Building a Sourdough Starter From Scratch

-Flour: Use whole rye flour (ideally) or whole wheat flour. All-purpose supermarket flour will likely give you some issues at this early stage, but you’re welcome to try.

-Water: Use room temperature water. Make it filtered water or tap water that’s been left in an open pitcher or jar overnight.

-Find a comfortable warm spot for the mixture to live throughout the week, like somewhere a cat might like to nap.

-Mix with your hands!

-You don’t want the mixture to be airtight, as there is a metabolic process going on with all its requisite digestion and burps. A loose towel on top is too loose, a tight cap is too tight. When covering, try somewhere in the middle, like a piece of plastic wrap or a cap left slightly unscrewed.

-If you find a layer of water on the surface during the building process: that is called hooch, and it’s a sign that your starter is hungry. Stir the liquid back into the mixture and cut a few hours off the time between feedings. If you’re keeping your starter in a very warm spot, this will ramp up its metabolism and cause the microbes to eat through their stash more quickly. Move to a slightly cooler location if your mix continues to separate.

-Don’t be afraid. 

Day One
In a clean glass with room to spare, mix:
25g flour* see note
30g water

Cover loosely and rest for 24 hours.

Day Two 
Stir lightly and add:
30g flour
40g water

Mix and cover loosely. Rest for 24 hours.

Day Three
Stir lightly and add:
30g flour
40g water

Mix and cover loosely. If your mixture is already bubbling and rising/falling, move to the next step after 12 hours. Otherwise, rest for 24 hours.

Day Four
You should see evidence of life (bubbles, funky smells, rise). If not, continue anyway, 
Stir and discard all but 25g of the mixture. 

30g flour
40g water

Mix and cover loosely. Rest for 12-24 hours, depending on activity level (if it is very lively you need less time between feedings). 

Day Five
Stir lightly and discard all but 15g. 

50g flour
50g water

Cover and rest for 12 hours. If it is rising and falling predictably, you’re ready to begin regular feedings. 

If you don’t see signs of life:

Continue feeding anyway, using this same process of building and discarding:

Combine 15g starter with 50g flour and 50g water every 8-12 hours for a few days, discarding the excess. It may feel like a lot of waste, but remember this is a small part of a process that will result in endless potential for sustenance. For some, it will take up to two weeks to develop a robust and reliable starter. 

Once you see consistent activity and the mixture doubles (or close to it) in 4-8 hours, you are ready to bake with your starter. After Day Five the discard can be saved in the fridge and added later to flatbreads, focaccias, pancakes, and other baked goods that don’t require a lot of leavening.

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