How To Obtain a Sourdough Starter
If you want to make traditional, healthy sourdough bread you’re going to need a starter. You have a few options in obtaining one:
How To Make Your Own Starter
If you’re interested in creating your own sourdough starter you’ll need some basic ingredients — flour and water — and some basic equipment and conditions.
The conditions necessary to make a sourdough starter include:
Once you have these things figured out you can combine your flour (preferably freshly ground whole-grain) with slightly less water. So you could start with 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water in a half gallon jar.
Stir vigorously with a non-reactive utensil to incorporate air, and cover with a breathable lid. Allow to sit in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Feeding every 12 hours will increase the rate at which your sourdough starter is multiplying its organisms; feeding every 24 hours will take a bit longer, but may be more sustainable depending on your time commitment.
At the 12 or 24 hour mark hopefully you will begin to see some bubbles, indicating that organisms are present. Repeat the feeding with 1/2 cup warm water and 3/4 cup flour. Stir vigorously, cover, and wait another 12 to 24 hours.
At this point you’ll want to start removing half of the starter before every feeding and discarding it into the compost so that the starter you do have can multiply in organisms without overflowing your jar.
After about 5 to 7 days your sourdough starter should have enough yeasts and bacteria to be useful in baking.
The Benefits of Obtaining an Established Starter
You may go through the above steps in making your own starter only to find that it smells or tastes off or that the bread and other baked goods it produces isn’t all that pleasant in flavor.
That is where an established culture comes in.
An established culture is easier in that the process of getting it started is faster and simpler. It is also more reliable in that it already contains active yeasts that have been perpetuated over a long period of time and therefore are stable, active, and resilient.
And finally, an established culture, because of its established bacteria and yeast, can guarantee a more pleasantly flavored bread product.