Sourdough Starter School
Today is the first day of Sourdough Starter School. Each Sourdough Starter School post will walk you through, step-by-step one way of making sourdough starter. There are, believe it or not, several different approaches to making what is traditionally a two-ingredient food, and I love exploring the potential differences (but mostly similarities) that result from using different methods to get started.
Let’s Get This Starter Started
First up is the simple method employed by famed San Francisco Bakery, Tartine. Tartine Bread is a wonderful book to start a sourdough quest with because of the attitude of its author (and Tartine baker), Chad Robertson. The spirit here may remind you more of other fermentation books you’ve read than other baking books you’ve read. Robertson is very relaxed about the whole thing. Precise ingredient measurements and temperatures are provided, but where there’s flexibility, Robertson makes sure you know it. For a person who has always been turned off by the uber-precision needed for great baking, I love the mix of the two, especially when the results are so chewy/crispy/delightful.
The Tartine method is a slightly simpler process than some other sourdough or levain methods that you’ll find and it produces gorgeous breads that you’ll be incredibly proud to say you made yourself.
Making Sourdough Starter, Step 1
- Small glass bowl
- Kitchen Towel
- whole wheat flour
- white flour
- water (preferably filtered)
Mix together equal parts white and whole wheat flour. You’re going to use a good amount of flour to get through this process to a baked loaf, so Robertson recommends mixing together 2.5 pounds of each for a total of 5 pounds. I just weigh out a bit of each and combine them in a quart ziploc bag, then make more flour mix as necessary. It’s not the most efficient, but it’s my habit and I like it.
Fill your small glass bowl (I use one with 2 cup capacity, but a slightly larger bowl would be fine) just about halfway with lukewarm water. Add a handful or two of flour mix and use clean hands to combine, until you have a thick batter. It should be pourable, but barely.
Cover it with a kitchen towel, cloth napkin or coffee filter and secure that with a rubber band. Put the bowl at room temperature out of direct sunlight and check in on it after two days. It might take three, especially in the winter, but when you look at the sides and bottom of the glass bowl, you’ll see that bubbles have formed in the “batter.” Abundant bubbles mean you’re ready to proceed to the next step.
Did you get there? Keep that starter going!
- Step 1 (Days 1-3) – Let’s Get This Starter Started (You Are Here)
- What your starter will look like after 24 hours of fermentation
- Step 2 (Days 3-7) – Stabilizing Your Starter
- Why You Should Do a “Low-proportion” Sourdough Feeding
- 4 Things to Make with Excess Starter
- Getting Ready to Actually Bake! Equipment and Starter Health Check
- Preparing the Leaven
- Mixing the Dough and Bulk Fermentation
- Dividing, Shaping, Final Rise
- Baking and Cooling
- Tartine Bread Giveaway