You can make your own sourdough starter at home, and we're here to help make it easy.
Here's all you need:
1 kitchen scale - this scale is our favorite - it's the one we all use here at the mill and in our home kitchens!
1 glass jar - this Weck glass jaris the one we use - it's the perfect size and its straight sides make it easy to access and stir your starter!
1 stir stick - this jar spatula works particularly well if you aren't going to use your finger (Abby's method) or a butter knife (James' method)
Flour - stone-milled flour is best as it retains all of the good yeast and bacteria to cultivate in your starter :)
We put together this video series and also included a transcript of the 1st video below for those who prefer to read that:
James: Hey guys, James Brown here, with Abby Love from Abby Jane bakery. We promised last week that we would get out a video to show you the ways to get a sourdough starter on its way so you can be making sourdough bread at home. Especially with the yeast shortage we're having right now. Seems like a timely video. We're going to show you how simple and straightforward it is.
We get so many emails from people freaking out about is my starter ready? Am I doing the right thing? Am I caring for it? I think I need to take it with me on vacation? Which I guess is not applicable right now, but it doesn't have to be that complicated.
It's pretty straightforward and I'll let Abby get started here and then I'm going to show you how I do mine at home. As a more of a home baker as opposed to a superstar pro. So here we go!
Abby: So a lot of people are looking into starting a sourdough starter at home because they're having trouble finding yeast in the store and they want to bake. So I just wanted to start out kind of by letting you know the difference between those two.
A sourdough starter is a whole kind of ecosystem culture that includes yeast and bacteria. It's a lot of microbial excitement that's happening in there. Yeast that you buy at the store, like commercial yeast, that's a strain of yeast that's been isolated and generated and dehydrated and packaged up. So it's just, boom, ready to go the minute you open the package.
A sourdough culture is something that you can maintain all the time at home, as long as you're feeding it the right ingredients, and it's always got that yeast culture alive. In order to start a culture at home, you need two things - water and flour.
Does it matter what kind of flour that you feed your sourdough starter? Yes, absolutely. The difference between what we do here at the mill, which is stone-milling, and the way you buy commercial flour from the grocery store is a process called roller milling.
So often in roller milling the flour is heated to a temperature that kills off a lot of the naturally occurring yeast and bacteria that exists on the grain. The bacteria that's on the grain can be influenced by the soil that it's grown in and the farming practices.
With stone milling, you keep all that. That means the grain that's coming into our place is ripe and ready, covered in all that good yeast and bacteria, and it's ready to go. So if you're going to be using our flour to feed your sourdough starter, you're probably gonna see results a little bit quicker.
Also, we have more of a whole grain process, which means more nutrition for the yeast and bacteria to be excited about. So we're obviously going to be using some Barton Springs stone-milled flour today.
Keep It Simple, Have Fun, and Relax
James and I talked about this before. We really want everyone to feel very relaxed and comfortable and not afraid of starting a sourdough starter. We want to try to relieve some of the anxiety that you guys have. So hopefully we're going to make it fairly simple for you.
I'm going to measure my ingredients, you don't have to do this at home. But I find it helps me have consistent results. You can also go by feel or visual. Basically what we're shooting for is a thick kind of a pancake batter-ish paste. So what I'm going to do is start with a hundred grams of warm-ish water and then I'm gonna put in a hundred grams of stone-milled flour.
And then James and I have different schools of thought on this, but I mix with my hand. There's a lot of micro-flora on my skin that can encourage some of the microbial activity that I want to see in my sourdough starter eventually. So I'm just going to get in there and mix it up.
I'm making sure my fingers go all the way to the bottom and around on the outsides so that there's no big dry pockets and that's what we have. It's kind of gloopy gloppy. It's like a real thick waffle batter, basically just a smooth paste. And there we go. I'm already well on my way to creating that starter.
James: So I do something slightly different. This is a variation on the theme and it's a very slight one. By the way. These are Weck canning jars. You can get these a lot of different places. I think I bought mine at the container store. For those who want to know, this is a number 10 Weck, which also says 850L.
So anyway, they come with a glass top and a rubber gasket and clips. You take the clips and the gasket, you chunk those and you just keep the lid and the jar. What this does is allows you to place the lid on the jar as it's expanding and if there's any off gassing it can release that, but it keeps it from drying out.
It keeps critters and bugs and stuff out of there, especially if you leave your window or your doors open during the pretty spring weather. And I like these, they're easy to clean. They're relatively straight wall so you can place a rubber band on here. So you can gauge the rising and falling of your star, which we'll talk about in subsequent videos. But say for me, a hundred grams of water and 100 grams of flour.
Abby: If you're using cup measurements, a hundred grams of water, it's about half a cup. A hundred grams of flour is a very scant one cup.
James: And I use a butter knife. Before I get emails from people saying, you know, the little serrations on the knife are going to scratch the glass... I use the back of the knife and I just mix like this. Make sure the flour is thoroughly incorporated in the water. And a quick swipe with the, with the curve side, carefully so as to not scratch the glass. And then I'm done... And my hands are still clean.
Abby: Fair. So what we're going to do when you're just starting out, you want to give this guy plenty of time to really start working. So the yeast is on the grain, and it's all around us in the air. What we've done by hydrating this flour, is just unlock all the exciting nutrition that's on the inside.
So we're going to give the yeast some time to find it, to settle on it, to colonize it a little bit. So for starters, we're just going to check back on this once a day and then probably by day two or three you're going to start to see some little bubbles.
James: See and smell. You'll smell some interesting smells, but don't be deterred. Just plow straight ahead.
Abby: You can do this. Really, you can do this. I believe in you.
James:So we'll follow up with phase two, which is the maintenance and care of your starter once it's underway, and how to tell when it's ready for baking and how to move forward from there - which does not require taking it on vacation with you. We'll also show you some ways in which to preserve your starter, flaking your starter, refrigerating or drying it out. There are a bunch of different methods. They all work relatively predictably repeatedly. So stay tuned for our next video.
Thanks from the mill. Be safe. Be well.