This is my first attempt at making sourdough bread using a sourdough starter by a traditional method.

I’ve made one sourdough loaf using a bread machine before. But that recipe used dried bread machine yeast and yoghurt as a starter, and the starter was only fermented for 24 hours.

The traditional method of making sourdough uses just flour and water and has a fermentation process that lasts for several days.

This post is about making the starter. There is a follow on post about how I made the sourdough bread using this starter.

The sourdough starter process

The basic procedure is to mix equal quantities of flour and water together and then leave that at room temperature for a period of time, from 12 to 24 hours.

After that discard half or more and then “feed” it. That means adding more equal quantities (by weight, usually, but I did it by volume and that seemed ok ) of flour and water again, for the bacteria and yeast to feed on.

It’s supposed to be one part starter to one part flour to one part water. My ratios varied wildly, but that didn’t seem to do any harm.

You need to keep going until the mixture is fermenting fairly vigorously. It is then ready to make a healthy loaf of bread.

Finally the sourdough is bubbling and looking like it is fermenting

Finally the sourdough is bubbling and looking like it is fermenting

A lot of sourdough that I have seen in the shops seems to be made from white flour. Being health conscious I wanted to use wholemeal flour. I assumed this would be OK, it’s what they must have used originally, I guess.

So the plan was to use wholemeal flour, water and naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria from the environment.

One concern would be the water. Would the chlorine in the water stop the fermentation taking place. I thought it would be OK as I have successfully made sauerkraut and kimchi using tap water. What I do is keep a jug of water standing over night in the hope that any chlorine will evaporate, it seems to work.

I believe some water companies add chlorate (or something similar, not sure what it is) to their supplies which doesn’t evaporate, so that could be a problem.

That’s how I started, adding equal volumes of flour and water and mixing them together and then leaving it overnight on a warm shelf covered with a tea towel.

For the first couple of feedings I doubted if my sourdough starter was fermenting. There were a few bubbles but it didn’t smell yeasty, it just smelt like wet flour.

I kept feeding it. The procedure was to throw roughly half away and then feed it with equal parts flour and water, leave it in a warm place for between 12 and 24 hours and then repeat.

Leaving the sourdough starter for the weekend

The process was interrupted when I went away one weekend.

Under these circumstances Sandor Katz, author of “Wild Fermentation”, recommends that you make your starter drier than usual and then store it in the fridge.

So I did this and didn’t get it out until 3 days later. And then it was sitting round for another 24 hours (not 3 days as I said in the video) before I got round to feeding it again.

I fed it again for the 5th time and a few hours later it finally acted like it was fermenting. There were lots of bubbles which is what I’m used to seeing when I’m making sauerkraut. The smell wasn’t strong but it was more yeasty than before when it just smelt like wet flour.

Sourdough savoury pancakes

One part of the process that I wasn’t that comfortable with was disgarding half the mixture before each feeding. Another suggestion of Sandor Katz was to make savoury pancakes. So on the sixth feeding that is what I did.

I had 220ml of sourdough mixture into which I cracked two eggs with which I made the batter. I then feasted on savoury pancakes with guacamole and salad, delicious! And it felt good not throwing perfectly good food away. I am slightly worried for my waste-line though if I carry on making sourdough bread!

The sourdough starter is finally ready to make bread (I think)

After the 7th feeding the sourdough mixture was positively fizzing. It was clear that it was fermenting and had started to smell slightly alcoholic.

So after 3 weeks and 8 feedings my starter was ready to to make some sourdough bread, so how did that turn out?