The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

sourdough starter

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Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread. It takes much longer to ferment than most commercial UK bread but it produces a much superior loaf, both in flavour and texture.

I’ve had several people ask me to share my sourdough recipe after I recently posted a picture of a couple of my sourdough loaves on Instagram, so I’ve decided to do so.

But, first things first. The base component of a sourdough loaf is a sourdough starter, used instead of fresh or dried yeast, which is kept “alive” by being fed on a regular basis.

So this post takes you through the very simple steps to make a good sourdough starter. If you follow this recipe, you should have a decent sourdough starter in your fridge by the time I publish my sourdough bread recipe in a week’s time. And if you look after it, that starter could last you for weeks, months, even for years. There are some sourdough starters in existence that are over a century old.

The key, as with most of the elements of sourdough baking, is patience, but that patience will be rewarded each time you slice into a delicious, beautifully structured home-made sourdough loaf.

sourdough starter

Ingredients
strong organic white bread flour
water

Method

1. Put 50g of the flour in a bowl, jar or container. Add 50ml fresh tepid water and mix to combine until you have a thick, slightly elastic batter. Cover the container with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. The next day, add a further 50 g flour and 50 ml water and again mix to combine. Leave covered at room temperature for a further 24 hours.

2. You will be starting to understand the pattern by now. On day 3, add a further 50 g flour and 50 ml water and again mix to combine and leave at room temperature for a further 24 hours. By the following day, day 4, you should be seeing some signs of activity, in the form of bubbles in the mixture. This is due to natural, airborne yeasts beginning to interact with the flour and water mixture. Add a further 50 g flour and 50 ml water and again mix to combine and leave at room temperature.

3. By day 5 your starter should be lively and bubbling (if not, continue to feed it daily as described above until it does become active). This is your precious sourdough starter. Once it is active and lively, keep the sourdough starter in a sealed jar or container in the fridge. This will slow the fermentation process down, although the starter will remain active. It will still need to be fed, as before, but now only every 5 days or so, to keep it going.

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Categories: dairy free, raw, vegan, vegetarian

15 replies

  1. Great advice. My sourdough starter is about eight years old. Make at least loaves a week.

    • Wow, that’s amazing Peggy. Like you, I bake sourdough at least once a week, and really enjoy the rhythm of regular breadmaking. Steve x

    • I’m a little confused. Every other sourdough starter recipe I’ve read calls for discarding a half cup of the starter before you feed it each time. People have all kinds of recipes to make with the discarded portion…such as waffles. Yet, you do not mention discarding anything. Please clarify.

      Thank you

      • Hi Tricia. Thanks for your comment. This is how I got my starter up and running. I don’t discard. Once the sourdough starter is viable then some of it is retained in the fridge for next baking day, some of it provides a levain for my sourdough on the day, and the rest is used to make pizza bases or muffins, crumpets, biscuits etc. If you would prefer to discard then you can, but you don’t need to. Steve

      • OK….I’m going to follow your steps this time. For example, Bobs Red Mill has specific instructions to discard 4 oz on day 3, 6 oz on day 6 etc..so everytime I discarded, the starter never got any bigger. It was frustrating. So….no discarding!

  2. I’ve fed my starter a dozen times recently just to hand out to friends and relatives who could not find yeast! Hopefully, some of them will be hooked!

    • That’s a lovely story Dorothy. Indeed, hopefully some of them will fall in love with sourdough breadmaking. Steve x

  3. Thankyou. I might give this a go. Most recipes seem to use over a poun
    d of flour. These amounts are much more manageable.

    • Thank you Susan. You will still end up with more starter than you need using this approach, but some of the excess can be used in other recipes or frozen rather than being thrown away. Steve

  4. Hi, does it need to be organic flour? I only have regular strong white flour. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for sharing this knowledge, Steve. This is a great sourdough starter recipe, far less wasteful than others. Our starter (Herbert) is going well on this basis, baking every couple of days.

    In warm weather we feed morning and evening, leaving Herbert on the kitchen counter in a big old jam jar with loose lid.

    To bake less often, putting him in the garage (10-12 deg C) in this warm weather, feeding once a day, works for baking every 3-4 days.

    Look forward to your bread recipe 🙂

    • Hi Andrew. I love the name of your sourdough starter! You’re baking more frequently than I do, but then again there are only three of us here.

      You can also freeze sourdough starter, which will slow it down to a standstill but not kill it. I have some on standby in the freezer in case my main starter ever has a mishap.

      My sourdough recipe, which I’ll publish in the next few days, is one I have honed and developed over time and which works well every time. I hope I can tempt you to give it a try. Steve 🙂

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