Leavening bread with sourdough is a very old and reliable technique.To make your own starter you don’t need any secret ingredients or a chemistry lab. All you need is flour, water, and some patience. That’s it. Believe me, it’s easy. It’s also cheap and once you’ve got your sourdough culture, you can keep it for years and make the most wonderful sourdough loaves.

To make your own sourdough starter, all you’ve got to do is mix flour and water, stir from time to time, feed the mixture every day, and be patient. After five days (sometimes it takes longer, depending on climate and other factors) you will  have an active sourdough starter, also called mother culture or mother starter, which you can use for bread baking.

In this post, I’ll show you step by step how to make your own starter, how to use it, and how to maintain it.

To make the starter, I used a tall and narrow plastic container with a lid. Instead of a lid you can use a piece of plastic and a rubber band. Don’t cover the container too tightly, the starter needs some air.

My sourdough starter took me five days to make. You need to feed your starter every 24 hours, for example right before breakfast. I made my starter from rye flour, which is the standard flour used for sourdough in Germany. Dark rye flour works best here, but you can also use whole grain rye, whole wheat or all-purpose flour. Don’t use bread flour with additives (like malt), bleached flour or high protein flour.

Please do not (as in never ever!) add any yeast to the developing culture.  Not at any point. The yeast will  mess with the other microorganisms and kill your starter. Adding yeast is not a shortcut to a starter, it will just end in a disaster. So don’t do it, ‘mkay?

Sourdough starters need a warm environment. So it’s best to develop a new starter in summer or put  the container, covered in a towel, on the heating. I developed mine in the kitchen, where the temperature was 22-24°C. Temperatures up to 30°C are ideal.

On the first day combine 50 g of flour and 100 g of water in a container.(If you’re not a friend of metric measurements, use 1/2 cup = 60 g  flour and 1/2 cup = 120 g water) Stir until most lumps are gone. The mixture’s consistency will be very liquid, a batter not a dough. Let this sit and stir at least once (after 12 hours).

For the next 5 days or so, your schedule will look like this: 1. day: mixing and stirring after the first 12 hours; 2. day (after 24 hours): mix in more water and flour, stir after 12 hours. 3 day (after 48 hours): mix in more flour and water, stir after twelve hours, etc….

On the second day, after the first 24 hours, you may already be able to see some changes in your mixture. Mine had already started to ferment a bit and looked like this:

sourdough starter |

Feed the dough with another 50 g of flour and 100 g of water. Stir, cover and let sit for 12 hours. Stir the batter and cover again. At this time, my starter was getting a little bit more active:

 sourdough starter |

On the third day, after 48 hours things started to get interesting. The starter smelled weird, which is normal. The batter had risen and bubbled quite a bit:

sourdough starter | seitanismymotor.comFeed the starter with 50 g of flour and 100 g of water and stir. At this point, the batter should be very active and start to rise a lot.

sourdough starter | seitanismymotor.comIf you stir it, it might collapse, but that’s okay. Don’t forget to stir after 12 hours:

On the fourth day, after 70 hours, the starter still smelled weird. If you taste it at this point, you should be able to detect a slightly sour smell already.

sourdough starter |

At this time I had so much starter that I decided to discard a cup of it. You could also use it for pancakes or waffles. Then I added another 50 g of flour and 100 g of water. The mixture was bubbling and rising and did thrive really well.

On the morning of the fifth day the miracle had happened. The wird smell had transform into a fresh and pleasant sour smell, almost like green apples. I knew the sourdough was ready because that’s exactly how my old starter smells.  It tasted pretty sour, too. This is it, your very own home-made sourdough starter. That wasn’t too difficult was it?

sourdough starter |


Now you can bake with your starter for the first time. By now, you should have a lot of starter. For your bread, measure out 1 1/2 cups of starter.

Put the remaining starter in the fridge. That is your mother starter. If you don’t bake with it, the mother starter has to be kept in the fridge. You don’t  feed it while it’s in the fridge. It’s best to use a glass jar with a lid (like a peanut butter jar). Keep the starter in the jar and put the lid on but don’t close it air tight. The starter will need some air. When it cools down in the fridge, the microorganisms will stop growing mostly but not fully. That’s why the starter needs some air. If you want to use that starter for your next bread, take 1-2 tablespoons of the mother starter and mix it with the amount of flour and water your recipe calls for plus 1/4 more (You can discard the remaining old mother starter or make some pancakes). My recipes usually call for 200 g starter, so I mix 125 g flour and 125 g water with those two tablespoons starter from the fridge. Let this mixture sit for about 16 hours to refresh the starter. In these 16 hours the mixture will be transformed into a fresh ripe and active starter, which you can use for your bread recipe. (You can find several sourdough bread recipes in the recipe index of this blog.) But before you dump this fresh starter into the bread dough take away the extra 1/4 (= 50 g). These 50 g  are your new mother starter, which you have to transfer to the fridge again, for future use. Again you will take some from the fridge, mix with flour and water to make a fresh starter and discard the remaining fridge starter. I hope this was not too complicated and you are still with me. Now back to your first bread. Remember your 1 1/2 cups of starter? To make your first bread you can use a very basic bread recipe. I use a standard bread recipe that calls for 500 g of flour, 300 g of water, 10 g salt. I figure out how much flour and water my starter consists of and how much additional flour and water I need to get to 500 g of flour and 300 g of water. My starter has two parts water and one part flour by weight. 1 1/2 cups starter (345 g) makes 230 g water and 115 g flour.

To make my first sourdough bread I need: 345 g starter 70 g water 345 g whole wheat flour 10 g salt Mix everything and knead the dough very well, adding more water or flour if necessary. Shape the bread and transfer to a proofing basket or place in a loaf pan. Cover and et rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until doubled in size. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F). Transfer the bread to the oven and reduce heat to 200°C (400°F). Bake for ca. 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing. Some additional bread baking tips: If you use a proofing basked, you will have to remove it from the basked and transfer it to a baking sheet. This baking sheet should be hot, so keep it in the oven while preheating. You can also use steam in your oven. This helps to make a nice crust. Pour a cup of boiling water on the bottom of the oven right before baking.sourdough starter |

Yes, it’s time for another bread post. From time to time I read a blog by a German baker. He does not only bake and sell bread, he also shares some of his recipes with his readers. Those recipes are wonderful and he usually adds very helpful instructions and tips. Some weeks ago he published a recipe for a 100% rye sourdough bread. The best thing about this bread is that it contains no flour. It made from 100% cracked rye (rye chops, rye groats,  rye meal, or whatever you call the stuff in English). You know, this is my favourite kind of bread. It is similar to German pumpernickel, just not as sweet. It is so awesome because it has an amazingly rich flavour, lots of nutrients, is dense, chewy, and moist, and it keeps so well, that you could probably send it to your aunt in Australia by ship without doing any harm to it. I made two versions of this bread. First I followed the original recipe to the t. I liked the result and wanted to make a second bread. When I opened my flour cupboard in the evening to prepare the starter, there was no rye left. Of course. So I used spelt instead and I was very please with the result.

So I made a second loaf  with freshly milled spelt groats and a couple of sunflower seeds.

This one came out even better than the first. It’s like the organic bread from my all time favourite bakery at my parents’ place. It’s some seriously good stuff.

Bäcker Süpke’s bread made with spelt

Just like with any good bread, you need some time and patience to make this. And you should make this. You need to prepare the starter 20 hours before you start baking.

To make the starter: 150 g spelt groats 150 g water 1 tablespoon ripe sourdough starter (the stuff you keep in the fridge, also called “mother dough” or “mother starter”) Put all ingredients in a bowl, stir until combined, cover with a plate or plastic and let ferment in a warm place for 20 hours. This bread is not only made with a sourdough starter, it does as well contain a “Brühstück” (scald soak). For such a Brühstück grains and/or seeds are mixed with an equal amount of hot water. The soaked and softened grains add even more moisture to the bread. In this case the Brühstück is made from: 150 g spelt groats 150 g hot water Pour hot water over groats and let sit for 3 hours. After you’ve prepared your starter and have the Brühstück ready, you can start to make your bread. Whole Grain Spelt Bread with Sunflower Seeds (slightly adapted from this recipe) 300 g prepared starter 300 g Brühstück 150 g spelt groats 50 g sunflower seeds 125 g water 25 g sugar beet syrup or molasses (not blackstrap!) 10 g salt Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Knead until everything is well combined. The dough will not be like regular bread dough, but more like freshly prepared polenta or stiff oatmeal:

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, so that the grains and seeds can absorb the water. Transfer to a bread pan (lined with parchment paper or grease well). Cover with plastic and sprinkle with spelt groats. Let rise for 2 hours. The bread probably won’t rise as much as bread made from hite flour. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F). Bake the bread for then minutes, reduce heat to 180°C (350°F) and bake for another 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let the bread rest for 24 hours before slicing. Top with your favourite vegan cheese or sausage, eggless egg salad, chickpea salad, Tartex or sunflower seed spread, etc.

Guten Appetit! By the way, would anybody be interested in a blog post about how to make your own sourdough starter?

This entry was submitted to Susan’s YeastSpotting.

stuten (sweet yeast bread) This sweet, soft and fluffy bread is very popular in Northern Germany. It’s often homemade and served on Sundays. You can eat it with butter and jam, but it would be perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, too. It’s best served on the day it is baked.But you can slice and freeze this bread and reheat it in a toaster. Recipe Stuten (Sweet Yeast Bread)

160 ml (2/3 cup) soy milk
40 g (3 tablespoons) refined coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
280 g (2 1/3 cups) all purpose flour
50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine soy milk and coconut oil in a small saucepot and warm gently, until the coconut oil has melted. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in yeast. Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add liquid ingredients and use a hand-held mixer with a dough hook or a stand mixer to knead the dough. Knead for about 5-6 minutes. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This should take 45-60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a small loaf pan (20 x 10 cm or 8 x 4 inch) and set aside. Olace the dough on a lightly floured surface and shape into a log. Place in the pan brush with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size. Slash with a sharp knife and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing.

These bagels were created because I was lacking an important ingredient: whole wheat flour. There was only a tiny bit left but I had lots of other flours and flakes. So I threw in a lot of different things to make up for it. These came out as perfect bagels. Make them if you’ve got some flours to use up and don’t hesitate to substitute some of the ingredients with what you like.

Multi-Grain Bagels (makes 14 small)

4 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, measured and then ground in a food processor or chopped
120 g barley flakes (= rolled barley) (3/4) cup, ground into a course meal
150g whole wheat flour (1 1/8 cup)
3 TB gluten flour
120g whole rye flour (1 cup)
135 g wheat flour (all purpose) (1 cup + 1 tablespoon)
1 pkg. active dry yeast (7g)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar beet syrup (or corn, maple, agave)
420 ml water (1 3/4 cup)

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients and knead until your dough gets soft and elastic (maybe you need to add a little bit more flour or water). Knead for ten minutes by hand or with the help of a bread machine, hand held mixer, food processor… Put the dough back into the bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (1-1/2 hours). Bring a large pot with water to a gentle boil, add some salt. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour your working surface. Knead the dough for another minute and divide it into 14 balls. Shape the bagels by poking your thumb through the centre. Stretch the dough into a ring and place it on a floured surface. Cover and let rise for another 20 minutes. Cook the bagels in hot water for one minute then turn them around and cook for another minute. Depending on the size of your pot, cook only one or two bagels at a time. Bake them for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely and serve or freeze them.