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Sourdough Starter

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This quick sourdough starter is a faster way to have your own healthy, thriving sourdough starter in 24 hours. This recipe leverages commercial yeast to jumpstart the fermentation process.

I prefer to think of myself as industrious. It's definitely not that I'm kind of lazy and a little (a lot) impatient. I'm working smarter, not longer with this sourdough starter!

Last spring, you know the one - the March that kept the world at home, I started dabbling in sourdough. It was fortuitous, really, as my mom and I had gone shopping just before the ole shutdownerooni and found some dehydrated San Francisco sourdough starter at a store.

Being unable to resist the temptation of frittering in the kitchen, I had to buy it. Then spent months growing my little dough babies, caring for them, feeding them, transferring them between the fridge and the counter.

Unfortunately, I got way too sidetracked during the summer months and I lost my sourdough!

In the past few months, I've been longing for sourdough again. And after some experimentation, I have found a quick and easy sourdough starter!

This faster sourdough starter is dedicated to industriousness.

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Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> Each day when it comes to feeding time, transfer your starter to a clean jar or container, add the water to the starter and stir until completely combined before adding the flour. This step is helpful in ensuring the flour is completely distributed!

No. 2 --> This process can seem finicky and like it's too much work, but truly, it's not. Once you get into a groove you'll love having your own sourdough starter. Once you've got that starter going and your sourdough bread factory is in action, you'll wonder why you didn't start it years ago.

No. 3 --> If you're intimidated by a 7 -10 day sourdough starter, this is a GREAT starting point. You're going to see activity every day and can start baking by the second day, although the flavor, complexity and leavening power will only improve over time.

No. 4 --> It helps to get into a routine! If you're a counter keeper, try to always feed your sourdough at the same time, I like to feed my babies while my morning coffee is brewing. If they're in the fridge, I like to keep them front and center (so I don't lose them in the back. RIP Fred) and feed them each Sunday!

Sourdough starter full of bubbles and air pockets after feeding.

Key Ingredients

Flour: This recipe calls for unbleached all purpose flour. This can be substituted for organic unbleached flour or even unbleached bread flour.

Water: It's important to use filtered water for this recipe, sometimes, treated municipal/city tap water can kill the yeast. It's equally important to use the right temperature water, too cold and the starter will take too long, too hot and the yeast will be killed.

Yeast: I always have a jar of yeast in the fridge, and for this recipe, I use active dry yeast. The larger granules take longer to re-hydrate and are slower to propagate in the starter. This is ideal since we are leaving it for 24 hours.

Filtered water, unbleached all purpose flour and active dry yeast in measuring cups.

How To Make A Sourdough Starter Quicker

DAY 1:

  • In a large, non-metallic container, mix the flour, warm water, and yeast with a wooden or plastic spoon until completely combined.
  • Either cover the container with a clean kitchen towel or transfer it to a glass jar with at least 3 times the volume of the starter - it will grow!
  • Set the starter in a warm spot, free of temperature swings, and drafts to ferment for 24 hours.

DAY 2:

  • After 24 hours, stir down the bubbles and discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g flour and 50 g warm water. If you notice a layer of liquid (hooch) on the bottom of the jar, stir this in before discarding.
  • Once the fed starter is fed, bubbly, and doubled in volume it's ready to use! This will take about 6-12 hours depending on your kitchen and starter.

DAY 3 + ONWARD:

  • Discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g flour and 50 g warm water, transfer to a clean jar. Or save any amount of starter you like, but it must be mixed at a 1:1:1 ratio of starer:water:flour to keep a 100% hydration starter.
  • Store as desired.

Sourdough Starter Feeding + Storage

This all depends on your baking proclivities!

Daily to bi-weekly baker

If you plan on baking daily or few times a week, you'll want to keep your starter at room temperature. This will keep it warm and active whenever you're ready for it!

To keep your starter alive, you'll need to feed it every 24-36 hours. You can play with the feeding schedule a bit, once you get to know your starter and how hungry it is. The starter should be fed after the culture doubles in size and deflates, and ideally before hooch starts to form.

You'll know your starter has begun to deflate by the slide marks left on your jar!

Weekly or less frequent

Not a huge baker? Don't have a lot of time to devote to the sourdough? Don't let this deter you. You can bake beautiful sourdoughs as frequently or infrequently as you like.

If you're an infrequent baker, keep your sourdough in the fridge! This slows down the fermentation time considerably and allows you to feed your sourdough only once a week. Due to the length of time between feeds, the refrigerated starter will likely have hooch forming on the top, this is totally fine, stir it in and feed as required.

If keeping your starter in the fridge, simply remove it from the fridge, stir and feed, and rest for 12-24 hours before baking.

Sourdough starter in a plastic container.

Is My Starter Healthy?

Most likely. There are few things that can go wrong with a sourdough starter, and they are pretty resiliant!

To determine the health of your starter, first start by spending some time with it! Use your senses:

Smell:

Your stater will have a scent. This is normal! We are growing a community of yeast and bacteria, here. It's gonna smell, and the smell isn't necessarily indicative of the health of your starter as much as the types of yeasts growing in it.

These scents are normal:

  • Fed starter:
    • fruity
    • yeasty
    • cheesy
    • overripe fruit
  • Hungry starter:
    • vinegar
    • wine
    • nail polish remover
    • gym socks

Your starter may smell strongly, but it shouldn't be offensive. If the starter smells like rotting meat or otherwise completely awful, it's time to start over.

Bubbly ripe starter.

Appearance:

A happy starter will look different at different times of it's feeding cycle.

  • Fed starter:
    • the starter will be thick, like peanut butter
  • Active starter:
    • dotted with large and small bubbles throughout
    • double in volume within 8-12 hours
  • Hungry starter:
    • deflated
    • thinner consistency than a freshly fed starter
    • may have a darkish liquid (hooch) on top
    • slide marks visible on the jar
A container of sourdough starter with slide marks.
The slide marks are evident on the jar, showing that this starter is deflated and hungry.

What's Hooch?

No, we're not talking about that relative hiding a still in the guest bathtub! We're talking sourdough hooch!

Sourdough starters release a liquid while they're eating away at the fresh flour they've been fed. This alcohol is given off by the yeast as it ferments. Hooch can range in color from clear to dark grey, and generally darkens more as it's left longer.

Repeat after me "hooch is not bad!" Hooch is a sign that your sourdough is hungry! If you see your starter consistently giving off hooch, you'll know it's time to adjust your feeding schedule.

Now, the question is what do I do with the hooch? Some people recommend to pour it off, some people recommend to stir it in. I personally like to stir it in, this helps me keep my hydration levels consistent and can add a bit more tang to the starter.

Hooch gathering on the surface of the sourdough starter.
The liquid settling above the starter is called hooch.

Has My Starter Gone Bad?

As previously mentioned, there are few things that can go wrong with a sourdough starter.

Bad bacteria taking up residence:

Sometimes, the bad bacteria overwhelm the good bacteria and create a hostile environment for the good stuff! You'll know this has happened to your starter when you see a faint orange or pink streak on the surface. Or actual fuzzy mold forms on top. Or it smells so foul you don't think you could handle cooking with it.

Death of the yeast:

A strong starter is pretty hard to kill - even though I managed to kill mine, he got lost in the back of the fridge for 3 months. Yikes.

Neglect can cause your wild yeast to die off, making it easier to be invaded by bad bacteria. Lack of feeding, or temperatures over 90f can have adverse effects on your starter.

If the starter is dead, you will likely have a large amount of dark hooch on the top, and the starter will not activate after feedings. It's time to start over!

A jar of sourdough starter.
Hungry sourdough starter. The slide marks on the jar are a telltale sign.

Starter Vs. Discard

They both contain the same ingredients, and come from the same place, so what's the difference?

Starter is fed and active sourdough starter, while discard is the unfed and inactive sourdough starter. Starter is generally harvested 4-6 hours after a feeding when the sourdough host is bubbly and at it's most active, discard is harvested when the sourdough host is hungry and before it's fed again.

A starter that has at least doubled in size and active is able to leaven bread, while a nearly inactive discard cannot. Discard can, however, be used in recipes that use a secondary leavening agent, like baking soda or baking powder.

How To Use Starter

  1. About 6 hours before you're ready to bake, feed your starter according to the recipe below and set it in a comfortable place for it to activate.
  2. When prepared to bake, stir the starter down, knocking the air bubbles out of the starter before scooping it into a measuring cup.
  3. Follow your sourdough recipe as required.

Float test:

There's a lot of talk about the float test on the internet. Some swear that it's a great way to test the viability of your starter for use in bread making, others say it doesn't matter.

Personally, I think it makes sense, once the yeast has activated and started to create bubbles in the starter, the starter will float due to added buoyancy from the trapped air.

To do the float test, simply drop a small amount of sourdough starter in a glass of water, if it floats, it's all good! If it doesn't float, might be time to feed your starter!

A loaf of sliced sourdough in a red cast iron pot.
Small batch sourdough loaf.

How To Use Discard

Discard can be used in many recipes, sweet or savoury. The fermented discard will add a layer of flavor and tenderness that a base recipe cannot achieve. Discard can also be used to start ANOTHER sourdough starter - this is great for gifting, starting a second starter with a different flour (and therefore, different flavour), or storing longer term if you're particularly fond of your starter.

Discard can be used immediately, or kept at room temperature for approximately 24 hours, or stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 7 days before use.

Scooping sourdough chocolate chip cookies off a baking sheet.
Sourdough chocolate chip cookies made with discard.

Use Discard In Any Recipe

Your sourdough discard can ALSO be worked into nearly any recipe. It just requires a bit of math. (I know... SORRY!)

  1. Know the hydration of your starter. This is easy if you're following my sourdough starter recipe, as my hydration is 100%.
  2. Weigh your discard. Let's use 100 g for example, if we know our 100 g discard is 100% hydration, that means we can ascertain with pretty close confidence that the 100 g is made up of 50 g flour and 50 g water.
  3. Look at your recipe: Subtract 50 g from the total flour required and 50 g from the total water required in the finished recipe, and add the 100 g discard!

If your recipe is stated volumetric vs weights (cups v grams) you'll need to do a BIT more figuring, and this math is less accurate, but should still work for most recipes.

Check out this handy dandy chart over at King Arthur Flour.

Using this chart, we know that 1 cup of all-purpose flour = 120g and 1 cup of water = 227g. 50 g of flour is approximately 1/3 cup of flour, and 50g of water is about 1/5 cup or 3 1/2 tablespoons. Reduce the final recipe by 1/3 cup of flour and 3 1/2 tablespoons of water.

My Favorite Sourdough Recipes!

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📖 Printable Recipe

Fully risen sourdough starter.
Yield: 1

Sourdough Starter

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Rest Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 5 minutes

Faster sourdough starter is for the impatient ones! This incredibly thorough guide will have you on your way to a healthy sourdough starter that's ready to bake with in just 24 hours.

Ingredients

day 1:

  • 50 g filtered water
  • 50 g unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

day 2:

  • 50 g filtered water
  • 50 g unbleached all purpose flour

Instructions

    DAY 1:

    1. In a non-metallic container, mix the flour, warm water, and yeast with a wooden or plastic spoon until completely combined.
    2. Either cover the container with a clean kitchen towel or transfer it to a glass jar with at least 3 times the volume of the starter - it will grow!
    3. Set the starter in a warm spot, free of temperature swings, and drafts to ferment for 24 hours.

    DAY 2:

    1. After 24 hours, stir down the bubbles and discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g flour and 50 g warm water. If you notice a layer of liquid (hooch) on the bottom of the jar, stir this in before discarding.
    2. Transfer fed starter to a clean jar.
    3. Once the fed starter is fed, bubbly, and doubled in volume it's ready to use! This will take about 6-12 hours depending on your kitchen and starter.

    DAY 3 + ONWARD:

    1. Discard all but 50 g of starter and feed it with 50 g flour and 50 g warm water, transfer to a clean jar. Or save any amount of starter you like, but it must be mixed at a 1:1:1 ratio of starter: water: flour to keep a 100% hydration starter.
    2. Transfer to a clean jar and store as desired.

    Notes

    Feeding + Storage

    frequent baker

    Keep your starter at room temperature. To keep it alive, you'll need to feed it every 24 -36 hours, depending on the rate of fermentation.

    infrequent baker:

    Keep your starter in a loosely covered container in the fridge. To keep a refrigerated starter alive, it must be removed from the fridge, allowed to warm up slightly before feeding, then returned to the fridge. To bake with a refrigerated starter, remove the starter from the fridge 12 hours before baking, feed it as normal and allow it to activate before using.

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    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    1

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 371Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7mgCarbohydrates: 77gFiber: 3gSugar: 0gProtein: 11g

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