Editor’s Note: This recipe is featured in the CNN story “This food has a 6,000-year-old history that shaped the basis of what we eat today.” Eric Pallant is author of “Sourdough Culture: A History of Bread Making From Ancient to Modern Bakers.”
To make your own sourdough starter, you need only repeat what ancient bakers discovered entirely by accident. The precise measurements are not essential. You are reproducing a technique that is 6,000 years old.
Because microbial populations increase rapidly, demanding more and more food to stay alive, most modern descriptions for starting a starter ask that you discard some mixture each day so you don’t have to double the size of your feedings as the size of your microbial populations also double. Use this starter to make Tangy Sourdough Bread.
Sourdough Bread Starter
Makes 1 sourdough starter
- 500 grams white bread flour plus more for readying to bake or store
- 500 grams whole-wheat flour
- Water, room temperature, or 80 degrees Fahrenheit if you want to speed things along
Day 1: Combine the white bread and whole-wheat flours. In a medium bowl, scoop out 100 grams of the flour mixture and add 100 grams water. Use your hands to mix them together. Cover with something porous like a cloth or a paper towel held on with a rubber band. Place in a warm location, out of direct sunlight, for 3 days or until bubbles form on top of the mixture and the dough puffs. In warm temperatures, this will happen more quickly.
Day 3: By day 3, the mixture should start to bubble and puff up a bit. Remove the covering. Discard or compost about 80% of the mixture. Feed with 50 grams of the flour mixture and 50 grams water. Stir or mix by hand. Cover with a cloth or paper towel. Place in a warm location, out of direct sunlight, for 24 hours.
Day 4 through 10, more or less: At about the same time every day, repeat the procedure for Day 3. Depending upon the temperature of your house and the serendipity of what species of yeast and bacteria colonize your starter, by the time a week has passed, your culture should start to rise and fall every day, leaving bubbles of carbon dioxide on the surface and a black liquid called hooch. It should begin to smell sour. It is ready to use.
Readying to bake or store: When your starter rises and falls with regularity and smells sour, it’s time to take a couple of tablespoons of starter and infect a roughly 3:2 ratio of flour to water. For example, in a 1-quart mason jar, mix 1 cup water with your starter. Stir. Then add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix. In 12 hours, it will be ready to use in a recipe or put in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook with it. Or, divide it up: Use some to bake and some to store for later.
Bake this! Use this starter to make Tangy Sourdough Bread. Snapshot your creation, then share with #plateitpostit. You might be featured in an upcoming story!
Adapted with permission from “Sourdough Culture: A History of Bread Making From Ancient to Modern Bakers” by Eric Pallant, published by Agate © September 2021.