January 02, 2021 7 min read 17 Comments
So, you’re looking to bake your own sourdough bread at home?
Firstly: you’ll need a sourdough starter. Before you start frantically searching the supermarket shelves for a sourdough starter, or worse yet, attempting to make one from scratch, rest assured you can make sourdough using dried starter flakes.
Luckily, we’ve included dried sourdough starter flakes in our Complete Sourdough Starter Kit, so you can get started on your first sourdough loaf faster than you can say ‘Vincent Van Dough’ (that’s the name of my sourdough starter). From there, all you’ll need to do is add water and follow these easy steps to activate your starter and ensure it’s big and strong so you can bake our simple Sourdough Bread Recipe.
You might be thinking that using dried starter flakes rather than making your starter from scratch is cheating, but trust me it’s not. Besides, the end result is exactly the same: a strong, bubbly starter that’s ready to be baked into a delicious sourdough loaf!
Before we dive right into how to activate your sourdough starter, it’s probably best to first define what it is for novice bakers.
A sourdough starter, or a sourdough culture, is fermented dough filled with natural wild yeast and bacteria called lactobacilli. The starter is what helps the bread to rise, unlike normal supermarket bread, which uses commercial yeast.
Think of your sourdough starter as a living thing, because it is, quite literally full of life! There are over 50 million yeasts and five billion lactobacilli bacteria in every teaspoon of starter dough, which is what gives sourdough bread its signature sourness.
Josh’s Baking Tip: Feeding sourdough starter every day can feel like a bit much, especially if you’re only baking once a week, so store it in the fridge! Simply give it a feed after you’ve used what you need for your sourdough bread, and place it in the fridge covered (loosely with a lid or plastic wrap – it needs room to grow).
Your starter will live quite happily for 1-2 weeks without needing a feed. When you need it again, say on a Saturday morning, take it out of the fridge on Thursday night and discard some and feed. Feed again on Friday night and it should be nice and strong to use for your sourdough bread the next morning.
If you’re feeling inspired after bringing your very own sourdough starter to life, then you might want to add some of these sourdough recipes to your baking rotation. Whether you’re a savoury person, a health nut, or a lover of all things sweet, we’ve got something for everyone.
Activating your sourdough starter is only half the battle when it comes to raising your ‘Vincent Van Dough', which is why we have compiled some top tips for ongoing care for your starter. These tips include everything from feeding your starter to storing it safely to knowing when it is ready to use.
Once your starter is established, there are two ways to store it: at room temperature or in the fridge.
If you’re like me and don’t bake every day, then you should store your starter in the fridge covered with a lid. You’ll only need to feed it about once a week or so to maintain its strength when not in use (you can just feed it cold and then pop it back in the fridge right afterwards without warming it up). When you are ready to make dough, feed your starter at room temperature as needed, to wake it back up.
Alternatively, if you bake more than twice a week you should store your starter at room temperature. This will speed up fermentation, making the starter bubbly, active, and ready to use faster. Room temperature starters should be fed one to two times a day, depending on how quickly they rise and fall.
There are several ways that indicate your sourdough starter is ready to use, which include:
Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble spotting the signs, you can always place a rubber band around the base of the jar to measure the starter’s growth. That’s what I do!
You can also try the float test, which is where you drop one teaspoon of starter in a glass of water. If it floats, it’s ready to use.
We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked sourdough starter questions, so you don’t have to scour the depths of the internet in search of answers. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Explore our extensive FAQs section for more information.
Like any food, always use your sight and smell when it comes to judging whether your sourdough starter has gone bad.
If you can see an orange or pink streak in your starter, this is a sign that your sourdough starter has gone bad and should be thrown away.
Similarly, if your sourdough starter starts to smell bad, or you notice the presence of mould, then this is another indication it is off and should be thrown out right away.
If you notice a dark liquid on top of your sourdough starter, we can assure you it’s totally normal and harmless.
This sourdough starter liquid is referred to as “hooch” and it’s a naturally occurring alcohol that sits on top of your starter to indicate that your starter is hungry. Simply pour it off and discard it, prior to stirring and feeding your starter again.
The only reason to throw your starter away is if it has gone bad or has mould growing in it. Otherwise, it isn’t necessary to throw out a starter that isn’t showing signs of activity. If you don’t see any activity for a few days when starting, you may just need to give it another feed.
Removing and discarding a portion of your sourdough starter helps to refresh the acidity levels and to control the overall growth in size.
You also don’t have to throw out your sourdough discard, as you can use them in hundreds of different recipes, such as pancakes, waffles, crumpets and more.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
May 10, 2022 5 min read
April 22, 2022 6 min read