Everything You Need To Know About Sourdough (Part 1)

Chaya Suri Leitner May 15, 2024

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Today I’m going to teach you everything I know about sourdough starter.

The Starter

A strong and happy starter is the foundation to baking sourdough bread and getting great results.

When I started making sourdough over a decade ago there were very little resources on sourdough starters, and I definitely wasn’t able to get a ready-made one, so I had to start one from scratch. And here it is, my trusty starter that’s 12 years old now.

But today you can get a starter from a friend, a relative, or you can pick up the Dry Starter at your local kosher supermarket. It includes instructions and a video for how to revive it. Or check out my website spiceandzest.com. I have step-by-step instructions on how to create your own starter form scratch.

How To Feed A Starter

Feeding your starter is what keeps it alive and gets it ready for baking.

When feeding your starter, leave 1-2 tablespoons of your old starter and discard the rest. Otherwise the old starter will overpower the new starter and give it a very acidic taste. The starter you get rid of is called discard – you can discard it (duh) or find recipes that call for discard starter.

To feed a starter, add equal amounts of flour and water by weight. Look at the recipe and see how much starter it calls for. If it calls for 100 grams of starter, feed it 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water. This way you’ll have the 100 grams the recipe calls for, and the 1-2 tablespoons will be leftover for you to feed your starter so you can keep it alive and feed it constantly.

Using a food scale is really crucial for sourdough baking success.

The type of flour you use doesn’t matter, but I suggest using a ratio of 80% unbleached bread flour and 20% whole wheat flour (it adds extra nutrients that keep the starter stronger.)

Put the jar on the scale, bring it down to zero, and add your flour. Bring it back down to zero, and add water. Don’t stress if the measurements are up or down a number!

Mix your starter till you get a pasty consistency, between a dough and a batter.

Let it sit for 8-10 hours.


In a warm environment, the starter will grow faster. In a cool environment, it will grow much slower. 

You can actually add the flour and water in any order – flour first, or water first, it doesn’t matter.

Just after feeding, put a rubber band around the jar level with the top of the starter. This will help you judge how much it has grown after resting.

Cover your starter lightly with the lid or use a cloth. Don’t screw on the lid tightly or the jar might explode (starters produce gas).

How To Know When Your Starter Is Active And Ready For Baking?

– It has doubled in size (the rubber band will be helpful here in seeing how much it grew)

– It’s full of uneven bubbles

– It has the consistency of pancake batter

Once it’s active and bubbly, you have a window of about 2-3 hours when you can use your starter for baking before it starts to deflate. At that point, you cannot use it for baking bread because the yeast in the starter is starting to die down and you won’t get a strong bread. You can use it for discard recipes.

How To Know If Your Starter Is Inactive?

– Residue around the jar above the level of the starter (this means it grew and fell down again)

– Very liquidy consistency

– No bubbles

If you want to use an inactive starter for baking, refeed it and wait.

Or store it in the fridge and feed when ready to use.

Starter Myths

You might have the misconception that you have to babysit and feed your starter every day. That might be overwhelming you and turning you off the sourdough process.

I’m here to bust that myth. Once you have a strong active starter, you can store it in the fridge when not in use and take it out 1-2 days before you’re ready to use. Feed it once or twice as you would before baking, and you’re ready to bake with it 8-10 hours later.

You can watch my episode of “Now You Know” here, where I talk all about sourdough starter!

In our next segment, we’ll be talking about baking sourdough bread. Stay tuned!