If you happened to scroll through your Instagram feed back in the early spring you probably noticed just about every other photo seemed to be of someone's latest sourdough creation. With the onset of COVID-19 forcing many into quarantine, google searches for "sourdough bread" spiked over 500%. Were you among the masses of first time sourdough bakers this spring? If so you know that flour and yeast were hard to come by. If you're thinking about having a go at it this fall you might want to stock up now and start refeeding your starter.
New to sourdough? You're in luck. If you haven't already been approached by a dozen or so friends looking to share a bit of their starter don't fret! You can very easily make your own from scratch. And who among us wouldn't love the Insta bragging rights to be able to state that we made the bread AND the starter from scratch?
There are as many methods for making sourdough starter as there are bakers. Classicists say flour and water is enough to begin fermentation. Others—like Peter Reinhart of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, who inspired this recipe—suggest adding fruit juice to kick-start things. Mostly, it’s the environment that matters: Measure liquids to solids carefully, use filtered water, and use room-temperature ingredients to help bacteria and yeast flourish and multiply.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. pineapple juice
In a quart-size canning jar or resealable plastic container, add 3½ tablespoons flour and ¼ cup pineapple juice; stir vigorously with chopsticks until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot for 48 hours, opening the jar and stirring again 3 times a day.
Stir in 2 more tablespoons each flour and juice. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest another 48 hours, opening the jar and stirring again with chopsticks 3 times a day. (By the end, you should see some bubbles forming.)
Add 5 tablespoons plus 3⁄4 teaspoon flour and 3 tablespoons tepid filtered water; stir vigorously. Cover and let rest 24 hours.
Add ½ cup flour and 1⁄3 cup tepid filtered water; stir vigorously. Cover and let rest 24 hours. Repeat again the following day. (Starter should be bubbly, cheesy, and smell like beer.) It is now ready to use or give away.
Feed the starter (or advise your friends to) about 8 hours before using: Begin by discarding all but ½ cup starter from the jar. Add ½ cup tepid filtered water and 1 cup total of flours of your choice (a good standard mix is 20% whole wheat, 80% unbleached white). Mix well, scraping down the sides of the jar. To use every or every other day, keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily. To use intermittently, store in the fridge and feed once a week.
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How to store your Starter
We recommend a quart-sized mason jar with a very loose fitting lid. With active fermentation anticipate that your starter could expand 3-4x its initial volume so don't make the mistake we did by putting in a jar that is too small. Similarly your starter will need to breath a bit so don't screw the lid on too tight or you may risk the jar shattering. It's a good idea to rest the lid on top of the jar (but not screw it on).
Tips for leftover sourdough starter
The downside of sourdough bread making is that it produces a lot of discard. But you don't have to just throw it away. Why not share? Sourdough starter makes a fantastic gift for fellow wannabe sourdough bread makers. Package up 1/2 cup portions in quart-sized jars and you just might inspire the next wave of sourdough savants. Better yet, package it up with a 32oz quart-sized JarJacket and a hand-written recipe card and your starter benefactors will have everything they need to get started.
Still need more ideas? King Arthur has a fantastic collection of sourdough discard recipe ideas. From pizza crust to crackers to pancakes... you would be surprised how many uses there are for left-over starter.