Things I learned making a sourdough starter…

and questions that only got answered by making it my self.

let me introduce you to Alder… my white flour sourdough starter

If you have not made a sourdough starter before I’m sure you have many questions, and if you have made one before I’m sure you know what I’m talking about when I say “you only learn by doing!”

First off if you are new to sourdough in general. Sourdough is a bread thats made by a process of fermentation, using the natural yeast and bacteria from the air and all around us. Because of it being a fermented bread it is loaded with healthy bacteria that feed our gut and keep it healthy, also making it easier to digest the bread its self. By fermenting the bread it creates lactic acid which makes the sour taste. Sour dough is most likely the oldest bread recipe in the world. Fermentation is not a new concept. Long ago people fermented many things knowing the benefits for our gut, making it beneficial for our whole body.

There are many blogs, recipes, and people out there sharing their stories about sourdough and how to do it, and pretty much all of them will tell you to just dive right in and start. Because it really is super easy to make a starter and it comes with great reward!

Questions that I could only find by doing:

fermentation at its best!

What about a lid?

  • in order for your starter to well… get started it needs to collect the natural yeast and bacteria in the air. If it is closed off to the outside world then how is it supposed to do that? The particles that the starter needs are so tiny but they still need something that is breathable to get to the starter. The thing I found best to use is a super thin fabric (like a clean t shirt or dish towel) then either put the part of the mason jar lid that screws on or a rubber band around it.

But how do I really know when it needs food?

  • I hated when I went looking for answers and the answer was “you just know” or “you will learn to know” it did not help me feel very confident in making my own starter. In a sense they are right. Some signs to tell if it needs food is if it smells bad, if there is liquid on top, or if the started has dropped in size. If your started doesn’t look right or doesn’t smell right it most likely needs food (unless there is mold then threw it out sadly ). If you are wondering how you know if it smells bad well… it would be so bad you can’t get your face close to the jar, where as when its healthy you can get up close and personal because it smells like a mild yeasty flavor.

What about the container?

  • The best this is a glass jar like a mason jar. You will want it to be able to hold at least a few cups of material though. But pretty much anything glass is a win.

Do I need a scale?

  • No you do not need a scale, a lot of people would recommend it but its not a necessity. I used (and still do a lot of the time) just a measuring cup. Just don’t get confused because a lot of recipes will say to add 1 part flour and 1 part water. This is true then you are doing it by weight, but when you do it by measuring it will be about 1 part flour to 1/2 part water.

Will I kill it if its not perfect?

  • NO! absolutely not. This is natures natural process, so all your doing is creating a nice warm home for the wild yeast and bacteria. You do not need the EXACT amount of flour or water every time. You do not need to feed it at the exact same time of day everyday. Every starter is going to be different and every person is going to be different.

But what do I do with the discard half of the starter?

  • This is a question you have when you are getting you starter started. Before it is active you will need to be throwing away half everyday. But its ok. I would throw mine in the compost so that it just goes and feeds my other plants in the garden. If you don’t have a compost I would recommend washing it down the kitchen sink because it will make your garbage smell pretty funk if you let to sit awhile. You could even just throw it outside and the rain will wash it away, I mean its just flour and water.

Do I really have to feed it EVERYDAY?

  • I found a lot of people saying yes, if not once then twice a day. Im sure it probably varies for each starter whether it needs food everyday or not. But my starter does not need to be fed everyday, this could be because my house is colder then others. I find that my sourdough starter only needs food about every other day. The day before I make a recipe with it I do need to feed it a few days in a row to get it extra bubbly. But for the most part my sourdough only needs food every other day.

What about all the flour?

  • You do use quit a bit of flour, I won’t lie. Don’t let this stop you from making a starter though because when you get it going and start making bread it is well worth it. I would recommend buying flour in bulk. This way you are not buying small bags of flour all the time.
Lets bake!

What if I forget about it?

  • I have done that plenty of times and its ok. Your sourdough starter will be fine if you forget for a little while. Just don’t forget to give it extra love the next day or two. Feed it and maybe even give it a little extra food.

What I learned from making a sourdough starter:

  • Don’t be intimidated by what someone says (like I was) just throw some flour and water together and see what happens. You will find a way that works for you and your starter.
  • Do not forget to name it. Im sure you have heard of other people naming their starters before. Well let me tell you that it definitely adds to the fun.
  • Hate to break it to you but just because you named it does not mean you own it. You can not control every bubble it makes, when it needs food, whether or not it smells, you just can’t. It is its own wild creature that you get to take care of and love. Oh and make delicious food from.
  • Patience is your friend when you are starting out. It takes time to make a happy colony of wild bacteria and yeast.
  • Making a starter is super easy. You really aren’t even making it, your just creating a space for nature to do it on its own. So don’t be intimidated by the INCREDIBLE loafs on Instagram, because you could do that one day.
  • DO NOT GIVE UP. Alder (my sourdough starter) was not my first starter, but he is the first starter I have made recipes with. I have had many starters in the past that I tried and failed terribly at. My advice to you is to not give up. Your starter is most likely just hungry.

– Isabella

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