Here is my technique for making sourdough starter. It is super simple because the measurements, ingredients, and process don't really change from day to day. It was inspired by the following recipes and videos from Alton Brown and Patrick Ryan:
- 125g water - ideally room temperature and filtered but you can use tap water. Just make sure to let the tap water or home filtered water sit out 24 hours so any chlorine in the water can evaporate.
- 125g whole wheat ground flour - ideally freshly ground from whole wheat berries as they contain more natural yeast particles than bagged whole wheat flour to kick start things. The bagged whole wheat flour should still work and will be better than starting with all purpose flour.
Day 3 and each day thereafter
- 50g of yesterday's starter mixture
- 100g water - filtered and room temp
- 100g unbleached all purpose flour - ideally organic to make sure there are no unwanted chemicals or pesticides
- Make sure you have a scale that can measure in grams. The weight of the ingredients in this process is a lot more important than the volume.
- Get 2 glass, quart size, wide mouth jars and weigh them empty without any lids. Ideally they will be the same weight. Mine weigh 426 grams each. Record this weight. It will come in handy in case the tare function on your scale goes awry.
- Combine the 125g water and 125g ground flour in one of jars. Stir with a spoon until combined and scrape any mixture on the spoon into the jar using your finger. Set the jar lid on but don't secure it with the ring. You want it loose. Let it sit on the counter covered for 2 days ideally in a shady but warm 75-80 degree spot. 65-70 degrees is fine but will just take longer.
- Watch it periodically from 36-60 hours. You want (1) to see bubbles form throughout, (2) for the mixture to have risen up a bit or for signs that it rose and fell, (3) for the top to begin to get dark, dry, and crusty, and (4) for the mixture to stink (like gag worthy stink at this stage). If it doesn't get to this stage by the 60th hour, you can proceed with the next part but continue using whole wheat ground flour instead of all purpose flour until the mixture comes alive. If you let it go longer than 60 hours, mold will likely start to form at the top and you'll need to throw everything out and start over again.
- Remove the lid and with a spoon scrape out the crusty top layer of the mixture and discard. You'll only need 50g of the starter mixture so removing a good portion is perfectly fine. Wash the spoon afterward so no crusty stuff gets back in the mixture.
- These steps then repeat daily from here on out:
- Stir the mixture and smell it. Note any changes in color, texture, or smell.
- Spoon out 50g of the mixture into the empty jar. Have the empty jar on the scale to know when you hit 50g. It doesn't need to be exact. 50-60g range is fine.
- Pour in 100g of water, then 100g of flour into the jar with the 50g of starter. Again 100-105g of each is fine.
- Stir everything together until it is smooth and scrape any mixture on the spoon into the jar.
- Put the lid on the jar (again no ring) and set on the counter for 24 hours.
- Discard the leftover starter mixture, clean out the old jar and spoon, and get ready to do it again the next day.
- From day 3-7, you should start to see more bubbly action and for the smell to start to change from nasty to funky to sour-y pleasant. Once it becomes pleasant smelling (day 8-10), you can start to use the mixture instead of throwing it out.
- Note the mixture periodically over time may start to smell like acetone or paint thinner. Based on my online research, it appears this is nothing to worry about. It just means it is ready for another feeding and should go away with routine feeding.
- Be on the look out for mold. If you are doing this daily with clean jars and have the good yeast bacteria in there, mold shouldn't form, but if it does, unfortunately you'll need throw out the entire mixture and start over.
- If you don't want to feed it daily, you can put the jar in the fridge for up to a month. Then when you are ready to start again, go through 2 feedings before using it to get the yeast active again.
- You can also try an every other day feeding which is what I do. I put the jar in the fridge for 12 hours at some point during the 48 hour cycle and feed every other morning. This gives me time to work the leftover mixture into my daily routine (like sourdough cast iron pizza twice a week).