Sourdough Starter Recipe

by cakeduchess on August 25, 2012 · 52 comments

sourdough-starter

I know this is not a very glamorous post. That photo is of a simple sourdough starter. It may be simple and unglamorous but this starter can be the impetus for some very delicious baking recipes. So let’s talk a little about sourdough.

A starter is also referred to a poolish or a levain. In Italian it is lievito madre. Or as my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law simply refer to it as: il lievito (the yeast). So there you have it. You are making a fermenting dough that is like the texture of a batter to create breads and other recipes. The starter imparts a slightly sour flavor. Now it is a delicious kind of a sour. It’s mild and wonderful so don’t wrinkle your noses in disdain if you’ve never tried it. 
Making a starter is easy! Yes, it is easy. In professional bakeries and probably some very active bread baking home kitchens, there is plenty of natural yeast cells around the environment to help cultivate the flour and water. I find that it helps to add commercial yeast to my starter. There are some bakers that are probably completely against using any commercial yeast. There are also bakers that add an onion or grapes to the flour and water. I’ve even heard of adding raisins or just using rye flour instead of all-purpose purpose. I’m not familiar with any way other than this way and it really works for me!
It is a tradition in many communities to hand down starters from generation to generation. Some families maintain starters for decades or for even over a century.  My grandmother-in-law’s town in Calabria the neighbors share starters for the weekly bread baking.
I just recently read an interesting article about a baker named Jack Bezian  in Santa Monica California that 
makes sourdough bread and sells it a local market. Many of his customers have gluten issues and are able to successfully eat his sourdough bread. I’m not recommending for people gluten sensitivities to eat sourdough bread. I just really enjoyed this article and wanted to share it. You can find the article here.
Making a sourdough starter will be a different experience for each baker. You can find a plethora of different ways to make a starter online. You may want to try to make yours without the addition of commercial yeast. 
Choose the method to make a sourdough starter that is more suitable for you. Making a wonderful starter takes some patience and a little TLC. 
There are some wonderful recipes you can make with your sourdough starter. I recently made a sourdough pizza Margherita.

sourdough-pizza-margherita-1
We really enjoyed this sourdough pie crust with a  blueberry-limoncello filling.

blueberry-limoncello-pie-with-sourdough-crust-2

Sourdough Starter

Ingredients:
2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar

Directions:

In a large glass bowl (or ceramic), pour in the water and sprinkle on the yeast. Whisk the yeast and the sugar into the water and let it sit a few minutes. Whisk in the flour a little at a time until combined. Whisk it well because that will incorporate more air which equals more yeast spores. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set aside in a warm corner of your kitchen where it will be safe from not being tipped over or have 
something drop into it. Since my kitchen is in Florida and my oven is always on, any corner will do over here. 
*I found a spot next to my mixer in a corner that is not disturbed usually by anyone but me. 

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On the next day (see photo “Day 1”), you will start to smell a sour smell. At the end of that 2nd day, whisk the starter until it is combined again. There is a film with bubbles that will form on top and liquid settled on the bottom. Cover it again with your kitchen towel and set it in the corner to ferment some more.

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On the next day (see photo “Day 2”), the sour smell will be very strong. The smell will permeate throughout your kitchen. If you are a lover of yeast and fresh bread, you can’t help but smile at the smell. Breath it in. Stir your starter again. The part on top may be a little thicker. Cover again with kitchen towel and set aside to ferment some more.
sourdough-starter-2
Day 3, whisk together. Separation will have occurred again and the smell may be more acidic and pungent.  Remove about 1/2 of the starter (mine equaled about 1 cup). Add into your starter another cup of flour and one cup of cold water. Whisk it together and put it into a plastic container with a lid. The consistency should be like a thick pancake batter. Place the starter your refrigerator.

So you made your starter… now what?
Maintaining your starter: Set your alarm to remind you once a week that it’s time to check in with your starter. When I remember, I beat mine on medium-low speed with the mixer. The oxygen does it plenty of good. Every week discard half of the starter (but I never actually discard mine. I bake with it). Replace the volume of you what you removed with more flour and water to make a thick batter again. I usually take out a cup of starter at the end of the week to make pizza. I then replace it with a cup of flour and about 1/2 cup filtered water. If you take out the cup of starter in the morning, replace it with the flour/water and let it ferment again on the counter for the day. Put in the refrigerator again that night. My mother-in-law usually keeps hers more like a dough texture and then only needs to feed it every couple of weeks.

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You can also check out King Arthur’s Flour  for some more sourdough starter tips.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Shulie August 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I think it does not need all the whistles and bells to be an excellent post. I was looking forward to your sourdough starter post my friend more than any other glitz and glamor post! :) Reading as I am typing this comment!

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Yep-no bells and whistles here;) Thank you, Shulie. I am happy you enjoyed this post:)

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The Mom Chef August 25, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Ah, what a great post. I’ve always wanted to make sourdough bread but never had starter available. I do a lot of baking with my Amish friendship bread starter so this makes a lot of sense to me. Many thanks for sharing the procedure. For me, this means more than a lot of the desserts because it’s so, so useful! (Nothing against the desserts, you understand.) :)

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Cake Duchess August 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm

wow! I want to read about your Amish friendship bread starter. I bet you make amazing bread with it:)Thank you:)I hope I explained it all ok;)

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The Mom Chef August 26, 2012 at 12:40 am

I didn’t make the starter. It was given to me a long time ago and I’ve been keeping it going for months, freezing it when we need a break. I just made a four loaves of bread with it today. I love the stuff.

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 1:59 am

Do you have the Amish friendship bread on the blog? Want to see it!:)

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Magic of Spice August 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

What a fantastic post Lora! I need to try this some day…a bit of a chicken though :)
Hope your having a lovely weekend :)

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Kathy August 25, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Great post, Lora! I have wanted to try making a starter…I actually tried once and it didn’t work! You have inspired me…I think I’ll give it a try this week!

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

So happy to inspire you, Kathy. I know you can do this. It is pretty simple. You’re an excellent baker!

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Paula August 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm

This is a fabulous tutorial post for anyone interested in making sour-dough starter and your previous posts on the pie and the pizza are excellent for ideas on what to do with your starter if not making just sour-dough bread.

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Right! So much to do with sourdough:)I never imagined making a pie crust with it and happy I did:)Thanks Paula:)

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Sarah-Jane - SiliconeMoulds.com August 25, 2012 at 9:14 pm

pie crust – really ?

I’ve got 3 loads of sourdough starter in my fridge. One all rye, one all white and one half and half. I’m a sucker for rye sourdough crackers in particular. YUM

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Sarah-Jane-I wish you were my neighbor! Would love to try all your breads. I’ve never had rye sourdough crackers-wow!

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Lisa August 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

I LOVE sourdough everything. I kept a super strong starter for about 2 years, but then neglected ‘him’ and ‘he’ passed. I did the same with two subsequent starters. I now pilfer starter from a friend for sourdough recipes because I’m not ready to care for another one right now! I love your starter tutorial..made easy for many who are daunted by it. :)

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I remember reading about “him”. Great you can get some from a friend;) It does take some TLC.

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Laura (Tutti Dolci) August 26, 2012 at 5:03 am

I’m so glad you shared this, such an informative and useful post! :)

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Angie's Recipes August 26, 2012 at 10:14 am

I usually prepare sourdough with rye, but a white levain is just as marvelous.

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I have some rye flour and am going to make a starter with it this week:)

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Carol | a cup of mascarpone August 26, 2012 at 11:13 am

Thank you so much for this post! Ever since you made the pizza, I’ve been waiting for how to do it! The photos are so informative to show all the stages! Thanks, Lora!

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Debs Dust Bunny August 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

This is a BRILLIANT post! I love sourdough bread but have always been too intimidated to try making it. I think I can do it… I must try! Thanks again for a really GREAT post!
Debs

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thanks Deb. So many variations on making sourdough. This way works for me. Happy you like it!

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Pretend Chef August 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I have grown to love sourdough. Your tutorial is so helpful. Doesn’t seem as intimidating as I originally thought it would be. Can’t wait to give it a shot.

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I hope you do:)It isn’t as bad as it seems. Email me if you have any ?’s:)

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Kim - Liv Life August 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I haven’t made a starter in years!! But my husband mentioned it just a few weeks ago and it’s been on my mine. My recipe uses organic grapes in place of the sugar and yeast. Your recipe looks easier!

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Pacheco Patty August 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

My dad baked with a sourdough starter, I remember the breads, scones, waffles, pancakes etc. He loved to use it for breakfast baking over the weekend and we were the lucky recipients ;-) Great informative post ;-)

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Cake Duchess August 26, 2012 at 7:43 pm

That’s so sweet Patty. love that he even made scones with it-delicious!!

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Brian @ A Thought For Food August 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm

The last time I had sourdough was in San Fran and I’ve been very tempted to make my own. Love your explanation of the starter.

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Michelle {A Recipe Junkie} August 27, 2012 at 12:35 am

I gotta make sour dough one of these days! thanks for the starter recipe :)

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Jen @ Savory Simple August 27, 2012 at 1:02 am

Great post! I’ve never seen such a lovely photo of starter :)

Sourdough bread is my absolute favorite.

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Rebecca Subbiah August 27, 2012 at 2:42 am

very useful post I had one once from a co worker that was 25 years old!

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Terra August 27, 2012 at 4:28 am

This is a very helpful post, thank you so much! There was an article I read about sourdough starters, I was very curious about the process. Now I look forward to trying out your recipe, and using your helpful tips! Take care, Hugs, Terra

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Baker Street August 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

I really like that you shared pictures at various stages. Great starter recipe. Thanks for sharing, Lora.

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Kate@Diethood August 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Now this is something I can really use!! I can actually smell the starter… honest! :) This totally reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen. The starter was always doing its work in its own little corner.

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Jean August 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I’ve been meaning to have another sourdough starter–I let mine go. Like Kate said, I can almost smell this. I can see making lots of delicious breads with this. :)

Have a great week, Lora.

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www.you-made-that.com August 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I have a started recipe too but yours looks pretty simple to do and I like how you show the stages of it aging.

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Nancy August 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I cannot wait to give this a go!! I’ve never had the patience to try it but since I adore sourdough I think I am going to have to take the plunge!!

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Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts August 28, 2012 at 2:31 am

I love sourdough, this is a great post. Can’t wait to try making it!

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Roxana | Roxana's Home Baking August 28, 2012 at 2:39 am

i have once eaten sourdough bread and as much as I love bread, well, that wasn’t for me. Th taste was too strong, the smell, I don’t know, something was just not right.
Another time I had ciabatta make with a starter and thought it was the best bread I’ve ever had.
I have mixed feelings about making bread using a sourdough starter, maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to do it. Saving this post for future reference

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Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } August 28, 2012 at 3:23 am

Love all of the detail on how to make a sourdough starter. I am pinning this for later, since it has been on my list and have not accomplished it yet. Great post!!!!

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Sandra M. August 28, 2012 at 4:18 am

I like the post and recipe is very familiar since my grandma did the same..great reminder! Would love to try sometimes!
Thank you for sharing Lora and have a lovely week sweetie!

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Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings August 28, 2012 at 4:34 am

Very interesting…At some point in my life, I would like to try making bread at home. This probably won’t be the first recipe I try, but I am definitely keeping this in my “recipe bucket list”!

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Jamie August 28, 2012 at 6:51 am

I have never made a sourdough starter because, I don’t know, it just seemed complicated. Thanks for your recipe and your how-to… once I saw your blueberry pie with the sourdough crust I have wanted to make it!

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Cardamom Hills August 29, 2012 at 9:20 am

bookmarked….have been looking for a dependable recipe to make sourdough starter…always felt it was complicated….but this seems not so tough! :)

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Lorraine Joy Alegria-Vizcarra September 12, 2012 at 2:45 am

I have been trying to get a good sourdough starter. Thank you for sharing.

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Anonymous December 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

with all due respect to your work,
sourdough is never made with yeast!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sourdough

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loveableme December 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I read the article about the sourdough baker in Santa Monica. It started me wondering whether anyone has tried making desserts especially oatmeal cookies using sourdough starter. Being recently told to go gluten free I wonder if people who eat this baker’s sourdough are able to tolerate any other baked goods specifically like oatmeal cookies?………..

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loveableme December 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I read the article about the sourdough baker in Santa Monica. It started me wondering whether anyone has tried making desserts especially oatmeal cookies using sourdough starter. Being recently told to go gluten free I wonder if people who eat this baker’s sourdough are able to tolerate any other baked goods specifically like oatmeal cookies?………..

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loveableme December 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I read the article about the sourdough baker in Santa Monica. It started me wondering whether anyone has tried making desserts especially oatmeal cookies using sourdough starter. Being recently told to go gluten free I wonder if people who eat this baker’s sourdough are able to tolerate any other baked goods specifically like oatmeal cookies?………..

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Gaijina June 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Hi Lora! I’ve just discovered your website and guess what? I’ve already my sourdough done. Just finished it. I need some help with the 3rd day procedure, though… I didn’t understand exactly what to do. I whisk, then remove half of it ( for you it was 1 cup), and what about the other half? Should I throw it away? And should I add more flour and water to just half of it? Could I add them to both parts and make 2 starters?
Also, should I whisk the thick film on top to the liquid, or remove the film on the surface and keep what is beneath?
Thank you so much I finally found the courage to try to make my sourdough thanks to your post! I really hope you can answer before my third day…..! Wish you good night and a nice sunday!

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cakeduchess June 30, 2013 at 5:04 pm

On the 3rd day, do exactly as I wrote it:)I discarded half and then added more flour and water to what is left after discarding 1/2 of it. I whisked mine together and didn’t remove the film. I hope that helps:)

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Barbara Merritt February 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Can you use the starter you remove the 3rd day for baking or is it too soon?

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cakeduchess February 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I have used it. I prefer to use it in something as opposed to throwing it away:)

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