Updated: May 12, 2020
Simple Sourdough Starter
You will need:
A large, glass container. We used 2 - 1 qt wide mouth mason jar.
A mixing bowl (glass or plastic)
A silicone spatula
A kitchen scale (optional but handy!)
Liquid measuring cup
180 mL (little over ⅔ cup) Water (non-chlorinated)
250 g Flour (about 2 ¼ cups). We use simple all purpose, but you can use whatever kind you’d like. Or a combination of flours.(see tips and tricks)
One apple (normal apple you get at the store), or two small (wild apple size)
A warm location (for best results)
1: Measure Flour
In a large mixing bowl, weigh out 250 grams of flour (about 2 ¼ c). Don’t forget to either zero out the scale with the bowl on it, or add the weight of the bowl into the total! Reminder, if you’re using different flours, they each weigh different amounts, so it may not be accurate to use the same cup measurements here. A digital kitchen scale is a super useful tool to have on hand if you don’t have one already, and they are super affordable (who knows, you might find someone using it to weigh out items they are planning to pack into the wilderness)!
2: Grate the Apple
Grate your apple. I use my AWESOME Presto salad shooter with the grater attachment. Slice the apple into quarters and remove the core but keep the skin. Add the grated apple to the bowl of flour and mix.
3: Add Water & Mix
Measure out 180 mL of room temperature, non-chlorinated water (about ⅔+ c) (see tips and tricks). Add to the bowl with the apple/flour mixture and mix thoroughly.
4: Transfer to Container
Scoop flour, apple and water mixture into your chosen container. The container needs be large enough to allow for at least doubling in size, if not more. We split ours into two different containers at this point. Make sure to get the mixture level and mashed down to the bottom. A gentle tapping on the counter will get it to settle nicely.
5: Ferment and Grow
It’s time to close the container up (doesn’t need to be air tight) and watch it grow! I like to mark the mixture level using a rubberband, tape or dry erase marker, that way you can see when it's grown. The mixture could rise and fall, so you’ll want to look for indications on the sides of the container for a rise action – not just the current level (this might be streaks of starter on the glass).
The mixture will now sit and ferment. Keeping it in a spot that is about 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) is ideal. Temperature is SUPER important! Too cool of conditions can lead to an inactive and/or moldy starter. It can be set in the dark or light. After testing both, I leave mine on my counter under my cabinets.
6: Feed Your Starter
This is where the tricky part happens. Everyone has different amounts of wild yeast floating around, temperatures in their homes, etc. so having a hard and fast time schedule is almost impossible (and not practical). You are looking for BUBBLES! When it starts to bubble and rise, you know you have activity and yeast fermenting. When you start to see growth (by day 3 at the latest if it’s warm - we usually see it at 12-24 hours with this recipe) you can start discarding and feeding.
When feeding your starter, stir down the bubbly, airy mixture. DISCARD HALF of the starter (see tips and tricks for what to do with discarded starter) and FEED the starter ½ c flour and ¼ c water. [It is EXTREMELY important to remove half of the starter!!!] Stir well, making sure no dry flour remains. Put the top back on and let sit for 12 hours. Repeat as necessary until you have consistent growth. If your starter is going to remain at room temperature, you'll need to discard and feed once a day! (See tips and tricks for storing starter, increasing the amount of starter, etc).
Tips and Tricks
Avoiding chlorinated water is pretty important when it comes to any fermentation process, including making sourdough. We have well water so we have no issues with using straight tap water. A basic carbon filter is enough to remove most of the chlorine from city tap water or letting it sit out overnight will remove enough chlorine to suffice.
All flours weigh different amounts. When weighing my all purpose flour, depending on which measuring cup I use, how precise I am, if I sift or not… I usually get between 64 g - 73 g per ½ cup. So, I suggest weighing your first batch, making a note what your half cup weights and going from there. I have found it isn’t super circial and have been successful with random eyeball measurements as long as the ratios are close.
What to do with the “discarded starter” - Start a second container, gift to a friend, make crackers, pancakes, doughnuts, heck, even try a loaf of bread! BUT, really, for real, real… Discard before feeding to keep your starter happy.
If you aren’t an avid baker (daily or every other day) then storing your starter might be a good idea (for time AND materials). Storing your starter in the refrigerator can really cut down on the time you spend babysitting your starter and the flour you are using. If you do store your starter, you need to feed every couple weeks. Simply pull the starter out, set it on the counter and feed after 12 hours of letting it heat back up and become “active” again! Use the same “stir, discard, feed” method
Increasing your starter - If you want to get crazy with your baking, and need more starter, feel free to add about 1 c flour and ½ water when feeding, just try to keep the ratio of water to flour. You can also save one of your “discards” and start two containers for your next baking escapade!
Hooch - what is that crazy dark liquid?! That’s telling you that your starter is HANGRY!! Feed it more flour and water!! Also, you’ll be chasing the “happy starter” if you don’t discard half your starter each time. Like I said before, worst case, start a new container, gift to a friend, etc.