Laura’s Sourdough starter

November 4, 2006
by Laura


I’ve been playing with sourdough breads the last several weeks. I found a recipe for a sourdough starter in Lauren Groveman’s I Love to Cook Book, (which I checked out from the library and loved so much that I immediately ordered my own copy from Amazon.)

This sourdough starter appears in Lauren’s recipe for Pane di Casa, which I haven’t made yet. I just wanted the basic starter, so I could play around with other recipes calling for it. Here’s the starter:

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 1 teaspoon, plus a little of mild honey
  • 2 TBSP yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, honey and yeast. When the yeast is dissolved and bubbly, stir in 2 c. flour until smooth. Add the rest of the flour 1/2 c. at a time, stirring until well-mixed each time. Cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap and let it sit. It will initially balloon up HUGELY, and then settle down. (Once it settled, I transferred it to a plastic ice cream bucket and put the lid on.) Let it sit and ferment for 4 days in a warm spot.

After 4 days, uncover the mixture and stir well. You can either store it in the refrigerator, in which case you have to “feed” it once a week, or on your counter, in which case, you feed it every day.

To feed the starter, take out 1 cup (after stirring it well) and either discard it or use it in a recipe. Then add 1 c. each of warm water and flour. Mix well and cover again. Note that, since you are removing 1 c. and adding 2 c. each time, the starter does grow gradually. I periodically take out more than 1 cup. Last night I gave 2 cups of it to a friend who was visitng, so that SHE could have her own little kitchen monster to feed.

I’ll soon be posting some of the recipes I’ve made using this starter–my family has been delighted by the unexpected abundance of fresh-baked bread recently. :-)

LB

PS: Visit our related sourdough links:

Care and Feeding of Sourdough

Sourdough Starter Redux

What Not to Do with Sourdough

Barb’s Whole Wheat Sourdough

Clair’s Sourdough

Sourdough

 

 

 

33 Comments for this entry

  • Gram says:

    I have been using and creating my own sourdough starters for several years. I also use regular ‘domestic’ yeast to start a new brew. I have found every starter will end up developing it’s own character. Sometimes you will have a starter the ages into very fruity yeast, while others have a totally different smell. The breads made from the different starters will also have a subtle difference in smell and flavor. Every one is good but once in a while you can get something very exceptional.

  • Joan DeWindt says:

    I chuckled at your description of a “little kitchen monster” because years ago, your cousin Cheryl gave me a couple cups of her starter with a recipe for a fruit bread. I couldn’t keep up with that starter, and started to feel like a gardener who went a little overboard with planting zucchini. (You know how when it all starts ripening at once people start to avoid you?) I couldn’t give the starter away fast enough and my family got sick of the bread recipe too. Have fun experimenting with new breads.
    Joan

  • KW says:

    (came from instructables.com)
    I just started my first starter, I’ve always like the taste of sourdough bread and currently buy mine from a bio store (expensive, but great taste).
    I could only find “instant yeast” and “rye flour”, and had to convert everything to metric, so I hope it works – it’ll save me a lot of money if all goes well and I can keep it up.
    I remember my dad started one a few years back, but that got moldy after 2 days…

    It’s sitting on my counter with a tablecloth on top of the bowl.
    4 more days to go. I’d better read up on what to do with it once it’s done – do I take part of it and use it to make bread, and just keep stirring/feeding what’s left once a week if I put it in the fridge – and continue to take part of it to make a loaf of bread?

    How long does the loaf stay good for (I’m on my own, not sure how big a loaf to make?)

  • Jaime says:

    Wow! I will try it right now. Thanks!

  • george says:

    I’m giving this a shot. Anything that can save me so much on tasty bread and give me major street cred is worth the effort!

    Thanks for the info

  • Guy Schafer says:

    I am 50 and can’t remember the last time I had home baked bread. Over the past few years I’ve told myself I was going to learn to bake bread. Sure, I know it can be done and done easily but I want to really learn to bake some amazing breads!
    So I’m going to try sourdough and make my own starter too! I have no idea what I’m doing but I figure I can follow instructions! lol
    Stumbled upon this website and just wanted to say thanks to everyone.
    G

  • Jackie says:

    I’m going to give it a try. My family absolutely loves sourdough bread, but I’ve never been daring enough to try it. I think it was the caring for and feeding of the Amish Friendship bread I received recently (and your website) that gave me the courage. Thanks!

  • Jason says:

    I just fed my starter for the first time. It smells strongly of vinegar. I remember when I was little we got a “friendship bread” starter that smelled much sweeter and more yeasty. Did I do something wrong or is vinegar one of the possible flavors?

    • Jason, a healthy sourdough starter is going to smell really sour. I’m guessing that that’s the vinegar-y smell that you’re getting. I think it’s okay and should bake up into beautiful bread.

  • Uw-Grad says:

    I’m confused to why you take one cup out and put two cups back in? Wouldn’t it make sense to put back what you take out, so the mixture doesn’t continue to grow? Also, refrigerating the stater after the 4 days will pause the fermentation so you won’t have to feed it that often. Just let it warm for a day before using in a recipe.

  • Charles says:

    Is this recipe supposed to make for a rather doughy starter? I don’t know much about baking or starters, but from what I’ve seen, starters seem to be quite soup-like. Is it meant to be like this, or is the consistency supposed to change over the course of a few days?

    • Kelly says:

      I really hope so … I just made it according to the directions and I have a big ball of dough on my counter.

      • amber says:

        I had the same question. The Intructables.com on this sourdough, the starter looks much thinner. After four days, I still have a really loose dough.

        • Laura says:

          Amber, in the last few years, my sourdough starter strategy has evolved somewhat from this, and now I tend to use more a 1:1 ratio of water and flour, because I do want my starter to be more soupy. If I was starting a starter for one batch of bread, I’d maybe use this. But these days, when I feed the starter that lives in a crock in my fridge, I dump in water and flour in roughly equal amounts (without measuring very carefully, just eye-balling the amounts, and adjusting them if the resulting texture of the starter is too thick or thin.) I feed the starter once or twice a week.

  • cg says:

    I followed the directions and had to add a little bit more water. It looks a little like a ball of dough, some water but not much. Will this change? Please help!

    • Jayel says:

      So did this change? I have the same results, it looks like a big ‘ol ball of very wet dough. Will it “liquify” some more or what? I just noticed in the comment above that she “now tends to use a 1:1 ratio of water to flour. If so, should I add another 2 cups as the recipe above says 2 cups of water and 4 cups of flour. Please help!!

      • Barbara says:

        I generally find that when you add a measurement ratio of 2:1 (flour to water) you are actually adding 1:1 in weight. The good news is that, while there is hard science involved, you can use the -ish factor to your advantage. If it looks/feels/seems like the starter is too thick, then thin it down by bringing your measurement ratio closer to 1:1. Once you land on the “feel” that you want, you should keep the ratio consistent. Also be aware that the more liquid your starter is, the more subject to spoilage it will be.

  • dan says:

    took one cup water one cup flour teaspoon of yeast and a half teaspoon of sugar and three days later had this soupy yeasty, beery smelling starter that seemed close to what the recipie said would happen and made the most wonderful bread ive ever tasted, cant believe i made it. i throw in 4 or 5 good shakes of italian seasoning into the bread mix and rub butter on the top of the loaf when its done. amazingly good and im a 53 year old man who never baked a day in his life. its easy and the house smells great while im cooking. I tried whole wheat flour and its not so good heavy and hard but with all purpose flour or bread flour its wonderful

  • Krysta Fox says:

    I’m at day 2 of my starter and so far it looks good. I’m in Dubai and was a bit worried it might be too hot, but seems ok. I am having trouble resisting the urge the lift the lid and look. Its like looking in on a sleeping child hoping that opening the door won’t wake them up. I’ve told my family they are not allowed to breathe near my sourdough starter. will keep you posted

    • Laura says:

      Krysta, I’m so glad you are trying this! I am now living in a climate like Dubai (Arizona!), and have had good success with getting the starter going on the counter, and then letting it “live” in the fridge, feeding it only once a week or so once it’s really going. (Unless I’m using it every day.) Don’t be alarmed if your starter goes through a period of smelling VERY strong and unpleasant–it has to go through that to get to the less strong sourdough smell.

  • athena says:

    Please, let me know what I keep doing wrong. I even do my starter over 4 days, as I’ve also heard is good. So it’s been alot of work, and ingrediense, and yet it doesn’t turn out.
    It’s 1. very dense (i keep hoping to get a nice looking bread like yours (and others I see on these.
    2. doesn’t taste ‘sourdoughy’ at all. Kind of bland.

    I have some starter left, as you mention to discard some before adding more, to the one your to use. So I figured I could keep some of the ‘discarded’ and use that as ‘next starter.’ Of course I know I have to feed this too, but how often.

    I keep reading that one can store it in fridge, and yet often read too that it should stay out of draft – confusing.
    If I’m to always have some ‘starter’, it will keep ‘growing’ if I’m to feed it, like once a week? or 3 days?

    Please. I keep reading and rereading and don’t seem to see what I’m doing wrong.
    Some meting to put dough in ceramic bot, with lid, and others just to put on hot baking sheet?

    Hope to god you can help out.

    • Barbara says:

      Athena, I think it’s possible that as you’re growing your starter, you might not have a strong enough strain of bacteria growing to give you good fermentation or flavor. There are two things you can do: you can find a local friend who is willing to share a lump of starter with you or you can buy a bit of commercial starter from someplace like King Arthur Flour. One of the starters that I have came from King Arthur Flour years ago and it was a great, strong, robust starter.

      You also might need some extra time of fermentation before you actually use this starter to make the bread you’ve always dreamed up. If your kitchen is relatively cool, then you might need extra days to get the starter fully soured. Don’t put the starter into the fridge until you’re ready to slow it down and make it go mostly dormant. On the counter, it needs to be fed and used regularly. In the fridge, it can sleep for months or even years. I’ll come back and post more as I think of advice for you.

      Barb

      • athena says:

        Thank you for replying. Seldom do I get response from people even important stuff like work and phone companies, ect. But real nice to have ‘someone to talk to’ about this.
        I live in Denmark, so i can’t get the yeast you recommended. I don’t mind having it stand out 5-7 days if that helps. But I still don’t understand your point about feeding it, and the ‘letting it sleep’.? When it’s ‘slept’ (in fridge – one can keep it there weeks, months? As you wrote. You see, I won’t be able to or need to bake , maybe every 2-3 weeks.
        And wjy do ‘some’ reciepes call for the dough being baked in crock, and others just on baking sheet. (stupid question, but I’ve read so many, and yet things don’t turn out right. The first time it was a success, the last 4 not. So a bit frustrating, not know what I did differently.
        Thanks again
        Athena

  • athena says:

    if I keep feeding my starter it will grow a lot, and I won’t need it for another month. What do I do with it? Can I freeze it, or stop feeding it?

  • cookie says:

    I just finished making the sourdough bread you posted on instructables.com. i cant believe how good it turned out!!!!!! Just like your pictures! And it taste fabulous!!!! Just what i was looking for. My starter is made with pineapple juice which i saw on youtube. I have been researching this “sourdough” project for months and this is my first success. Thank you so much!

  • Birgit says:

    I would like to try to make Gluten Free version – have you ever tried it? and any suggestions?

  • vashti says:

    Iv e just made up the starter and found it to be quite stiff. The other recipes that I have tried resulted in a much looser starter. Is the stiffness ok?

  • Inez says:

    Well I have my starter dough made had to put it in the frig. So tonight I start my dough!

  • Marjolein says:

    WOW I had some yeast left over and found your recipe. sceptical at first ( I also have a starter without yeast wich is doing fine) I made a starter because I didn’t want to trow out my yeast, I ended up with 3 new starters because the first one was producing so much after 1 hour I divided the starter in 3 jars :) thank you for the great blog, love it!

  • PB says:

    Famous baker Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery in LA beat out San Francisco bakeries for best San Francisco Style Sourdough. She uses a concord grape in her starter…It’s in her book.

  • Chris says:

    Hi there- I made my starter a week ago, and just put together my first batch of bread. Is it too soon to use this starter? I noticed a recommendation on the “native yeast” starter page not to use the starter for at least 11 days, but does this apply here? My starter is smelling wonderful. :-)

    Thanks for all your help, and the inspiration to try this!

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