A Beginners Guide to Creating a Sourdough Starter and Baking Sourdough Bread (Full Recipe Included)

April 7, 2020

Hello Fellow Quarantiners!!


I was wanting to start a project for the next month and saw a friend of mine on Instagram making a sourdough starter and baking bread. It seemed easy enough - and by easy enough I mean, didn't take a ton of time to do every day!


I started the process on my Instagram stories and asked my followers to bake bread with me! You can head over to my Instagram if you want to see all the videos and look for the highlight called "Sourdough Start." 


To my surprise I had a ton of responses from people who were going to create a sourdough starter with me and equally a ton of questions! Instead of answering each of those questions individually, I thought it would be best for me to go ahead and create a blog outlining the process of making a sourdough starter and the bread recipe I intend to use and make updates along the way. 


I want to reiterate I AM A SOURDOUGH NEWBIE! I have made bread from scratch using yeast packets before, but I have never made my own starter. Once I decided to create a sourdough starter I did some research and read a few blogs on both making the starter and making the bread. I decided to combine a few of the tips I read along the way and came up with the below process. Since I'm writing this before I complete all the steps I will make notes along the way and hopefully be able give some insight into the process.


Everything I read said creating the starter is a minimum 10 day process so don't try and rush it.




Ingredients Needed

flour - I'm using All Purpose flour (Go ahead and buy the big bag as you'll be using a small amount daily, but a larger amount when making the bread)




Grab a clean jar or glass and combine 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour. Mix well. Cover with a cloth and seal with a rubber band - I'm using a kitchen towel and a hair tie. Store in a warm dark area of your home. I am storing mine in the back of our pantry.


From now on this original mixture is called "the starter." Each day when we add to our starter it is called "feeding the starter."


Go ahead and set an alarm on your phone to remind you to feed  your starter!



Take out your starter and directly to that jar or glass feed it with 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Cover with cloth and seal with a rubber band and store in a warm dark place.



Before moving into how to feed your starter for day 3 let's start with some troubleshooting. 


Take a look at your starter. Is it separating?? Do you see a liquid forming on top?? 


When I took out my starter to feed on day 3 I noticed a separation. You can see in the photo above there is a tan liquid on top of the flour mixture. I did a little research and learned this liquid is called "hooch" and is basically your starters way of telling you "I'm hungry." If you are also seeing this too, know this is completely normal and your starter isn't ruined. If its a small amount of hooch (less than 1 inch) you can mix it right in. If its a larger amount (1 inch or more) pour a portion off down the sink and stir what ever is leftover into the starter. 


You will need to go ahead and feed your starter immediately. 


If you do not see any hooch, than great! Your starter is happy and content and your ratio of 1/2 cup flour to 1/2 cup water is doing the trick.

Your next step is as follows. Move down to where you see *** and follow the directions accordingly.


If you do see hooch, we will start by increasing our flour portion in the starter. Even though hooch is normal we want our starter to be happy and content and we also want to start seeing the activation occur. I suggest starting by adjusting the ratio of flour you are using and increasing that to 3/4 cup. You can now move down to *** and moving forward don't forget to adjust your flour ratio. 



Grab an empty, clean jar.

To that add

1/2 cup of your starter and feed it with

1/2 cup water and 1/2 - 3/4 cup flour.

Discard the remaining starter in the other jar. 

Cover, seal with a rubberband and put back in a warm, dark place. 




I woke up on day 4 with a tiny amount of hooch on the top. It was much less than before so I was confident my starter was more content being fed a larger amount of flour. I however did not see any bubbles at all and if you scroll down just a bit to the bottom of day 4 you'll see today we should be seeing some bubbles - which basically means the yeasts are forming.  I did a little research and once again there is no alarm. Apparently that too is normal! I'm learning sourdough starters can be finicky and very individualized and will let us know in multiple ways when they are content or need more of something.


After my research I realized we could be facing a couple of issues here if we aren't seeing any bubbles by day 4:


1. Our starter needs to be fed more often. At this time I'm only feeding every 24 hours so the suggestion was to move that up to every 8-12 hours. 

2. The area of storage isn't warm enough. Sourdough starters perform best in temps of 75-80 degrees. I don't think my pantry is that warm. 


I decided to first try feeding the starter more often. On day 4 I fed it first thing at 8am and will feed again at 4pm. I kept the exact same ratios from day 3. 



Repeat day 3 - remember to adjust your ratios accordingly. (For example, if you did see a hooch on day 3 and added 3/4 cup of flour to 1/2 cup water to 1/2 cup starter, you will need to continue those same ratios)


Using another rubber band, mark the current height of the starter. We need to see if the starter is beginning to rise so marking this point with a rubber band will give us that reference point. Cover with a cloth, seal with a rubber band and place back in a warm, dark area.


By day 4 your starter should be bubbly and smell sour. It is not yet ready to make bread, but this means it is working correctly. Continue to use a rubber band to mark its starting point so you can track if its rising or falling.



If you notice your house is cooler at different parts of the day you can put your starter in the oven while it is OFF but turn on the oven light. You can also heat a kitchen towel in the dryer and wrap the outside of your glass jar with the towel and then place it in the OFF oven with the light on to help keep some of the heat in.


DAY 5-9

Repeat day 4.


If by day 7 your starter is easily doubling you can begin to feed it twice a day using the same guidelines above.



This morning I only had a very small amount of hooch and there were still a good amount of frothy bubbles on top. I have yet to see any rising at all, but I've read that sometimes starters are lazy in the first week and it takes them a little longer. Chances are I won't be able to test my starter by day 10, and if that is the case I'll go ahead and continue to feed it as day 4 until I see it doubling within a 24 hour period.


DAY 10

Before jumping into making bread we need to test our starter is ready to use.


Take 1/2 cup of your starter and feed it a double portion of flour and water based off your current ratios. Mix it well in a glass or a jar. Cover and seal with a rubber band. Mark the starting point on the jar with another rubber band. This time we need to make sure our starter is doubling in size within an 8 hour period. 


If it does double in size - feed your starter one more time on day 10 using the same process as day 3. You can move onto making and baking your bread on day 11.


If it does not double in size -  your starter needs to be fed a few more days. Continue repeating day 3 for two or three more days and then test your starter again using the testing method under day 10.






Ingredients Needed

3 1/2 cups - 4 cups All Purpose flour

1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)

1 cup sourdough starter, at room temp

1 tbsp salt

parchment paper



1. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until just combined and let rest for 15 minutes.

2. If using a dough hook and stand mixer knead for 5 minutes. If making by hand knead for 10 minutes. 

A few tips on kneading - this isn't a gentle process. Be ready to use your arm muscles and lean into it! The process of kneading is crucial to getting pockets of air in your bread so it won't be dense. I have found when I make other bread to fold and knead, fold and knead, fold and knead. Follow me on Instagram and I'll show you how I do this and it will also be saved to the highlight titled Sourdough Start.

3. After kneading, transfer to a medium sized bowl lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 3 hours turning and folding the dough twice.

4. Remove dough, turn and fold again, and place back in the bowl seam side up. Let rise another 2 hours. 

5. After the second rise, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and gently shape the dough into a ball or oval. You will need to use lots of flour because the dough will be moist and sticky. Make sure there is a good amount of flour on the top as this will make slicing the dough (in step 7) much easier.

6. Place an enameled, cast iron dutch oven into a cold oven and turn heat to 450 degrees. If you don't have a cast iron dutch oven you can use a baking stone or even a cookie sheet. Set a timer for 45 minutes.

7. Once the timer goes off, slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife in 2-3 places and transfer it to the hot pot by holding the edges of the parchment paper. If using a pot, replace the lid. If using a stone or pan, no need to cover. 

8. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 13-5 minutes or until golden brown.

9. Place bread on a wire rack to cool at 30 minutes before cutting.



I'd love to know how your bread turns out!!





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