A whole grain, such as rye flour or whole wheat flour, is the BEST flour to start your starter with. Whole grain flours include more natural yeast, which initially helps your sourdough starter grow.
However, I start adding some unbleached bread or all-purpose flour as the sourdough starter preparation takes place during the course of the following week. While you can commit to using only whole grain flours, I think that for a novice, all-purpose or bread flour works better.
When I feed, I like to mix whole wheat with unbleached all-purpose flour (I use a ratio of 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 AP flour). But if I need to, I can feed AP flour that is 100% unbleached.
Avoid using all-purpose flour that has been bleached, advises Heather. Remain with unbleached. Since bleached flour has undergone chemical treatment, using it is not advised since it will prevent your sourdough starter from activating.
The Clever Carrot advises against using organic flours because they contain different enzymes and may slow rising times.
Can I use white flour to feed my starter?
Since you can use any flour you wish to feed your sourdough starter, it’s possible that it won’t match the flour called for in the recipe. That’s fine, too. Yes, you are allowed to use a different type of flour for your starting than what is called for in the recipe.
(If you must avoid gluten, keep to gluten-free flours for the recipe and for feeding.)
What can destroy a starter for sourdough?
Natural yeast can be found in sourdough starters. Thus, there are only two ways to kill it. One, you should heat it over 138 degrees or near to it because that’s the temperature at which normal yeast in a bottle or box goes bad. Second, starve it for so long that it is unable to recover. However, even with the second, I’ve seen starters recover from difficult situations before. As a result, rather than performing a sombre goodbye song to your neglected starting, try feeding it once per day for a few days before concluding that it is hopeless.
The sourdough process involves multiple phases. It begins by digesting all of the added flour’s starches before entering a more anaerobic stage where it starts to produce alcohol as a byproduct. When the starter has not been fed for several days, you will notice a layer of alcohol on top and a thicker layer underneath. Just feed it, and everything will be OK.
To feed it, mix or shake the starter thoroughly before adding 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. Your starting will adapt the easiest to a regular feeding plan, which you should ideally conduct twice per day. My starter has never experienced that and it continues to function well. I simply feed it once or twice a week, which is how often I prepare bread. I keep it in the fridge to prevent fermentation because I don’t feed it very frequently.
What kind of flour works best for sourdough starter?
Starters for sourdough are amazingly easy to make. You only need a little patience, flour, and water. With so few components, though, you must also be mindful about quality. Because even a small change can have a significant impact.
Start-up sourdough bakers should use unbleached bread flour, warm water, and a small amount of heritage culture. To leaven loaves of bread prepared with alternative flours like whole grains, spelt, emmer, einkorn, and rye, you can use a starting made from bread flour.
- Compared to starts made with whole-grain flour, starters made with bread flour rise more consistently and predictably.
- Filtered water without chlorine will make it easier for the beneficial bugs to establish themselves in your starter.
- Your fresh started gets a good boost from an heirloom starter. They’re not technically required, but they’re useful for novices to make sure the bacteria and yeast are kept in the right balance.
Flour for your starter
Technically, any flour derived from grains can be used to create a sourdough starter. All types of flours—including wheat, rye, spelt, einkorn, and rice—work. But bread flour functions the best and produces the most dependable beginning. You can still make bread with other types of flour even if you raise your starter on bread flour.
- Utilize new flour. Fresh flour ought to smell nice and pleasant. It’s preferable to get a new bag of flour if your old one has been sitting in your pantry for several months.
- Whole-grain flours are difficult to start with. They are rich in food enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. While having a high nutritional content is generally a beneficial thing, sourdough starters are less consistent in their behaviour than white bread flour because of this. Whole-grain starters often require more frequent feedings and require more work to sustain. They are also prone to false starts, where activity bubbles up quickly and then disappears.
- Unbleached bread flour excels because, once set, it rises and falls consistently with no hassle or additional upkeep. This makes it the ideal option for novice sourdough bakers.
Water for Sourdough Starter
When developing and feeding a sourdough starter, pick purified water. The majority of the time, chlorine is used in chemical water treatment to maintain water safe and pathogen-free. But if you’re new to sourdough, you should pick filtered water because it can also harm the bacterial and yeast cultures in your starter.
If you don’t already have one, you can buy one here. Alternatively, you can let your tap water lie on the counter all day to let the chlorine evaporate.
- For optimal results, use filtered or dechlorinated water. With tap water, you can still build a starting, but it can take longer for the good bacteria and wild yeasts to establish themselves. When feeding your beginning, use warm water (about 100 F). Warm water can help the starting along a little, but hot water can harm the cultures.
Why isn’t my sourdough starter growing by two times as much?
*Most starter guides for sourdough start with a 1:1:1 ratio. You should adjust your feeding ratio to take into consideration the increased activity level as your starter grows more active (has more wild yeast/lactic acid bacteria).
You can change your feeding ratio as necessary to accommodate changes in baking timelines, etc. after your starter is active and on a consistent feeding schedule.
Sourdough Starter Baking Questions
You should be able to predict the rise of your sourdough starter and follow a regular feeding plan. Your starter is probably not strong enough to naturally leaven bread if it hardly rises in between feedings or takes a very long time to peak when fed at a high feeding ratio (1:1:1).
Depending on the sort of flour you’re using, your starter should pass the float test and at least double in volume (if not more) during its peak activity.
My two-year-old started is currently fed King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour. My current feeding schedule and starter activities My starter peaks using a 1:5:5 ratio in approximately 10 to 12 hours when kept at a temperature of about 75F.
When your starter is working, you can experiment with these components to add various taste characteristics to your bread. Younger starts will taste softer and sweeter. Peaked, slightly fallen beginnings have higher acetic acid levels and will give your loaf more sourness and tang.
The finest results for me have come from using my sourdough starter at the height of its activity and just as the temperature is just starting to dip. Keep in mind that adjusting these factors will affect how long your dough takes to ferment in bulk.
Sourdough Starter Troubleshooting
Throw away your starter and start over if any mould (pink, etc.) is appearing on it. A rotten beginning cannot be fixed or saved. Before trying again, check your flours to see whether they are spoiled or rancid.
Q: It has been several days, but my starter is still not acting up. Is my sourdough starter dead?
Try putting it in a warmer section of your house while being patient (76F-80F is ideal). As a starting point, visual activity is better than using your nose as a guide. Do not adhere to stringent deadlines when following recipes. Feed your starting if it reaches its height of activity. Wait and give it extra time if it’s sluggish.
Your sourdough starter should be active and prepared for baking in less than a week, according to many recommendations. This is the ideal situation; it is uncommon. A lot of starts require up to two weeks or more to become sufficiently active to be used in bread.
A: My starter had a lot of activity the first two days but none after that. What is going on?
A sourdough starter frequently has a spike in activity over the first few days before declining. This is not a sign that your starter is dead; rather, it is normal and the outcome of the buildup of another sort of bacteria.
With time, it will resume, and the proper bacteria (wild yeast/lactic acid) will multiply and stabilise.
Keep at it, be patient, and feed frequently till it becomes stronger. Consider raising the sourdough starter ratio in your feedings if you’re currently utilising a lower ratio so that the starter can develop more strength.
Your starter is not strong enough to leaven dough if it is not more than doubling in size or expanding significantly between feedings. Although baking is certainly an option, you probably won’t get proper fermentation.
Although not perfect, float tests are typically trustworthy for sourdough starters with 100% hydration (starters that are fed equal portions of flour and water). In general, failed float tests reveal the following:
- Your sourdough starter is too weak and inexperienced to be used for making bread.
- Although lively and robust, the starter is not yet ready. Retest the starter after another 30 or 60 minutes of letting it warm up.
Warmer temperatures are prefered by wild yeast. If the weather is cooler, it will take longer for your sourdough starter to mature, need more time to peak between feedings, and require a longer bulk fermentation period before bread can be baked. This is something to be aware of, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
You might try keeping your beginning in a lit oven (please use an ambient thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature as some ovens can easily become too hot). You can also try heating your starter container and a bowl of warm water in the microwave.
I strongly suggest a bread proofing box if you’re serious about baking bread and have trouble controlling the temperature (I own this Brod & Taylor one and love it).
Check out my other sourdough bread baking resources if you liked this one:
A sourdough starter may it be ruined?
The underlying biology at play in starters is still somewhat of a mystery to many sourdough bakers. Fortunately, it’s still fairly possible to make excellent sourdough bread even if you’re unsure of exactly what’s going on inside that tiny jar of starter.
A nascent starting doesn’t yet have the defences that define a mature starter, so it needs a little more attention to “death threats” throughout the 6 to 10 days it takes to make a healthy and robust sourdough starter from scratch. But once your beginning has reached its full potential, it’s really rather difficult to put down.
Furthermore, if you bought a sourdough starter from us, you can be confident that it’s a mature specimen that will resist unwelcome germs or mould.
Things that WON’T kill your sourdough starter
METAL: Using a metal spoon to stir your starting or putting it in a metal dish won’t harm it. While reactive metals like copper or aluminium shouldn’t be used to make or keep your starter in touch with, stainless steel is safe.
MILD NEGLIGENCE: Your starting won’t even get close to dying if you miss a feeding or don’t space the feedings out exactly 12 hours. Never wake up in the middle of the night to feed your starting; please!
IMPROPER FEEDINGS: Your starter won’t be destroyed if you give it the incorrect amount of flour or water. No lasting harm has been done, even though your starting may seem too dry or too moist or may not rise the way you expect. By adding a bit more flour or water and then being more cautious the next time you feed it, you can adjust its consistency.
While there is some debate among sourdough fans regarding the advantages and/or risks of freezing sourdough starter, a well formed starter is unlikely to perish after a brief stint in the freezer.
I recently put some of my well-kept starter in the freezer a few hours after feeding it. I defrosted it at room temperature three days later and allowed the fermentation to continue. Initially, it was undoubtedly sluggish, but after receiving a second feeding, it rose well and had a pleasant perfume.
However, if your starting spends too long time in the freezer, some of the wild yeast will undoubtedly be harmed, and some of the flavor-enhancing bacteria may also perish. We advise drying your beginning if you must put it on wait for a lengthy period of time.
Things that WILL kill your sourdough starter
HEAT: It’s doubtful that your sourdough starter will survive if you leave it in the oven to ferment with the light on to keep it warm, then turn the oven on without remembering it’s there. Your sourdough starter will probably struggle at temperatures even lower than the 140F that cause yeast to die. Although a little higher or lower won’t harm anything, it’s recommended to keep your starter at cosy room temperature (about 70F).
SEVERE NEGLECT: If you neglect your starter for a long enough period of time, it will start to show signs of mildew or being engulfed by harmful bacteria. Mold can take on a variety of hues and often has a fuzzy appearance. An orange or pink tinge or stripe typically indicates the presence of bad microorganisms. When your starter’s built-in defence against intrusion wears off, it’s time to restart.
How to tell if your starter has gone bad
The liquid that builds up on top of your starter after a long period of no feeding is known as “hooch.” The alcohol produced by the fermentation of wild yeast is this liquid. Hooch is not a warning that your starting is in jeopardy. It does, however, show that your starting is starving and needs to be fed.
The hooch usually turns from clear to dark when your starter isn’t used for a long time. We frequently receive calls from sourdough bakers who are concerned about the safety or threat of different hooch colours. Gray is it bad? How about black or brown? None of these hues, surprisingly, show that your starter has spoilt.
However, if you notice a pink or orange tinge or streak, your sourdough starter has likely gone bad and needs to be thrown away. For two weeks, the stiff starter mentioned above was exposed to ambient temperature. It’s time to scrap it and start fresh, without a doubt.
Sourdough starter troubleshooting: points to remember
- Mature sourdough starts that have been well-cared for are exceptionally resilient and hostile to intruders. It’s really difficult to kill them.
- If your starter exhibits obvious mould growth or an orange or pink tint or streak, discard it and start anew.
I’m hoping you’ll share your own concerns and learnings about sourdough starters here. When it comes to sourdough, there’s always more to discover!