Sourdough starter: how to make a sourdough culture

Baking at home? Here's how to make a sourdough starter for the most delicious homemade loaves

how to make sourdough starter
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Wondering how to make a sourdough starter? Delicious sourdough makes the most wonderful bread for sandwiches, dipping in soup and toast. And homemade sourdough, fresh out of the oven, has to be the best.

The main difference between sourdough and other loaves is that you can't just wake up and decide to make it and have a loaf by the end of the day. No, sourdough takes time as you first have to create and feed a culture – we call this our sourdough starter. 

As it takes a while, what better time to learn how to make it than now? Self-isolation has many drawbacks, but it also presents us with opportunities to learn new skills: fortunately, making your own sourdough starter culture is quite easy – it just requires a bit of patience. 

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How to make a sourdough starter

Rejoice: making a sourdough starter culture is much easier than you think, and doesn't involve buying yeast. That's right: unlike commercially made bread that uses dried yeasts, sourdough uses what's known as wild yeast – that is, the yeast that's naturally present in any flour. 

So, all you really need to start a sourdough culture is whatever flour you've got at home and water, preferably filtered, although that's not essential. All-purpose flour is best for beginners because it tends to behave in a more predictable way, but you can also use wholegrain or rye flour if you prefer. 

Below we have listed ingredients, but not measurements as you will need to keep feeding your starter. Aim for at least 60g of flour and water to begin – either way, make sure you have a full bag of flour for both feeding your starter and making a loaf at the end.

You will need equal measures of:

  • Flour
  • Tepid water

Method:

1. Mix equal parts water and flour in a glass or plastic bowl (don't use metal). For example, start with half a cup of flour and half a cup of water. Stir together well and cover with cling film or a kitchen towel. 

2. Place in the least cold part of your fridge – or in a larder or pantry if you've got one. The trick is to maintain a constant temperature that's not too warm.

3. After 24 hours, add another half a cup of flour and water and stir together until well mixed. Return to the fridge/pantry.

4. Repeat the process every day for about five days: you will start noticing that the batter begins to bubble and smell sour. It should also taste vinegary. The bubbles will be small and here and there at first, but by day five, they should be all over, and the batter should double in size. 

5. That's it, your starter culture is ready to use. To maintain it, use the halving method: cut off exactly half of the culture for baking, and feed the remaining half with fresh flour and water. Ideally, do this every day, but you can also do this once a week if you won't be using your culture that often. 

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