Making Sourdough Starter

Making Sourdough Starter

This is an easy and simple process and it will literally take you 5 minutes to do. There are many many ways to grow a sourdough starter, this is my tried and true method that I have used time and again. I love to experiment with different methods and see what works and what doesn’t. Bread baking is part art and part science the best part is it tastes great.

Here is what you will need:

  • 1 cup of bread flour – (for more information about flour types see my article on flour)
  • 1 cup of water – preferably dechlorinated water but to get started most tap water will work. – see my article on water
  • 1 crock with a lid something in the 1- 2 quarts size will work. (I prefer glass or ceramic but plastic will work as you will see in the video I used a plastic container, just don’t use a metal container.
  • 1 tablespoon measuring spoon.

The Process

Now that you have gathered your ingredients and kitchen tools.

Add 1 tablespoon of water at room temperature and put it in your container, now add 1 tablespoon of water. mix.

Leave your crock on the countertop in your kitchen and loosely cover it with the lid or preferably a clean dish towel. You do not want to seal the bowl, You want to collect some of the wild yeast that is in the air you breath and in the air in your kitchen into your starter.

Feeding your starter

Here it is up to you, you can feed your starter between every 8 -24 hours. You feed it by adding 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of flour to your container and mixing it a few times.  After 3-5 days your starter will start to bubble and begin to smell kind of like alcohol.

It’s alive

What is happening is that the wild yeast which is naturally occurring in the air as well as in the flour will begin to feed on the sugars in the starch which are released from the flour when the water is added. As the yeast digest the sucrose and glucose it will produce byproducts of Alcohol and Carbon Dioxide. The bubbles and the alcohol smell.

Everyday Sourdough Bread Recipe

I use this recipe for my basic everyday good old fashioned sourdough bread.  You can make a round boule, a baguette, or create a pan loaf, english muffins, flat bread or even pizza all from this basic recipe not to mention modifying the type of flour used to create a transitional whole wheat, multi grain, or rye bread.  Learn it, Love it, Eat it and enjoy.


The first step in any recipe is to gather all of your ingredients and tools you will need to make your bread.

Firm Starter

1/4 c starter
1 1/4 c water (non chlorinated)
1 1/4 c bread flour (Organic is better)


2 c (25 oz) Firm Starter
2 ½c  (27 oz) Flour
2 T Oil
2 t Honey / Agave nectar/sugar
3 t Salt
2 c water (warm 70)


  • 6 Qt Bowl, glass or plastic
  • Pastry cutter
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment

Feed your starter

Three day’s before baking day. Take your Starter out of the refrigerator and put 1/4 cup in a bowl and cover it loosely. Let it sit in a warm (65-80 degrees) place for 2 hours. This lets the starter come up to room temperature.

  • After 2 hours feed the starter. Add 1/2 cup of bread flour and 1/2 cup water.
  • Eight hours latter double it again. This time adding 1 cup flour and 1 cup of water.

In the morning you will have 2 cups of bubbly starter.

Making Firm Starter

  1. Mix 1 1/4 cups of starter with 1 1/4 cups of bread flour and knead for about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Place in a oiled bowl, cover and set in a warm place for 4 -6 hours, until doubled in volume.
  3. Place the covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Put the left over starter back into your jar and put the jar back in the refrigerator.

Mix your Dough

  1. Mix your flour and salt together.
  2. Then cut your firm starter into 8 -10 pieces and add to the flour / salt mixture. Coating each piece with flour to prevent them from sticking to each other.
  3. Measure your water into a large measuring cup or bowl and add the olive oil and honey to it.
  4. Now mix the liquid into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon.


Once you get most of the ingredients into a ball, or it just gets to hard too mix with a spoon anymore, it is time to start kneading.

First dust the counter top with some flour. Then dump your dough onto your work surface (kitchen counter top or a cutting board) and start to knead the dough. Kneading is a process of pressing the dough flat with the palm of your hand and then folding the dough over onto it’s self to double the thickness and then press into the dough again. Repeat, Repeat, etc.

Mixing the remaining ingredients into the dough as you go. The dough will change it’s consistency as you continue to knead. It will start to transform and become smoother and elastic as the gluten forms. If it is too wet add some more flour, about a tablespoon at a time. If it is to dry add some more water, about a tablespoon at a time. Kneed for about 7–8 minutes. Your dough should be slightly sticky, You will feel the dough become smoother in texture and have more elastic properties as the gluten forms.

Windowpane Test

You are done kneading when the dough passes the windowpane test.
Tear off a golf-ball sized piece and slowly stretch it until you can see light through it like a window pane. If you can stretch it that much then your have enough gluten formed.

Electric Mixer

You can save some effort doing this with an electric mixer with a dough hook. However I really recommend that you learn to make bread kneading by hand. There is a transition in the dough as you kneed it and you can feel it when you are kneading by hand.

Over Kneading

It is nearly impossible to over knead dough by hand. However you can over knead with a mixer. The dough becomes over kneaded when it gets to warm. When this happens the dough will become really sticky and no matter how much flour you add it will still be sticky.

Bulk Fermentation

Spray a large plastic or glass bowl with cooking spray or oil, I use virgin olive oil. Place your dough in the bowl, roll it to coat the dough with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a towel or a plate.

Place the bowl in a warm place (70-75 degrees) and let it rise until you see that it has doubled in volume. This takes about 3-4 hours. The time will vary depending upon the temperature and humidity of the room, the dough temperature and how active you starter is.


After the dough had completed it’s first fermentation you’re going to measure the dough into loaf size pieces. The size will depend on what type of loaf you are making. For this recipe we will make three 1 1/2 pound loafs. So divide the dough into three equal pieces. Do your best to be gentle with the dough. Rough handling will force much of the CO2 out of the dough.

You can eyeball it or if you want to be precise you can weigh the dough.

Shaping loaf

Shape your loaves into a Boule, that’s french for a round loaf like you commonly see sourdough in the store. To shape the dough you will pick it up with both hands and pull from the sides around to the bottom, tucking the dough together on the bottom. Rotate the dough 90 degrees in your hands and do it again. The purpose here is to create surface tension on the dough, so that when it rises it will stretch and contain the CO2 that is the byproduct of the fermentation process. Henceforth giving you a light and airy loaf of bread. So when you tuck the dough underneath you will want to pinch the dough to it’s self, to seal it.

Line your baking sheet with parchment. Place your loaves on the parchment with plenty of room between them. Spray the tops of the loaves with cooking spray or virgin olive oil and cover them with plastic wrap.


Let the loaves rise in a warm place until the double in volume. Approx. 2-4 hours. The length of time depends upon how active you starter is, the temperature and humidity in the room where the loaves are rising. In a commercial bakery they use a proofing box which maintains a consistent temperature and humidity.While a warmer room will cause the dough to rise faster. the rule is the slower the fermentation the better the flavor. After that it is up to you to experiment with.

Score the Loaves

5-10 minutes before you are going to put the bread in the oven score the loaves, using a sharp knife or razor blade and cut several slices into the top of the loaves. Cutting about 1/2” down and with the knife at a 45 degree angle. This let’s you control where the growth will be when the bread rises in the oven. It also adds some ascetics to the loaf.



Preheat your oven to 500F for 30 minutes prior to baking. Have a spray bottle full of water or better yet I use a syringe for injecting meats and a cup of water.

Place the bread in the middle of the oven. Close the door and let it warm of 1 minute. Then quickly open the door and spray 1/4 cup of water on the walls and floor of the oven, and close the oven. Wait another minute and do this again, and third a third time.

Bake for 5 minute. Turn the temperature down to 425. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Rotate the loaves in the oven. Bake an additional 20 minutes.

The bread is done when it turns brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on with your finger. Also if the internal temperature is 200 – 210 in the center of the loaf it is done.


Allow the bread to cool on a cooling rack for 1 hour. This is still part of the cooking time to. Don’t cheat. It is not done yet.


Ok, well, that doesn’t work at my house either. Every now and again, I give in and cut a loaf right out of the oven. Add a little butter and mmm good.

Making a Firm Starter

Making your Firm Starter

Most of my recipes are made in a three stage method.

  1. Sourdough Starter (mother)
  2. Firm Starter
  3. Bread Dough

A firm starter gives your more of the flour in your bread dough additional  fermentation time, this in turn give your bread an even better flavor.
So lets get started:

Make the Firm Starter

 This is really simple.


  • 1 – 1/4 c (100% – bakers percentage)  unbleached white flour
  • 1 – 1/4 c – (178% – bakers percentage) Sourdough Starter


  1. The first step is getting your starter nice and active. Take your starter out of the refrigerator couple if days before you want to make your bread and feed it for a couple or three days to get it activated.
  2. Place 1- 1/4 cups of starter for the firm starter into a bowl and put the rest of your mother starter back in the frig.
  3. Mix together your starter and flour with your mixer using a kneading hook for 4 minutes.
  4. Lightly oil your bowl with EVO (extra virgin olive oil) and place your firm starter in the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap, a towel or a plate (You are just keeping the surface from drying out) and set out to rise for 2-4 hours.
  5. After it has doubled in volume or at least close to it, place it in the refrigerator over night. Refrigerating the starter slows the fermentation process and adds additional flavor.
  6. The next day you are ready to your make dough.