Basic Sourdough Starter

January 23, 2016

Author Notes: I think the most encouraging and discouraging statement I've read in all of my bread research is "Bread baking is as much of an art as it is a science." Someone's proven method may not work so swimmingly for you. It's really all about trial and error. There are a seemingly infinite number of factors that can affect your starter, so don't put yourself down if a certain method isn't working. Try another. This method works for me and hopefully will do right by you.Samantha Ardry

Makes: sourdough starter


  • White bread flour
  • Whole wheat bread flour
  • Water
In This Recipe


  1. For convenience, make a bulk mix of half white bread flour and half whole wheat bread flour to use for feedings. 2 1/2 pounds of each, totaling 5 pounds of flour works well.
  2. DAY 1: In a container that will hold heat well, such as high grade plastic or glass, combine equal parts flour and water: 4 ounces of flour mix and 4 ounces of water. The water should ideally be 78 - 80 degrees F. But if your house is very cold, you can use up to 90 degree F water. Mix the flour and water until a thick, lump free batter forms. Cover the container with a cloth and let is sit in a dark, warm spot for at least 24 hours.
  3. DAY 2: Your starter should be dotted with bubbles, maybe even foamy and visibly aerated. The smell will be more acidic. Feed it again with equal parts flour and water, stir, cover and let it be for another 24 hours.
  4. DAY 3: When you check your starter today, it should be even looser than the day before, webbed with more bubbles, frothier and more acidic in smell. There may even be signs that it rose and fell overnight. Feed it the usual equal parts flour and water, stir, cover and let is sit another day.
  5. DAY 4: Your starter should be dramatically foamy and webbed with bubbles, or show signs that it doubled in bulk and fell since you check it last. When you stir the starter, it will feel more liquid-like. At this point, bulk feeding is over. From now on, discard about half of the starter, and feed it the usual equal parts flour and water. Stir, cover and put it to bed.
  6. DAY 5: The starter should look similar to the day before, with lots of vigorous activity. You can bake today if you'd like. After using some of the starter to bake with, be sure you feed the remainder, stir, cover and put away until tomorrow.
  7. DAY 6 + Beyond: If you plan on baking multiple times a week, continue to use what you need of the starter, and then feed it equal parts flour and water as usual. If you are only going to bake with it intermittently, cover your starter tightly with plastic wrap or a fitted lid and store it in the fridge. Once a week, remove the starter from the fridge, discard half, and then feed it equal parts flour and water. Leaving your starter out overnight before putting it back in the fridge; this will give the yeast some time to recuperate.

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Reviews (5) Questions (0)

5 Reviews

Pauleen D. March 31, 2016
yes ..I am new to baking and cooking. I bought a packet of sourdough starter while visiting San Francisco ... it says the packet contains "wild yeast" hence my confusion
Pauleen D. March 30, 2016
thanks for contact ... I viewed recipe through website food52 and at the top it lists the ingredients [only three] White bread flour, Whole bread flour, Water. There is no mention of any yeast or how much ??????????????
Author Comment
Samantha A. March 30, 2016
That is correct, there is no mention of how much yeast because a sourdough starter or "culture" naturally contains yeast. Flour itself, as a matter of fact, contains a variety of yeasts and bacterial spores. When water is introduced, a natural enzyme breaks down the starch in the flour into various sugars that the yeast feeds on. Refreshing or "feeding" a starter keeps the starter active, thereby allowing you to bake bread with it.<br /><br />If you are used to baking with commercial yeast (like instant yeast that you purchase in packets) you might be viewing this recipe as a sourdough bread recipe instead of a starter? Let me know if this clarifies anything for you.
Pauleen D. March 30, 2016
something is amiss here : day 2 is missing and there is no mention of yeast til day 7 .... this is a very confusing recipe
Author Comment
Samantha A. March 30, 2016
Hi Pauleen! Thank you for catching the mis-numbered days - I have corrected that. (I swear I can count!) In regards to the "no mention of yeast til day 7" I'm not sure what exactly the critic is there. Starter contains yeast so if you could please clarify I would be happy to address it. Thanks!