How To Sourdough Starter

When I dramatically switched from a 10 year run of a vegan diet to a nutrient dense Weston Price Diet (more about Dr. Price here: everything seemed so overwhelming and intimidating. There was work to do. Research to do, and I had very little time with a 5 ½ year old and one year old baby. Luckily, finding information was much easier than it was 10 years ago when I went vegan, thanks to the Internet and my ability to use it. After being vegan her entire life, and relying heavily on grains, my eldest daughter had two large problems; a heavy reliance on and love for bread and tooth degeneration. See how that works? Ahem…

Getting back to the point. Bread. Glorious bread. Seriously, who doesn’t love it? It’s the mother of all comfort foods! Luckily for me, and you, and definitely my daughter, I learned about the magical powers of fermented bread! Sound unappetizing? Ever tried sourdough bread? LOVE IT??? Bam. Fermented bread. Oh the wonderful, glorious, beautiful stroke of luck that is fermentation. The process breaks down the gluten in the wheat, and also causes the bread to rise sans yeast, for an incredible explosion of deliciousness WITHOUT the horrible side effects of bloating, indigestion, mineral stripping, and all the other ugliness of “modern” quick bread and gluten-y side effects. In fact, did you know that sourdough bread (and other fermented foods like sauerkraut, Keefer, wine, etc.) have incredible health benefits?  It’s true!! Couldn’t you just shout from the rooftops! A BREAD that is REALLY (in moderation, of course) good for your health! Here’s a partial list of the benefits of fermented foods (and sourdough bread is a fermented food! I just have to keep saying it because I still can’t believe it…):

  •          Reduces lectins, gluten, and phytates in grains
  •          Breaks down the lactose in milk
  •         Makes more vitamins and minerals available for use (such as Vitamin K2 in raw milk cheese)
  •          Introduce helpful probiotics to the gut
  •          Aids digestion by helping absorb food more efficiently
  •          Helps preserve food

This is by no means a complete list, but you get the idea. I wanted to also make clear that I am not a huge advocate of stuffing my face with bread all day every day….but if you must have your daily bread (or just WANT to, because you’re a grown up and you CAN!),then make it long fermented sourdough.

Okay, okay, you’re dying to find out how you can make your own, right? I knew it! I was pretty intimidated by the whole process, which is why it took me almost a year to finally walk through the process and just DO IT. This walking off the cliff, per say, was definitely helped by the fact that it is hard, no impossible, to find truly GREAT sourdough bread. Don’t even bother trying to find long fermented sourdough, unless you live somewhere super cool (San Francisco maybe?) and there is actually a market for it. The best I have is my local Whole Foods. I can get fresh sourdough there BUT…sigh…they have soy in the ingredients. WHY? WHY? CRUEL WORLD OF SOY AND CANOLA OIL WHY?? Sometimes life is frustrating and overwhelming and causes me to channel my inner two year old. Moving on…

I ordered several varieties of dehydrated sourdough starter from Cultures for health, you can shop their marvelous selection here:

I ordered the Desem wheat, gluten free (uses brown rice flour), and the New Zealand Rye for some variety. And I really wanted to LOVE the gluten free sourdough because…gluten free. Hi buzz word that makes my heart happy. Unfortunately, it just did not perform. Sad face.

Here’s my step by step comparing the Desem wheat and Brown Rice starters side by side (I didn’t do the Rye starter because I didn’t have any Rye flour! Make sure you have the same flour as the starter you order to activate it! Also, don’t be intimidated by all the steps to activate the starter like I was. This is a classic “lots of steps but EXTREMELY simple once you’ve done it once” situation. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you. IF you are lucky enough to know someone who has an active sourdough starter already, go here to find out what to do next!

Step one:

Your starter will come to you dehydrated and look very much like flour. Make sure you use a clear container, like a quart size mason jar, so you can see what your starter is up to. That’s right, another thing to keep an eye on, feed, and nurture. Why not, right? Go ahead and dump that starter right on into your jar.

Step two (feeding #1):

Add ¼ cup of whatever type of flour your starter needs (whole wheat and brown rice for the two I did here) and ¼ cup filtered water. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to make sure you get it nice and mixed up and lots of air circulated throughout the mixture.

Cover with a loose fitting top (think coffee filter, dish towel, double layer of cheese cloth). Leave in a warm spot (65-85 degrees) for 12 – 18 hours.

Step three (feeding #2):

Uncover your starter and feed it with ½ cup filtered water and ½ cup of the appropriate flour. Set back into warm spot for another 12-18 hours

Step four (feeding #3):

At feeding #3 things change a little from the previous feedings.

  • Dump out all but ½ cup of your starter
  • Feed with another ½ cup of the appropriate flour
  • Feed with another ½ cup of filtered water
  • Re-cover and place back in warm spot for 8-12 hours

Step five (feeding #4 – ?)

Repeat the above steps every 8-12 hours until your starter is nice and bubbly and doubling in size within about 4 hours. This could take anywhere from 7-12 days.

Step six:

Once your starter is doubling in about 4 hours, feed it 2 more times. Congrats! You have successfully activated your sourdough starter! That wasn’t so bad, right??  Now you’re ready for the wonderful world of sourdough!! Bring on the bread, pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls, cookies, pretzels, tortillas, crackers and whatever else you can imagine up!
If you’re still scared….I have some bubbly and ready to go starter right on my kitchen counter! We can have some tea, chat, and I’ll send you home with your very own!

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