How do I create sourdough starter?
Whether it’s solid or liquid, it doesn’t matter; the method to create it, or as we say in slang, ‘get it going,’ is identical for both.
Before we start
Before diving into the practical part, I invite you to watch the video I made with Dr. Giulio De Silvestri where we discussed the topic from a theoretical perspective.
Follow this link and watch it calmly before we begin: SOURDOUGH STARTER – all the theory explained simply.
But let’s get back to us. Today, we’ll see how to create sourdough starter from scratch, both in solid and liquid form. As I mentioned, in the first few days, the procedure is the same for both. Later, there will be a slight variation that we’ll detail in this guide.
Remember, the first 4-5 days are crucial. It can happen that something doesn’t go the right way, and you may need to start everything from scratch.
Also, if you’re making sourdough starter without any experience, haven’t managed it before, and haven’t developed a certain olfactory and gustatory sensitivity, I recommend, as a first approach, getting a piece donated (perfectly balanced) to understand the correct flavors, smells, and consistencies.
Because you might feel like saying, ‘it must smell like yogurt,’ ‘it must taste sweet,’ it shouldn’t be bitter, and it should tingle on the tip of your tongue; if you’ve never dealt with sourdough before, you won’t be able to understand the correct sensations it should convey.
Which water to use?
A quick note on the use of water. Usually, tap water is perfectly fine for maintaining the sourdough, as long as it’s not too hard or doesn’t contain excessive amounts of chlorine.
To kickstart the sourdough, however, it’s advisable to use bottled water. This is because even a tiny percentage of chlorine could reduce the bacterial load or slow down its proliferation. For maintenance, if you have water that’s not too hard and has a very modest amount of chlorine, feel free to use tap water.
Personally, I use tap water for everything. I don’t have any issues living in an area where the water is very clean, not hard at all, and has a very low chlorine content.
All you need
Electric mixer: it’s optional but recommended. Personally, I use it and find it very effective, quick, and clean.
Whole wheat flour: we’ll use the whole grain primitive.
Strong ’00’ flour: we’ll use Panettone flour, which will be needed after 4-5 days from the start of the sourdough.
Cylindrical container: preferably graduated, around 1 liter, to assess the volume growth of our sourdough.
Spatula: our friend and loyal ally Marisa.
Bottled water at room temperature
Now that we have everything we need, we can start with the creation of your sourdough starter:
Days 1 and 2
- In a bowl, add 100g of whole grain primitive flour.
- Add 100g of room temperature water.
- Mix thoroughly until you create a homogeneous mixture. You won’t have any trouble; whole grain flour is rich in bran and will absorb water at the speed of light.
- Place the obtained mixture inside the graduated cylindrical container, which should never be sealed hermetically.
You can use a small plate, gauze, or anything that allows gases to escape.
- Place the container for 36-48 hours in a location with a temperature between 24 and 28°C.
After 36-48 hours, you will notice some increase in the volume of the mixture. Discard the top part, which is usually oxidized, and add 100g of the bottom part into the bowl.
- Add 100g of whole wheat flour and 100g of room temperature bottled water.
- Give it a good stir to create a nice homogeneous mixture and place it inside the carefully washed cylindrical container.
- Place the container in a location with a temperature between 24 and 28°C for 12-24 hours, allowing it to reach approximately 2.5-3 times the initial volume.
Once you reach the correct volume, discard the top part again and add 100g of the bottom part into the bowl
- Add 100g of “00” Panettone flour and 100g of room temperature bottled water.
- Once again, create a homogeneous mixture, which will be a bit more liquid this time, and place it inside your cylindrical container. Cover it and let it rest for about 12 hours at a temperature between 24 and 28°C until it reaches approximately 2.5-3 times the initial volume.
- So, once it reaches triple the volume, repeat the same feeding process, but this time let it rest at 21-23°C until it triples the initial volume again.
This final feeding should be repeated until you manage to reach triple the volume at around 21-23°C within 10 hours. Hypothetically, you may need to repeat it about 6 times.
Days 8 onwards
Now you should be ready for the first real feeding. For this first feeding, you will use a different ratio between the starter and the flour. So, you will use less starter and more flour with a ratio of 1:2, but maintaining a 100% hydration.
- Add 50g of starter to the bowl.
- Add 100g of Panettone flour and 100g of tap water at room temperature.
- Create a nice homogeneous mixture using a whisk (or by hand), aiming to bring it to 24°C. Place it in the usual container, cover it, and store it at 20-21°C (room temperature) until it triples the initial volume.
This feeding should be repeated until your starter reaches triple the volume within 12 hours at 20°C.
Conversion to Solid Sourdough Starter
Once you achieve the goal, you can choose to continue with LiCoLi (the 100% hydrated starter) or convert the starter into Solid Sourdough Starter with a final hydration of 45%.
- Take 67 g of yeast from the last refreshment
- Add 100 g of panettone flour and 27 g of room temperature water.
- Create a mixture by hand that can be handled comfortably and place it in the bowl of the mixer or planetary mixer (I do not recommend doing this by hand because this will have to be repeated every day).
- Make sure to create a proper well-strung dough and then “roll it out” with a rolling pin.
- Now create a yeast roll and store it in the usual container at a temperature of 20-22°.
If everything went right it should triple in about 8 hours.
At about 20 days after its birth, your yeast can already be used for simple preparations such as bread (I advise against using it before 20 days) but of course it must be kept in perfect shape.
To understand how best to handle it, I made a very detailed video on my YouTube channel and of course I put it below so you can go watch it:
As you may have noticed, we used only flour, without adding honey, raisins or any weird stuff. The choice was dictated by the fact that this way we have yes a slower start of our sourdough starter, but it will be a bit safer and more linear than using faster starters.
If in the first 4-5 days you notice strange consistencies, division of flour from water, unpleasant smells, or unconvincing colors, throw everything out and start over, because this is the crucial stage. Starting a lame yeast just means a lot of trouble.
Once your yeast is off to a perfect start it will be up to you to strike a balance between keeping it at room temperature and resting it in the refrigerator to try to get it to cover the 24 or 48 hours you set.
Even better, if you have a cell that allows you to control the temperature, you will have to find the correct one to get your yeast to 2.5-3 times the initial volume in the time you set.
As always I hope you find this guide really helpful and I look forward to seeing you in the comments below the video.
…And now knead, enjoy and taste!