Sourdough bread is one of those artisan skills that lots of people enjoy the fruits of, but don’t know how to do it themselves. I highly recommend testing this classic sourdough starter recipe yourself and seeing how simple it is to make bread without yeast. It’s the perfect way to keep your breadmaking going if things are going poorly in the world.
Classic Sourdough Starter Recipe
To make sourdough starter, you just need two ingredients . . . flour and water. Nothing else, so as long as you have a good supply of flour on hand, you’ll be able to make bread anywhere, anytime.
1 cup flour
½-1 cup water
Mix the flour with enough water to give you a thick batter. It’s best to do this in a glass jar, but I’ve used plastic before, as well.
Cover with cloth or a coffee filter and rubber band it in place.
For the next two days, stir your starter twice a day and add ¾ cup flour and ½ cup water. You should be using a large jar, or you might need to remove some of the mixture (feed it to your chickens!).
After the first two days, you can add ¾ cup of flour and ½ cup of water just once a day. Keep doing this until the starter is bubbling and smells fermented, around day 5 (sometimes earlier, if you live in a warm climate).
How to Use Your Sourdough Starter
Now that you have this bubbly mixture, what do you do with it? Use it to leaven your breads, pancakes, and more.
This is the basic sourdough bread recipe that I use:
1 cup sourdough starter
6 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups warm water
Mix the starter with the water, oil and sugar. Gradually mix in four cups of flour and the salt.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it, adding flour as needed. You’ll want to do this for at least 10 minutes to make sure the gluten is well developed. The bread should be elastic and smooth.
Cover the bread and let it rise for up to 6 hours or until doubled in size.
Punch down your dough and divide in half. Form loaves from each half and put into greased loaf pans. Alternatively, you can form rounds and place on a baking sheet lined with parchement paper. Let the bread rise again for another 2-4 hours, or until doubled again.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the loaves of bread for 45 minutes or until browned and hollow sounding when tapped.
I like to add chopped herbs to the mix, but for your first few loaves, it’s a good idea to get used to the sourdough texture and flavor on its own.
If you’re bugging out or living simply, you won’t always have access to an oven. These stovetop pancakes are the perfect way to keep using your sourdough starter.
2 cups sourdough starter
2 tablespoons oil
2-3 tablespoons water or milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
Beat the starter, egg, oil, sugar and baking soda together in a bowl. Add milk or water as needed to get the consistency you want.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat and oil it up. Pour ¼ cup of batter into the hot pan and cook until golden. Flip and cook the other side until golden, as well.
Serve with your favorite topping.
Troubleshooting Your Sourdough Starter
What happens when your starter doesn’t work? It happens! I’ve had it happen to me before, so I’ve put together some of the most common issues with sourdough starters to calm your mind.
My sourdough starter has mold on it.
This does happen from time to time. You can usually prevent mold by stirring it every day and keeping the jar covered with porous material. If you do see mold, though, it’s time to toss it and start again.
There’s skin on my starter.
This means there’s too much air getting to your starter. Try using a different cover. The skin doesn’t cause damage and can be removed and discarded.
What is this dark liquid on top of my starter?
That’s hooch, a naturally occurring, alcholic byproduct of the fermentation process. It’s harmless and can just be poured off. However, it probably indicates that either your starter is growing too quickly or it requires more flour. Try moving your starter jar to a cooler space.
I forgot to feed my starter and now it’s not bubbling.
Try increasing feedings to twice a day until your starter revives. It should come back.
My sourdough starter isn’t getting bubbly and it’s already been a week.
If you aren’t seeing the progress you’d hoped for with your sourdough starter, you may need to find a warmer place for it. Try that before anything else. If it still isn’t bubbling at all, give the starter a taste and see if it has a sour flavor to it.
I don’t have wheat flour, can I use something else?
You can use other flours to make your bread and your starter. However, to keep things simple, it’s usually best to use that same flour in all your feedings.
My starter smells weird.
It’s normal for sourdough starter to smell yeasty or sour or anything in between. However, if it smells rotten or just off, you need to toss it and start again.
Have you made sourdough bread yet? Have any questions? Leave them in the comments!