In this video I use an extremely simple method that calls for mixing flour with warm water, allowing it to sit for 48-72 hours until yeast activity begins, and then refresh/feed at set intervals for about five days, or until the starter is strong enough to levin a loaf of bread. If you've been around since the Free Culinary School Podcast days, you'll remember that in our sourdough series I recommended using fruit peels (apples/grapes) to inoculate your water and flour mixture with natural yeast.
After multiple tests, I've found that there is sufficient local yeast available on your hands, in your kitchen and in your flour, to get a strong sourdough starter going, and in a lot of cases, is much more forgiving then using fruit peels or skins. The reason being, unless your fruit skins come from a hyper local source (like an apple tree in your back yard or a neighbor's garden), then you are still technically importing and using a foreign yeast to inoculate your sourdough starter. At some point, the yeast that is naturally occurring in your kitchen environment will have to do battle with this "foreign yeast" which can kill your sourdough starter outright or give it off flavors (caused by dead or unhealthy yeast).
Tips For Making A Sourdough Starter
- Always use filtered water, especially if your tap water contains chlorine and/or flouride, both of which can kill the yeast in your starter, especially at the early stages of development.
- Start by making a 100% hydration starter (1:1 ratio water/flour), AKA a poolish. This is the type of starter that I prefer and will be using in upcoming demonstration videos for sourdough bread. Also, a high hydration rate (like 100%) allows the yeast to propagate faster as compared to a lower hydration starter such as a biga (usually around 60% hydration by the baker's percentage).
- Once yeast activity begins, remove half of your starter and feed the remainder with the same amount of flour and water removed. So if you took out 400 grams of the starter, you would add back 200 grams of flour and 200 grams of water to the remaining starter.
- Continue to feed your starter at the same time every day, until it becomes extremely active.
- Once your starter can pass the "float test" 12 hours after feeding, it is strong enough to bake with. At this point, you can either bake your first loaf of sourdough bread or retard in your refrigerator, remembering to feed your new starter at least once a week.
Remember, this is the first step in your journey towards making great sourdough bread. To dive deep into bread and sourdough baking, please refer to the related resources below.