I had been making my own pizza dough for several years already. It was about time I stepped up my game and make a sourdough starter day by day and learn how to make sourdough starter from scratch so that I could make homemade sourdough bread and other sourdough products.
Sourdough starter can be made at home with very few ingredients, you probably already have them in your pantry. You do not need to buy a starter. I will share exactly how I made my sourdough starter and what it looks like each day so you know if yours is growing properly. Homemade sourdough bread is healthy, affordable and tasty.
Sourdough Starter Day by Day
What is a Sourdough Starter?
My dad had told a story a few times about my grandma’s sourdough starter. Apparently this thing had a mind of its own and grew so big it became hard to manage. With all the regular feeding and growth it sounded kind of like a pet! The story made me laugh but also sparked my curiosity.
There are many types of bread and bread products. Sourdough is a popular favorite due to its sour and tangy taste. In order to make homemade sourdough bread, you must first grow a starter. This starter once grown is then used to make the bread and other bread products.
Most bread recipes use live yeast to help the bread rise. Sourdough is different in that it uses a homemade starter. You can easily make this starter by using only a few ingredients. You do not need yeast! Sourdough is really versatile you can use it to make many homemade foods at home.
In addition to sourdough bread, once you have a sourdough starter you can also make:
- Pizza Crust
What Kind of Sourdough Container Do You Need?
The first step to make a sourdough starter at home is finding a sourdough starter container for your sourdough starter. Glass is ideal, along with a lid that allows air to escape. If you use an air tight lid on your starter, your starter can very well explode due to the gas it emits as it grows.
When I read about the possible exploding I began to understand why some people are scared by sourdough and starting a sourdough starter. But having your own starter doesn’t have to be scary. I found the perfect container and I’ll share exactly what I used.
The container should be two to three quarts, allowing enough space for the starter to grow and room for feeding sourdough starter. I purchased this Anchor Hocking 1-Gallon Jar for my sourdough starter, which worked wonderfully. I think glass is ideal so to keep the flavor of the sourdough intact and so you can view your starter easily.
How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
What Else Do You Need for a Sourdough Starter?
In addition to the gallon jar, you will need water (I prefer distilled) and white flour. I used white flour for my sourdough starter. It might be possible to try it with wheat flour but I have personally not done this. Instead when baking bread I opted to add wheat flour to make a wheat bread.
Sourdough starter is quick and easy to make at home because you do not need many ingredients. Most people have white flour in their pantry, as it’s a basic staple, and water is available from the tap if you do not have distilled water.
Ingredients and tools needed for your sourdough starter:
- Water (I prefer distilled)
- White Flour
- 1-Gallon Glass Jar with Lid
- Stirring Utensil (a spoon or fork is fine)
- Spatula (to clean sides of jar)
- Loaf Pan(s)
- Plastic Bread Bags (optional)
Just a side note. Then when I bake bread using the starter if I want to make wheat bread I add more flour to my actual bread bowl when I’m making the bread. I have found baking with half white flour and half wheat flour to work well for most recipes including pie crusts and pizza dough.
Sourdough Starter Container
If you prefer to make white sourdough bread you can do that as well. That’s what is typically for sale at the store. Alternately, you could use more than half wheat flour to make a more robust and high fiber bread. Experiment with your baking to find out what ratio you enjoy most.
The above photos shows my finished starter on Day 6 from the side of the jar. It had increased in size and bubbled up. This is a good example to show why the glass jar is paramount, so you can see how your starter is growing.
If you don’t want to buy distilled water or it is not readily available to you, you can also invest in a water distilling system, which turns tap water into distilled water for drinking or cooking. There are many home water distillers you can purchase for the home.
Alternately, you might find a water delivery service where you live. For example, Distillata is a water delivery company in my area than can deliver pure water to your home if you do not want to use tap water for your starter.
What Sourdough Recipe Did I Use?
I researched multiple sourdough starter recipes online and decided on this easy sourdough starter from The Kitchn. The recipe worked very well for me and I had no issues with it. It also did not require me to purchase a sourdough starter which saved me additional money.
The fun part about growing your own sourdough starter is once established you can share it with friends or family who may want to start baking their own sourdough bread as well. A sourdough starter only has to be made once, providing it is made correctly, then you can grow it and keep it indefinitely.
What Should the Sourdough Starter Day by Day Look Like?
I took photos of my sourdough starter day by day. This is helpful to compare your starter to in order to make sure it is growing properly. Here are daily sourdough starter photos for Day 1 to Day 6 so you know exactly what it should look like each day.
After Day 6 your starter is considered complete. It then goes into maintenance mode and you will feed it on a regular basis to keep it alive and you can also begin to use your starter for baking. In short you can have fresh sourdough bread within one week!
Sourdough Starter Day by Day Pictures
Sourdough Starter Progression
What Did I Do with the Sourdough Starter?
After you learn how to make sourdough starter from scratch, know that sourdough starter is most commonly used for sourdough bread After one week I made my first batch of sourdough bread. It turned out wonderfully.
A week later I made my second batch. The only issue was figuring out a way to store fresh bread. People often wonder how to use sourdough starter.
They use sourdough starter for other meals too. For example, it can be used to make pancakes to make a sourdough pancake. It can also be used in waffles. There are many recipes using sourdough starter. Below is a photo of my finished loaves, these were half white and half wheat. I used basic bread loaf pans for baking my bread.
Tips for Storing Homemade Sourdough Bread
When you begin making your own homemade bread on a regular basis, having a storage and preservation plan is important. Usually when we buy bread from the store we freeze it right in the bag. You can purchase some plastic bread loaf bags or buy or sew cloth bread bags.
Depending on how often you continue to feed your starter and where you store it, you can control to some extent how quickly it grows. If you grow your starter more slowly and say you make bread once a week you may simply maintain your starter and won’t need to store bread.
Other people like to freeze bread for use later or they may want to feed their starter more and make more than one loaf a bread per week because they have a large family or they want to gift the homemade sourdough bread to their family members or friends.
Sourdough Bread Sliced
The photos of the sourdough starter day by day can help you compare your starter and make sure it looks correct as you progress through the growing stage and help you understand what is bread starter.
If your starter smells foul (a little sour smell is normal) is of a strange color or seems “bad” in any other way, consider starting over. Make sure the container you are using for the sourdough is cleaned and sterile prior to starting your sourdough starter.
Sourdough Starter by Day
This post about how to make sourdough starter from scratch is intended to be an introduction to making your own homemade sourdough bread using your own homemade sourdough starter.
Baking homemade sourdough bread can be a wonderful way to save money, eat healthier and gain an appreciation for food and your own personal health. I hope you enjoy using sourdough starter.
What questions do you have about homemade bread baking?
*This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.