sourdough bread starter

I’ve been writing a lot about wine and talking to a lot of winemakers recently, and a topic that comes up often is wild yeasts and fermentation (no suprise there). It’s been interesting especially given my new pet – a sourdough bug that I’ve started from scratch.

I’ll call it a bug, because it’s like the old ginger beer bugs we used to have as kids, except this bug is fed regularly with flour and water rather than sugar.

Starting the bug was relatively simple, but I can’t help thinking that maybe I just got lucky. The odds of it all going wrong and your flour and water mix catching the wrong “wild yeasts” floating through the kitchen is really high. But  a milky smelling, bubbling, creamy broth developed in about four days and has been gracing the kitchen bench, wrapped in a damp muslin blanket for the last month.

Perhaps I should turn my hand to a brew from the neglected vine on our back fence?

Ingredients (to start your bug)

100g 00 white flour
115 ml tepid water

for each feed

100 g 00 white flour
enough tepid water to make a paste

Mix initial measurement of flour and water in a small bowl until you have a sticky paste. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or muslin secured with a rubber band and leave it in a draught free spot in the kitchen.  Re-dampen the cloth as needed.

After 2 – 5 days the paste should have a skin and look bubbly, with a milky scent. If it smells bad rather than simply sour, or if you have mould, then chuck it and start again.

If you’ve got a live one, give it its first feed. 100 g of flour and enough water to mix the whole brew into a sticky paste again. Work the mix to get plenty of air in – your hand is best.  Cover with the damp cloth and leave on the bench for 24 hours.

Feed it again with another 100 g of flour and tepid water – it should be really bubbling and rising up in your bowl now. The bug should be bubbling and ready to use in about 8 hours and you should have about 400g of sourdough starter in your bowl.

Sourdough bugs last forever, as long as you keep feeding them. Mine lives in the fridge during the week and comes out on Thursday nights to warm up (with a damp cloth on top) and then get it’s first feed on Friday morning, getting ready for a weekend baking. They need feeding at least once a week, but even if you miss a week or it gets into bad shape, just stir it up, halve it and feed it and you’ll get it back in good heath fairly quickly.

You need about 200 – 300 g of starter to make a  loaf of bread.

Good luck.


About Louise

Melbourne based journalist/interactive producer who loves to cook .. and eat.
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9 Responses to sourdough bread starter

  1. I always try to make different versions of bread, Sour dough bread recipe is very easy to prepare and simple.

    Thanks for posting

  2. john says:

    Thanks for the recipe. Sounds terrific!

    A little recommendation, I found these to be so delicious and useful in my kitchen:



  3. Zoe says:

    Can you tell me what’s the reason for the choice of 00 flour – and do you use a stronger flour for the bread dough itself?

  4. Louise says:

    Hi Zoe

    No real reason for the tip00 flour – I bake and make my own pasta a lot and have just stopped buying any other type of flour.

    Stronger flour in the bread mix probably would give you a better bread, but the 00 version that I’ve been making still has a beautiful crisp crust and soft centre.

    For feeding the bug I don’t think there’s much difference – you could use any flour (just not self raising).

    Thanks for your comment Zoe. I’d be very interested to hear how you get on using different flours in your bread baking.


  5. Zoe says:

    ah, the old “that’s what was in the cupboard” reasoning – very familiar with that one. I made a focaccia last night with a mix of OO, hard flour and spelt because that’s what was in the cupboard.

    Will give this starter a go today – last one I made I had a plastic cover on, rather than a breathable one, so I’ll see if that helps

  6. fiona says:

    I am trying this starter out today…..I bake all our bread (winter is better as we have a woodfired oven) but I’ve always used commercial dry yeast. The time has come to give sourdough a go, and your instructions look simple enough even for me.

  7. Zoe says:

    Boo hoo!

    Mine went beautifully until I gave it the first feed, when it turned into flat sludge with a layer of erky brown liquid on top. Do you know what that might be?

  8. Louise says:

    Hi Zoe
    Mine’s like that at the moment, but that’s because it’s been neglected in the back of the fridge for about two month.
    Give it a good hard mix up to incorporate all the erky brown stuff, then halve it and feed it, leave it somewhere nice and toasty overnight, halve and feed again, and repeat until it comes back to life.
    It usually takes me a couple of days to get my neglected bug back to life, but it always comes back.

  9. Nice posting. This article has been really useful to me. Thank you.

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