Making Starter

Equipment:  Glass bowl with lid, scales, spoon.

Ingredients:  All purpose flour, non-chlorinated water

Basic Approach:  Mix equal amounts of flour and water.  Wait 24 hours, then feed with equal parts (by weight) flour and water every 12 hours thereafter until the starter is done.  This could take a week or longer.  Discard when you have too much.

General Observation:  If you research how to make sourdough starter, you will find that there are many ways to make it.  Some involve other sources of wild yeast, such as grapes, some involve changing the ph level by using something other than water as the medium, such as pineapple juice.  You can also find discussions about optimal temperature, best feeding schedules, etc.  This is all perfectly valid and theoretically useful advice.

My opinion, however, is that unless you have a perfectly controlled environment where you can maintain the exact temperature and you have the equipment to monitor ph levels, the best option is to just be patient, keep feeding and mixing, and wait for the starter to develop.  Again, be patient.  The starter I made here was made in my kitchen in northern Florida, USA, with all purpose flour I bought at my local grocery store.  Your kitchen in your town with your flour will create a different environment and, consequently, it may take longer or maybe even less time to make starter.  Again, be patient.

Once you make starter, and if you maintain it, you will never need to go through this process again.  Therefore, just worry about getting it done and not how long it takes.  Just keep feeding until you get it.  And be patient (have I mentioned this already?).

I have gotten advice from my Facebook group (and I've seen this discussed on the internet) suggesting whole wheat may produce faster results.  I haven't tried this yet, but it seems reasonable.

Most important ingredient:  Patience

Variables that affect development:
  1. Temperature (last time I made it in the summer and I think it took longer)
  2. Type of flour (some of suggested whole wheat will work better, I haven't tried it)
  3. Water quality (chlorinated water might inhibit growth--I have a well)
Overview of Process (see details below):
  1. Day 1:  mix 50 grams of flour with 50 grams of water, stir, cover loosely.
  2. Day 2:  In the morning, mix another 50 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely.  Before bed, repeat the morning feeding.
  3. Day 3:  In the morning, discard all but 100 grams, feed with 50 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely. Before bed, add 100 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely.
  4. Day 4:  In the morning, add 50 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely.  Before bed, add 50 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely. 
  5. Day 5:  In the morning, discard all but 100 grams of the starter.  Add 100 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely.  Before bed, 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour added to mixture, stirred and covered loosely. 
  6. Day 6:  In the morning, add 100 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely.  In the evening, save 100 grams, add 100 grams each of flour and water, stir and cover loosely.
  7. Day 7:  Starter complete.  Make bread, replenish with flour and water.  Feed daily or store in refrigerator.

Detail Directions

Day 1:  Mix 50 grams of all purpose flour and 50 grams of water.  Mix well.  Cover loosely and wait for 24 hours.

Note that I use scales to get equal and precise measure.  The first photo shows 50 grams of flour, the second I've added 50 grams of water, the third is the mixed results, and the fourth is the loosely covered dish.

Day 2:  Add 50 more grams of flour and 50 more grams of water.  Mix well.  Cover loosely.

I see some small bubbles forming, so I'm optimistic.  Note that I now have 200 grams of the flour and water mixture:  50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water from Day 1 and 50 of each from today.  At some point I will begin to discard some of it so that it doesn't get overwhelming.

Day 2 (continued):  I checked the starter mixer about four hours after feeding.  It's quite bubbly for the second day.  I'm very pleased and will probably feed it again before the day is over.

I fed the new starter for the second time today.  In the split photo below, the top section shows what it looked like before I fed it, the bottom section shows what it looked like after I fed it with 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water, which I mixed in thoroughly.  I have not discarded any yet, so I have about  300 grams total.

Day 3:  The new starter looks pretty good this morning.  As you can see from the top section of the photo below it is quite bubbly.  I decided to discard all but 100 grams, which I put in a larger bowl.  Then I added fifty grams of flour and fifty grams of water.  As you can see from the bottom right panel, the temperature in my kitchen as about 69 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at about 61%.

Day 3 (continued):  I last fed the new starter this morning, so I gave it another feeding tonight (about 12 hours later).  As you can see from the top left panel in the photo below the new starter is quite bubbly, as it should be.  I had 200 grams of starter from this morning, so I now added 100 grams of flour (top right) and 100 grams of water (bottom left), then I mixed it well (bottom right).  Remember, I put the mixture in a larger bowl this morning.  Note that my kitchen has warmed up a bit, but it will get colder tonight.

Day 4:  This morning the new starter looked healthy and bubbly.  I simply added 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour, stirred it, and then put the lid back on (loosely).  I will feed it again tonight, but I think I will have good starter by tomorrow.

Day 4 (continued):  Tonight, I simply added another 50 grams of water and 50 grams of flour. It looks like I have some pretty active starter.  .

Note the small, fine bubbles in the upper panel of the above photo. When the starter is ready, the bubbles won’t be quite so fine

Day 5:  When I got up this morning, the starter was alive with tiny bubbles, much like yesterday.  I discarded all but 100 grams, which I put in a new bowl.  When I poured the 100 grams into the new bowl it looked like a creamy batter (see the left panel in the photo below).  When I stirred in the flour and water, it still looked like a batter, only thicker.

Day 5 (continued):  As you can see from the photo below, the starter is developing nicely.  It looks very active. I simply added 50 grams each of flour and water, stirred it, and covered it loosely. 

Note that my kitchen has been between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit through this process. 

Day 6:  My starter looked really good this morning (see the photo below), so I just added flour and water (100 grams of each) and stirred it in.  I think it's almost ready.

Note that it got cold last night (in Florida terms) and the temperature of my kitchen dropped to about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  This didn't seem to negatively affect the starter, though.

Day 6 (continued):  Tonight I thought the starter looked about ready, but when I poured it into another bowl it looked creamier than mature starter should.  I saved 100 grams, added a 100 grams each of flour and water, and am waiting to see what it's like in the morning.
As you can see, it looks pretty much like this morning.  I'm still optimistic, though.  I think I'm almost there.

Day 7:  The starter is done and ready to use.

Using the New Starter:  I figure since I made it, I might as well use it.  I am mixing up the basic sourdough bread recipe from this site.  I will picture the progress below (I would skip this part if I were you--I hate endless pictures, but I'm going to post them anyway).

Put starter in bowl

 Float test--it's floating

Mix in the flour 

Place in big bowl for bulk proof

I make a poofing box by simply putting another big bowl on top. 

After about 18 hours, the bulk proof was complete.
It took longer than my more mature starter, which I mad about five years ago. 

I pored it out onto the counter.

Divided it into three boules.  

Shaped them—well, this is right before I shaped them. 

I put them in bannetons, then put them in the refrigerator for the final proof. 

I baked one of the boules about four hours later. 
The others are still in the refrigerator.