be either more or less lively than what you saw this morning. Anything from a single bubble to a 100% rise is good.
  • Sourdough culture at 36 hours

  • Again, feed 75 g of culture with 75 g water, 25 g rye flour, and 50 g white flour, and return it to the warm spot.

Day 3 AM:

  • Your culture may appear dead, but it’s probably not. Don’t worry, just go ahead and feed as before.

Day 3 PM and every 12 hours thereafter:

  • Continue to feed as you’ve been doing. At some point things should pick up steam, and you will notice that the culture gets a little more vigorous with each feeding.
  • When the culture at least doubles itself in 12 hours and is looking nice and bubbly, start feeding with only white flour (75 g culture / 75 g water / 75 g flour). This happened for me around the end of Day 4.
  • Sourdough culture at 4 days

  • After about 5 – 7 days, hopefully you will observe that the culture can double itself in 8 hours or less, smells pleasantly sour, and is full of bubbles. Congratulations, you have raised a 100% hydration starter that’s ready to bake with! If you’re looking for a recipe, how about this Norwich Sourdough?
  • Norwich sourdough

  • At this point you can also start decreasing the amount of culture in relation to the feeding flour and water, and use room-temperature instead of 85-degree water. You have been mixing 1:1:1 culture:water:flour at each feeding. Now try 1:2:2 and see if the starter can still double in 8 hours or less.

I’ll say more about the care and feeding of my starter in a near-future post.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Roy says

    Hi Susan I think you missed my post…

    Have you gotten natural leaven that isn’t sour, like the kind used for making french loaves and crossaints?

  2. Rachel says

    Thanks Susan! That was helpful. I just have one more question. I’m on day 7 with my starter and it still hasn’t doubled. It went through the foul smell phase and now it smells slightly sour and floury. Then again my house stays around 70-73F range. I’m just wondering, how long CAN it take to get it going? Is there a certain point where I should just dump it and wait for summer time? Thanks!

  3. Eric says

    So if wheat flour already contains yeast, and the wheat could come from anywhere, is there any way to bake sourdough that’s truly “local”? As in, with a culture (and so flavor) that’s unique to my neck of the woods?

    I guess I could plant some wheat myself, but that seems a bit extreme.

  4. Mimi says

    I am on day 15 of my starter and it only rises a bit evn though it is spongy. Do I need to feed it twice a day if it is not going to rise much? Sometimes I forget. How long do I keep this up before starting over with pineapple juice?

  5. says

    Sandie, I think you’ll have better luck if you can keep it warm. How about in the oven with the light turned on?

    Mimi, have you followed the procedure outlined here? Are you keeping your starter warm and at a 1:1 ratio of flour and water? I have not had good luck with the pineapple juice method, although I know others have.

  6. Mimi says

    Hi again Susan

    I am trying to keep it warm and use warm water. I had good sponginess for a while though it was not doubling in size. I traveled for 3 days and put it in the refrigerator. I do not think it is alive but I fed it again tonight and will see what happens. Thanks for answering. I guess I will keep going, I only have day time temps in my house of 65 degrees. Will this work better in the summer?

  7. Saar raitzes says

    I begin with the starter 6 days ago but nothing move, in today feed I add half spoone white sugar.
    What r u thinking about this?

  8. Jennifer says

    I have a pretty silly question – I’ve read several bread books now, and a few web articles, and while I think I understand the starter/feeding thing, I’m unclear on the warm place & fridge references. For which steps do you want cool and/or fridge, and for which do you want warm and/or oven with just pilot light (which, for me, isn’t that warm – it’s about 70 F in there, I think)? Thanks so much – I’m really excited about this but not great at it yet!

  9. says

    I’ve followed your instructions to the T but now my starter just shows no sign of life unless I stir it. I continue to feed it, but every morning I see that the water rises on top and there is plain batter underneath. Why is that? Is it time to let it go and start from the beginning?

  10. Jim Rosinbum says

    Starting my wild yeast in a mason jar and on day 3 all is well. Followed the directions exactly how it is written and will be leaving for 5 days after the 6th day of starting. The yeast will go in the fridge before I leave and were hoping to resurrect my wild yeast when I get back. Thank you everyone who has contributed to the forums. It has helped the process through all the twist and turns I have had to make. Happy baking.

  11. Laurie says

    Hello, thanks so much for posting this. I received a starter of wild yeast from an old woman who said that when she received it from her neighbor in 1968, the yeast was 50 years old! While feeding, I accidentally contaminated it with baking soda which spilled from the cabinet… I’m wondering if you know what this would do to the yeast starter and if it is salvageable?

  12. Linus says

    Interesting site. I have been making sour dough starter this week, though I probably used it for baking too soon. My rye bread rose but not much, it was very tastey however.

    I had several interesting things happen when making my starter. First it was very slow to start ( the house was in the 60′s – later I put it in the oven and turned on the light and that worked fine. Along about the third day the starter was doubling about every two or three hours. And when I smelled it, the alcohol smell nearly knocked me over. On the fourth day I decided to bake. At this time I froze some of the starter and put two quarts in the fridge. So, I’m learning a lot and having lots of fun.

  13. Linus says

    My bread rose nicely ( I used 1 cup of gluten ) but the taste was pretty mundane and the texture wasn’t munchy enough for me. It had a nice light brown crust and rose to 3.” Next time I will cut the starter in half and use only 4 tsps of glutten per cup of rye and no white flour. That should give me the munchy bread I like.

  14. Sarah says

    I have some blue bird flour from our local mill here in Colorado, it’s a good white flour and nothing but the wheat, no additives or anything.

    My question is this: can we make a starter just using plain white flour or do we always need to have the rye in the beginning? I was wondering why we had to start with the rye (which I don’t currently have) and then could switch to plain white. I will have to hunt up the rye but might try both varieties.

    Glad to find your site and to read all the comments. Amazing that we now have five years of comments here. Time goes by quickly! Thanks for such a cool website -

  15. says

    Thank you so much for this tutorial..i followed it day by day and now have a wonderfully active starter (at least I am pretty sure I do)..I am going to try baking with it tomorrow or Friday!!! I am going to use your Norwich sourdough bread recipe a try.

    Thank you again~~I will let you know how the baking goes!

    :)Doreen

  16. Tulsi says

    Can I use freshly milled barley flour to begin my starter or a combination of and wheat and barley flours? I am asking because rye flour is not available in my area.

  17. Kate says

    I am having trouble with my starter — it rises pretty good (though doesn’t really double) as long as I am adding rye flour, but once I start leaving that out and just using white, it stays flat and gets watery. I have tried using more flour, more water, leaving on the porch in 90+ degree temps, but no luck. Anyone have any advice? I have not been using a scale to measure but am thinking of getting one.

  18. Joanne says

    Hello — I have a starter that is active and have baked with it for a few weeks but I have a knowledge gap between creating a starter and baking because if one discards all but 75g and adds 75g water and 75g flour thats only 225g but most recipes here call for more than that, nearer 350-400g so I have been making my starter up to the amount needed the day before in the same proportions is this what I am supposed to do or am I missing a step somewhere? Thank you

  19. says

    Thanks for the awesome post! I followed your directions exactly, but my starter isn’t really rising at all. I’m on day ten. There are lots of bubbles, and it’s really stretchy with gluten, but I don’t know where my problem lies. I’m feeding every 12 hours with the measurements posted and it’s in a warm, draft-free space on my counter. Can I bake with this yet, or should I wait? Thanks for any advice!

  20. Mike Sartin says

    Semi-instant Emergency Kitchen Scale.

    Take two identical measuring cups, at least one of which is calibrated in milliliters. Take a wooden ruler and balance it on a pencil. Place each of the two measuring cups at opposite ends of the ruler. 1ml of water weighs one gram.

  21. Will says

    Hey Susan,
    Got a quick question. Im looking to start baking at the restaurant I currently work at. Using your recipe, I’ve nurtured a great starter now at day 5. Question is, if im going to be doing mass quantity, I need more starter. Intervals of 1:2:2 feeding is not going to cut it… So, do I just triple your exact measurments? Or is there something that I need to do to further in order to house a large supply of culture.

    -Will

  22. Geoff says

    To ejm from way back in 2007…
    ” I began with rye flour, water and a tiny bit of honey”
    I tried this too but only this year when I discovered how wonderful sourdough really is to eat, and make. The BIG mistake was adding the honey. Not only does honey kill bacteria and yeasts, it also imparts a really awful smell to the whole starter mixture. I tried to improve the starter for over two weeks but with no luck. I had to discard it and start over again after thoroughly cleaning the container.
    Also, I don’t know if this is useful, but I bash and knead the dough until it can not take any more. Then I put it into a plastic container with lid (so it won’t dry out) until it has at least doubled in size, generally overnight. Then I bash it back down again, and this time I get really good bubbles in the final bake. I wait a really long time with the loaf in the loaf tin, until it rises up over the edges before putting it in the oven. It might be anything up to three hours, but the loaf out of the oven is to die for. The temperature right now is 16 celsius (61F). Perfect.

  23. Katy says

    I’ve been collecting yeast for 3-4 days now. I started on the night of the 30th or sometime during the 1st of october (can’t remember which!) and have been using organic unbleached all purpose flour. I’ve been feeding it daily since the 2nd, and it was showing a lot of activity, a lot of bubbling and rising ( i didn’t measure how much), it had an interesting spongy, springy and stretchy/sticky consistency and was definitely smelling, though not that great! Reminded me of a stinky baby… But I could tell I was collecting yeast — thought that might be the leuconostoc you mentioned. Then yesterday evening, I fed it, adding 50 g of the starter, 35 g organic unbleached all purpose flour, 15 g organic whole rye flour, and 50 grams warm water, and since then, the smell has developed a lot, smelling much better and sourer, but I’m not seeing any bubbling, no rising (i measured), and the consistency is much different, without any of the spongy springiness it had before. Today I fed it again, but didn’t add any of the whole rye, only 50 g all purpose flour (1:1:1 ratio). I assume things are fine, but I just want some reassurance! Is my culture taking a nose-dive or is it on its way to bubbling and frothing and sponginess like i hope it is?

  24. Berniebac says

    I have tried a few different starter recipes. I always seem to get my starter to double on day two, then on day 3, nothing. It’s back to not growing at all. I had the same result with your method. Do you know a reason why? I will keep going with day 2 instructions till I get something, but it is disappointing after such a quick start.

  25. Maria says

    I am very confused about the liquids: Do you mean 75 ml of water or do you actually want the water to be weighted to 75 grams? These are two different things and not equivalent. We normally measure liquids by volume, not weight but could you please clarify? Thanks!

  26. Barbara says

    Susan, thank you for posting this great info & pictures. Today is day 5. Everyday, first thing, I check the starter and then again before bed feed it and watch its progress. Around day 3 there was a nasty hooch smell, and yesterday I noticed a faintly grayish liquid on the surface, so I came back to your page and checked to see if this was a source of concern. Apparently not. This morning the starter smelled slightly sour and had a frothiness consistent with yeast activity. It didn’t quite manage the 100% rise, but I expect we are on to something here.

    What a fun process this has been! Am thinking of having my 6th grade students replicate this for a science activity. (I will try to convince the cafeteria staff to let us bake bread in the kitchen, not an easy task….) Yeast starting is also relevant to 6th grade history learning standards for ancient civilizations. This must be how people began to make leavened breads. I would have loved doing something like this in school…. Very cool and fun. Thanks again for your detailed instructions.

  27. Wendi says

    Hi- thank you so much for this information. I love to bake, but never have used a starter. I started mine yesterday afternoon. After the first 24 hour feeding, mine has grown more than double. I think this might be unusual, so I wanted to check with you before carrying on with the room temp water and all white flour. It doubled in about 2 hours. The temperature is about 80. My house is kept quite cool, 63 degrees, so I have it near a pot of simmering water. I would really like to know your opinion on this since I haven’t any experience. Thanks!

  28. says

    Awesome blog! Congruts!!!!
    I havent even started and I already have a problem :)
    I mixed 100g water with 100g flour but mixture is not runny as it looks on your photo. It has consistency of dough.
    So should I add more water?
    I have resolved problem how to keep constant temp btw by using one of those plates to keep baby food warm. Never used it for anything but finally found a use :) it keeps mixture on temperature 29C which is supposed to be ideal for growing culture.

    Thx

    PS I intend to try make all of your breads!!!!

  29. Louis says

    I have a sourdough that was given to me from my mother-in-law about 15 years ago who has since passed on. She told me she orginally got it from a neighbor in the 1950′s. She used it mostly for pancakes and her kids were raised on it. It’s about the consistency of pancake batter and I feed it with equal amounts of flour and water. Mom-in-law would used flour and milk sometimes too.
    My question is this however, The starter is still alive, I keep in the fridge and feed it every 1-2 weeks (this is how mom-in-law instructed), but it doesn’t seem to have much “lift.” I set it on the counter for 12 hours before feeding it, and then overnight after feeding before using. I make the pancakes with most of it and re-refrigerate the unused portion. It does get bubbly while sitting overnight on the counter and make fantastic pancakes & waffles – but when I’ve tried to make bread with it the success of rising is minimal at best. It has a wonderful sour smell, but my gut tells me to too acidic for bread making – bread doughs actually soften while fermenting – I think the acidic levels may be breaking down gluten. Is there a way to fix this or is this indicative of something?
    Thanks

  30. maria says

    I’m on Day 2 A.M. and decided to dump the 5 teaspoons of rye flour onto my scale to see if it totalled 25 grams and it was off by a long shot…it took me 13 teaspoons to get the scale to show 25 grams. This is concerning to me as I weighed the initial sponge ingredients rather than use your measurements. It’s possible my scale is off – I’m certainly no pro but am now wondering what to do… do I follow my scale (which seems to be in working order) and add 13 teaspoons of rye flour, or do I go with your measurements?

    Also, 50 grams of white flour is supposed to be 1/3 cup but for me, 1/3 cup on the scale registered as 35 grams.

  31. beginnerbreadmaker says

    It’s my first attempt at making a sourdough starter and I was wondering if on Day 3 PM, how much white flour do you feed it with and how much of the culture do you discard?

    Thanks!!

  32. Julie says

    I’m so happy to have come across your how-to…and equally glad I read through all of the comments before I started my trial. Oh boy! Last night my starter seemed ready (finally, no more vomit smell!!!), but I fed it on schedule and waited for this morning to be sure and…voila!…I have sour dough starter! Yippeee! LOL Oh, and this morning was the first time I tried your trick of shaking the water with the remaining starter before adding the flour. Oh my gosh! It’s only six hours later and the starter is going crazy & doubled+ already. I’m trying my hand at your roasted garlic loaf for my first sour dough bread. I’m so excited! My family loves garlic and cheese and bread, so how could I go wrong with this? ;-) Again, thank you for your wonderful tutorial!

  33. David says

    I just fed my starter for the seventh day… and still absolutely no activity. Just a slightly acidic smell. I’m using bottled spring water, King Arthur bread flour, a digital scale, and temperature controlled container coasting 24 hours a day at 80 degrees. This will be the 4th time in the last year I have tried to draw a starter and gotten nothing.

    Get this; I have drawn starters successfully 3 other times.

    I am so frustrated I could scream.

  34. Liliana says

    Hi Susan
    I want to start with this and right now I have some brown flour or “ruchmehl” in german. Could I use this one? If not, would you explain me why? Thank you very much! :)

  35. Kevin says

    Hi Susan,

    Just wondering, does the malt break down some starches for the yeasts to feed on? I’ve had no problems making a 100% rye starter, but one with A/P or bread flour never seems to show much life when I try it…

  36. says

    Hi Susan,

    I have my starter in the fridge now and am feeding it 1 oz of flour and and 1oz of water every few days. My question is, if a recipe calls for “228 g of mature starter” is that right our of the container?? I read somewhere else that I have to add more flour and water and let it sit for another day before using. I’m new at the starter thing so I have no idea…
    Thanks!!!

  37. says

    Sandie, I think I should change my recipes to say “active” rather than “mature” starter. When the starter is refrigerated, it becomes less active because some of the yeast die. I usually take mine out of the fridge and give it at least a couple of feedings at 12-hour intervals to let it perk up before using it.

  38. Ted says

    Hi Susan. Your blog is great! Thanks for keeping it going so that people like me can still discover it. I decided to start a sourdough starter with the intention of tackling panettone. The starter was going well, exactly on time with your schedule. On day 3, it came out of the leuconostoc phase and stayed idle until the beginning of day 5. It then doubled in size in 8 hours so I switched to 100% white flour. Two feedings now with all white flour and it is no longer rising. There are bubbles, just no rise. Should I have weened it off rye flour? Also, what do I do with the starter? Will it recover if I keep feeding it all white flour?

  39. says

    Ted, you could keep going with the all-white flour, or once again add a bit of rye. It will probably start perking up before too long!

  40. Eugene says

    Susan, your recipe really works. I used it to make my first starter a year ago, and since then I’ve been baking my favorite 100% rye bread using the same starter. Since I usually put it in the refrigerator for a week, it’s become weak lately. I think it smells a little bit differently, not that nice sour as the beginning though it still raises my bread. But the bread can get molded in a week or so which didn’t happen at the beginning of my using the starter. And I have just started raising another starter to compare the outputs. I keep my starter 100% rye, but when I want to make pizza, I take a bit of the rye starter and add AP flour with water getting the great white dough starter in a few hours. So it can be fed by any flour as soon as I noticed. Thank you very much for your priceless share.
    Eugene

  41. Emanuel says

    Susan, I am using organic rye flour and strong bread white flour also cooled boiled water. I am weighing the ingredients but the mixture is stiff. Is that the way it should be?

    Emanuel

  42. says

    Emanuel, right after feeding it is about the consistency of very wet paste. If you use a greater proportion of rye flour, it will be thicker, because the rye absorbs more water.

  43. Ben says

    Hi Susan,

    You have an amazing website! I’ve tried a few times to get a starter going, but without much success. This time, following your guide, it’s really taken off.

    I’m at day 6, and my culture seems almost a bit too vigorous. It took about two hours to double. 6 hours in, it had tripled. Should I be feeding it more often if this happens?

    Thank you!
    Ben

  44. says

    Ben, tripling or more is not a bad thing! if it is increasing in volume but then falling back and becoming more “flat” before the next feeding, try feeding it more flour and water per unit of culture (or less culture per unit of flour and water, to keep the container size reasonable :) ). You can also feed more often, but that seems cumbersome to me. If, on the other hand, the culture is at “peak” when it’s feeding time, then don’t change anything!

  45. Ben says

    Well it ended up overflowing the jar by the time I fed it last night, so I don’t think it’s flat! I used some of it in your english muffin recipe which came out great. I now have a much smaller culture going which is still going strong, but is a lot more manageable. Thanks again!

  46. Daniel says

    OK, put together my starter this morning using your guide here and we shall see if I can gather the right critters to make a delicious Utah sourdough. It’s been more than 10 years since I’ve tried to raise a starter from scratch and last time was a miserable failure. Fingers crossed!

  47. Meg says

    Hi there,
    I’m on day 4 of my starter and so far it seems to be doing what it is supposed to (I think). It had a huge rise on the first day, and a good response on the second. Not much on the 3rd day but I think that is to be expected. The unpleasant smell seems to be going. So this morning is day 4 and it looks much the same as yesterday. I’ve just fed it but was wondering about the viscosity. It appears to have the consistency of builder’s putty. It seems to become a little ‘runnier’ after 12 hours but I read somewhere that a thick starter is harder to work with for a novice sourdough baker.

    I live in Hong Kong, and the environment is very humid and sticky, if that makes a difference. I’m still using a combination of white/rye flour to feed it and have been reasonably pedantic about weighing etc. Thanks.

  48. says

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  49. Maike Polano says

    Hello Susan!
    Thank you for all of the insightful info over the last years!
    I do have a question…
    I`ve been attempting to make a sourdough panettone for at least three seasons now, and somehow (no matter how meticulously I follow starter conversion directions) my first dough struggles to move even an inch after countless hours.
    I tried an experiment this time round, feeding both a liquid starter every 4 hours, and simultaneously feeding a stiff starter every 12hrs. and wrapping in a cloth etc.
    Both looked good at the first dough mixing stage, but perhaps not quite good enough?
    Feeding the stiff starter every 4 hours seems to really weaken the activity…
    Could I be missing something really important here?
    Thanks!
    Maike

  50. says

    Maike, when you are feeding your stiff panettone starter every four hours, make sure you are keeping it nice and warm (85F is ideal). Otherwise it will not have enough fermentation activity to support the frequent feedings.

  51. Maike Polano says

    Hey Susan,
    Thanks for the speedy reply-
    I have however, been quite diligent about maintaining my oven temp. between 80 and 85F. Something tells me that the ratio 1:1:0.5 (starter: flour: water) might be too much flour for the amount of starter?? Whenever we feed our starters here at our bakery, we never really go up to the 1:1 ratio since it would take so long to become active again.
    Any further thoughts?
    Thanks so much-
    Maike

  52. Roger says

    Hi Susan, not sure why I’m not getting more growth out of my culture. I’m on day 8, but I’ve yet to see it double in 8 hours. I’m feeding it 25g Bob’s Red Mill Rye, 50g King Arthur AP Flour, and 75 g water 2x per day. I see a few bubbles and a pleasant smell, but nothing like what I should be seeing. Should I try switching to a different flour? Like one containing more malted barley? Also, it’s chilly in Seattle. Any cool weather instructions? Thx-

  53. Roger says

    False alarm Susan,
    Got home yesterday and had terrific bubble activity and could see that it had doubled while I was at work and then fallen back to orig size. What a diff a day makes! Thanks for all the great info. looking forward to some norwich sourdough this weekend.

  54. says

    Roger, glad it seems to be coming alive! It does take longer when the temperature is cool. In the early stages, keep it as warm as possible. A closed space like the microwave, with a bowl of hot water, is helpful in cool weather.

  55. leandro koiti says

    hello susan, first of all thank you for the great article! this is my third attempt on raising a starter, something I was wondering… is there any chance my starter could be “working” on the second day? even after reading about the leuconostoc part I just wondered that because my “starter” doesn’t smell unpleasant, it has a very “fruity aroma” actually, and the other times I tried to raise a starter, after this “first rise” my starter never raised again, even after a couple of weeks feeding it…

    i was just wondering about it because I live in Brazil and here where I live is particularly hot these days (something around 86f or so) and when I tried to raise the starter on my fridge it never started to bubble, seems like it’s frozen or something =P

    well, thanks again for a great website I love baking and am learning lots of great things in here, gonna try to feed this new starter a few days as you described and see what happens, thanks!

  56. leandro koiti says

    well nevermind my previous post, is finally working! well, at least is looking a lot like the picture from the day 3, thanks a lot! hopefully I will be able to bake a pandoro before christma rofl

  57. Roger says

    Hi Susan, after our Seattle cold-snap and going through lots of flour, my starter is finally doubling between feedings and doing what it shoudl be doing. FYI, I went from using King Arthur APF with Bobs Red Mill Rye, to straight Gold Medal APF to now using Gold Medal Better for Bread Flour. The blob that is eating Sammamish seems to like the B4B flour and I’m not changing anything for a while.

    Question: If I plan to make the Norwhich Sour Dough this weekend, how do you suggest I build up my starter to the 360g your recipe calls for? Should I feed it as per usual and on Friday night reduce to 75g starter and add 180g each flour and water?

    Thanks- looking for a baguette recipe if you got one. Hopefully the Norwhich goes well.

  58. Andee says

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for this very informative post. I want to start my own sourdough culture from scratch, too. But there are some major concerns:
    1. I live in the Philippines and the average weather here is 30-32degC, and is practically humid. I know yeast loves hot and humid environment but…
    2. We don’t have unbleached wheat flour here nor rye flour.
    3. I don’t have a refrigerator to keep it in (as other bakers would suggest a once a week feeding and rest of the days to be kept in the fridge).

    Can I successfully maintain my own starter here?

  59. says

    I have been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I
    never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me.
    Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be a
    lot more useful than ever before.

  60. says

    Thanks for sharing your method — I’m so glad to find one that doesn’t involve fruit! My starter (named Zeke) was born in a cold winter kitchen. I started getting a few paltry bubbles after the first feeding but things weren’t picking up steam as the days stretched into a week, so I decided to switch to a 2:1:1 ratio and feed every 24 hours and Zeke is really starting to liven up! I think that a loaf of Norwich is in our near future. Thanks for your guidance on all things wild-yeast!

  61. says

    I forgot to mention that Zeke really took off after a day or two of that modified schedule I mentioned above and I went back to the method you described. I didn’t want to starve the little guys! He just needed a little boost to get the population higher. Thanks again for all the helpful information in your posts and comments!

  62. Roger says

    Hi Susan, I’ve really impressed my friends by following your starter instructions and making a ton of Norwhich Sourdough. One friend however has professed a dislike for gluten and has some strange idea about developing a gluten-free bread starter from kombucha. I suspect if it can be done, you know of a better way than kombucha. Open to your suggestions… thanks again for your gift of great bread-Roger in Seattle

    • says

      Tammy, can you clarify your question? The starter is the liquid bubbly stuff that results when the flour (mixed with water) undergoes fermentation.

      • Violeta says

        Susan, thank you for all that you do, and taking the time to answer our questions :).
        I want to try the Norwich Sourdough, and because I need 360 g for the starter, I don’t really know which is correct. To use 120g mature culture (the one that I got from 75g culture, 75g water, 75 g flour) 120 g water, 120 flour and I can get 360 in total, OR to use the ratio 1:5:5 that means 33 mature culture, 163.5 water, 163.5 flour.
        Can you advise me which one of these should I use?
        Thank you!

  63. Violeta says

    Susan I want to try the Norwich Sourdough, and because I need 360g for the starter, I don’t know which of these is correct.
    To use 120g of the mature culture ( the one that I get from 75g culture, 75g water, 75 g flour) and 120g water, 120g flour, OR to use ratio 1:5:5, that means to use 33g mature culture, 163 g water, 163 g flour.
    Can you please advise me which of these should I use?
    Thank you so much for everything you do!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] At first I aspired to make sourdough bread using only wild leavening – meaning, instead of prepackaged yeast, I would use a starter built up from just flour and water, left to ferment and “bloom” over a series of days and weeks.  I’m proud to say that I’ve built a rather ripe and potent starter over the past few weeks, and encourage you to do so as well.  How does one do that, you may ask?  The short answer is: mix 1 part flour to 1 part filtered water in a wide-mouth jar, let it sit out at room temp until bubbles form, and BLAM-O, you’ve got a starter.  The long answer can be found here. [...]

  2. [...] Years ago, I read about a local bakery that did a lot of research on capturing and cultivating wild yeasts for its bread. It sounded fascinating and adventurous and exotic…and hard. Further, I wasn’t all that fond of that bakery’s breads, so I just decided it wasn’t worth it. Then I started thinking about sourdough. I’ve read a lot about sourdough starters and wondered, well…what’s the difference? Some people start their sourdoughs with rapid-rise yeast (which to me seems to defeat the purpose, but hey), some people buy their starter, and some people do it themselves. I’ve done it myself… raised (and then killed) a sourdough start. And the interesting thing about sourdough is that you can say stuff like “San Francisco Sourdough” and mean it… because wild yeasts vary by region, just like any fauna/flora, and impart a distinctive flavor to your dough. But we’re not talking sourdough here. We’re talking wild yeast. Check this blog out for a method of starting your own sourdough/wild yeast: Wild Yeast Blog [...]

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