> Skip to content

Recipe  •  5 October 2020

 

Sourdough starter

Learn how to make your own sourdough starter with James Strawbridge. 

My sourdough starter was appropriately named by my eldest son, Indiana, as “Bubbly Mummy”. It’s now a few years old and is treated with great respect as a family pet. Working with a living organism has as much to do with intuition as it does the recipe, so be attentive. Keep fermentation constant by feeding the starter regularly and maintaining the same hydration levels and temperature.

Makes
1kg (2¼lb) starter

Ingredients
500g (1lb 2oz) organic strong white bread flour
500g (1lb 2oz) water (see expert tips, below)

Equipment
1-litre (1¾-pint) glass jar, sterilized muslin or cheesecloth

Method

1. Mix 400g (14oz) of the flour with 400g (14oz) of the water in a glass jar (fig. a). Whisk well and cover with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth (fig. b). Leave out of harm’s way at a constant temperature between 15 and 27°C (59–81°F).

Figure a)

2. After 1-2 weeks the starter will begin to ferment and increase in volume. You will see bubbles start to form and the consistency should be like a smooth, runny porridge that falls off a spoon slowly but in a continuous stream (fig. c). Add the remaining flour and water, and after 24 hours the starter will appear lively, with a pleasant sour smell.

Figure b)

3. Once fully active, the starter will need frequent attention to keep it alive. When stored at room temperature feed daily with equal amounts of flour and water – 2 tablespoons of each will suffice. If kept in the fridge, however, the starter will only require feeding twice weekly, with 2 tablespoons each of flour and water. To avoid an increase in volume, remove 2–4 tablespoons of the starter mixture before feeding.

Figure c)

4. When you use some of the starter to make a loaf, you will have to replace what you take away. For example, if you use 150g (5½oz) starter in your recipe, replace it with 75g (2½oz) flour and 75g (2½oz) water, whisked into the original starter. With practice and careful feeding, your starter can last for months if not years, making loaf after loaf.

Expert Tips

  • For exact quantities in breadmaking, I weigh liquids rather than relying on volume measures. The advantage is that scales are more accurate than judging the level of the liquid in a measuring jug by eye, plus you can add everything into one bowl on a set of scales.
     
  • Make a starter 2–3 weeks ahead of when you plan to start baking. If you are not baking every day, keep your starter in the fridge and take it out 24 hours before you need it, to
    kick-start it into action. You can also freeze it. To bring it back to life again, let the liquid defrost and leave it at room temperature for a day before feeding it.
     
  • You can add some established cultures when beginning a sourdough starter to get it going. Many people use a tablespoon of natural yogurt in with the flour and water to work alongside the wild yeasts. I sometimes use milk kefir as a direct stand-in for my sourdough starter.

The Artisan Kitchen James Strawbridge

A compendium of traditional preserving and outdoor cooking projects with contemporary flair.

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all recipes
Recipe
Tandoori Purple Broccoli with Masala Sauce

A colourful and bold dish that unleashes another side to this tender vegetable.

Recipe
Tangerine dream cake

A pleasure to make, this cake is joyous served with a cup of tea.

Recipe
Jam jar prawn cocktails

With cocktail sauce, avo, tomatoes & crispy pancetta crumbs.

Recipe
Spaghetti with anchovies and olives

A simple pasta dish that you can whip up in minutes from Claudia Roden's Med.

Recipe
Spiced saffron rice

Enjoy this aromatic Arabian rice as a side dish for a delicious dinner.

Recipe
Prawn wontons with spring onion, ginger and vinegar dressing

A delicious wonton recipe from Kylie Kwong to try at home.

Recipe
Doughnut bites

Quick to make and even quicker to eat!

Recipe
'Triple threat' chocolate brownies

People have requested this recipe the most after hearing about it in the Ed Sheeran episode.

Recipe
Chickpea cookie dough bites

Cookie dough, but it's healthy? Yep. We play to win the game.

Recipe
Banana ice cream cheesecake

A sweet, oaty, hazelnutty base filled with a banana ice cream ‘cheesecake’ layer, then topped with blueberry compote. Yum!

Recipe
Seekh kebab toad in the hole

This is toad in the hole, Asian style!

Recipe
Pizza diavola

The perfect pizza for chilli lovers.

Looking for more recipes?

See all recipes