Have you been wanting to start baking sourdough, but you’re confused and overwhelmed by the amount of information out there?
This is my method for a simple, low-waste sourdough starter- the same method I use for my mature starter every day! I’ve linked all my favorite sourdough products and resources below- if you purchase from one of these links I make a very small commission at no extra cost to you! ❤
Sourdough is a slow-fermented bread made with natural yeast (sometimes referred to as wild yeast). Instead of baking with packets of dried commercial yeast, a sourdough starter is used as a natural leavening agent.
Homemakers for *literally* thousands of years have kept a jar of natural yeast on the counter, using and replacing as needed. Many people actually name their starter, since it often becomes like another member of the family! There are some funny ones like Al Pacin-dough, Bready White, and my favorite…Doughvid-19!
“But I don’t have a starter yet!”
If you are brand new to sourdough and do not already have an active starter, I highly suggest watching the Northwest Sourdough videos on Youtube here. She has a detailed 14-day series walking you through every step of creating your own sourdough starter. Plus so many recipes and ideas for how to use discard! Her method is how I began with my starter, and I have since adjusted to the method below to reduce waste.
As always, if you are local to KC I am more than happy to share my starter with you! Just comment below or message me on Instagram @thegallagherhomestead. Trades are never ever expected but always welcomed…several little plants, flowers, and banana breads have swapped places with jars of my starter!
Low-Waste Sourdough Starter
Since your starter contains live yeast, it needs to be fed regularly. Feeding your starter is as simple as adding equal amounts of flour and water, mixing it into the existing starter, and leaving it on the counter to ferment. Usually about half of the existing starter is discarded before feeding, and within a few hours, the yeast will bubble and expand the starter and it will double in size! It’s active when it’s doubled and full of tiny (or big!) bubbles.
In many starter tutorials, you’ll notice they call for feeding large amounts of flour and water every single day. Between the discards and feedings, this leads to so much wasted flour.
To reduce the number of feedings you need to do each week, keep your starter in the fridge. I suggest putting a loose lid or fabric on top to prevent the starter from drying out completely. I only keep about 20-30 grams of starter in a little jar at a time! I want to waste as little as possible.
When you want to bake, take the starter out of the fridge the night before you plan to make the dough and feed it without discarding, then leave it on the counter to ferment. If a recipe calls for 100 grams of active starter, be sure to feed your starter at least 50g of flour and 50g of water. Then the next morning it should be at its peak activity and ready to bake with. Remove what is needed for the recipe, and put the remaining starter back into the fridge until next time.
If it has been over a week since you used your fridge starter, take it out and begin to feed it 2-3 days before you want to bake. Baking sourdough is all about planning ahead!
Feeding over 2 days would look like this- for a 100g recipe, feed 25g flour and 25g water the first night, then without discarding, feed another 25g flour and 25g water the second night. This brings your total amount of starter to 100g plus the amount you started with! Then bake in the morning as usual.
Things to Remember
-Use fresh flour! Always check your expiration dates. I suggest purchasing unbleached, unenriched, organic flour, but use what you are able to get!
-Use filtered water! Tap water contains so many chemicals and particles than could encourage bad bacteria to grow in your starter, so for your safety and the health of your starter use the cleanest water you can.
-Anticipate the expansion of your starter after feeding. Make sure that your starter doesn’t fill more than half of the jar after feeding as it will double, or even triple, in size! You don’t want an overflow of starter!
-Before I put my starter back into the fridge, I actually put it into a clean jar so I can wash the old one. This just further prevents mold and other bad bacteria from growing in the jar.
-If you are baking regularly, you may end up keeping the jar on the counter for awhile instead of putting it back in the fridge. If so, only keep about 20g more than you need for recipes in your jar. You may need to discard a few times in order to control the amount you have in your jar!
Sourdough Links and Resources
BOOKS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH + RECIPES
Artisan Sourdough Made Simple– A MUST HAVE!! So easy to read and amazing EASY recipes!
Make Your Own Sourdough Starter– handbook from Northwest Sourdough
Beginning Sourdough– Pt 1 of Northwest Sourdough’s handbook
SUPPLIES (click on links to purchase)
INSTAGRAM- my fave sourdough accounts!
Please let me know if anything is unclear or you’d like more information about feeding and maintaining your sourdough starter! I’m more than happy to answer questions or help you find the answer. Tag me in pictures of your starter on Instagram @thegallagherhomestead. Happy baking!