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How To Use A Sourdough Starter

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Do you want to make your own bread, but feel like the thought of yeast is intimidating? Or maybe you feel like sourdough is too complicated? Well, I have some solutions and encouragement for you! A sourdough starter is a simple way to make delicious, fluffy bread without using store-bought yeast. All you need is flour, water, and some patience.

In this post, I’m showing you how to take care of and use your sourdough starter. I’ll also share some tips and tricks for keeping it healthy and thriving. And if you haven’t read my blog post on Why Sourdough Starter is Amazing, go check it out. There, I walk you through the basics of making your own sourdough starter.

For this post though, we’ll be focusing on the care and use of your new starter.

sourdough starter in glass jar on counter

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How to Maintain a Starter

The first thing you will need to make your own sourdough starter is flour. You can use any kind, but I typically use organic, unbleached all purpose flour. I choose this flour because it’s non-GMO but is also cheap and easy to find.

Next, you need something to store the starter in. Make sure that it is a non-reactive material such as glass or ceramic. I recommend not using plastic, as it can hold odors from previous use, and metal will react with the starter by changing its chemistry or flavor. I use the glass canister pictured above which I LOVE.

The last thing you’ll need is a place to store your sourdough starter at room temperature. This can be in a cabinet, on the counter, or even on top of the fridge. Some people store their starters in the oven, but I would not do this since the temperature in there fluctuates so much. Accidentally turning the oven on and forgetting to take the starter out is known to happen.

What to Feed a Sourdough Starter

To feed your sourdough starter after it has been activated you simply need flour and water. You want to make sure that the ratio is about 1:1 flour and water. So say you are adding 2 ounces by weight of flour, you will also want to add 2 ounces by weight of water. Personally, I just use cup measurements–so if I add 1 cup of flour, I also add 1 cup of water.

You can then just stir that up into a paste, cover it with a breathable cloth or a loose-fitting lid, and let it sit out on your counter overnight.

How do I know if my sourdough starter is active?

sourdough starter in glass bowl with flour and flowers

Some people test how active their starter is by dropping a spoonful in some water to see how fast the bubbles form or if the starter floats.

To check if your starter is healthy and good to use, you can test it by how it smells. A healthy starter should smell like mildly sour yogurt. But I wouldn’t consider throwing out a starter unless it has a very strong rotting smell or is covered in mold.

Now, sometimes it may seem like your starter is in bad shape. You may walk in the kitchen one day and notice that it has a watery brownish liquid on top (this is called hooch), or that it smells like alcohol or even stinky cheese. But just know that even in these conditions, you can still save and restore your starter back to a happy, bubbly state.

What can I make with my sourdough starter?

Now we get to the best part: how to use our sourdough starter! You can use your starter just like you would use yeast when baking bread. Just simply add the amount of starter that matches how much flour the recipe is calling for. So say you have a standard yeast bread recipe that calls for 3 cups of flour, you could use a sourdough starter to replace 1 cup of the flour and 1 cup of the water and it should work just fine. Of course, there are plenty of recipes out there on the Internet for sourdough bread, also.

I typically use my sourdough starter to make rustic loaves of bread with whatever I have on hand at the moment. This way, our family gets a good dose of fiber from eating whole grain bread while also getting probiotics from my prized culture.

I make much more than just bread, too! With an active starter, you can make English muffins, bagels, pancakes, and more. And if your starter is no longer active (meaning it’s ready for a feeding), you can still use the discard.

What is sourdough discard?

Sourdough discard is the left over starter after feeding a sourdough starter. This can be used to make pancakes, English muffins, and more.

There are many more uses for discard than I first realized when I got into sourdough. When I was first trying to incorporate sourdough into my diet, it was hard to think of ways to use the discard and not just throw it away. But after a little research and creativity, I’ve come up with a few of my own favorite recipes like sourdough skillet brownies, sourdough flatbread, mini breakfast pizzas, and more.

sourdough skillet brownies

Sourdough doesn’t have to be hard

Do not be afraid! I think many people get overwhelmed with the thought of sourdough because they wrongly believe that they need to know a lot of science-y ratios and such. But baking with sourdough is actually very simple and forgiving.

In this post, I’ve taught you how to maintain a healthy sourdough starter using very simple instructions and easy-to-follow steps. So get out there and start baking! Remember, if you don’t have a starter yet but would like to make your own, click here to learn how to do it, as well as even more about the benefits of sourdough.

FREE Sourdough Discard Ebook

Did you know I have a totally FREE ebook full of my favorite sourdough discard recipes?! Time to put that starter to good use! Get it straight to your inbox by entering your email below.

More on Sourdough from Growing Dawn:

Easy Sourdough Brownies
How To Make Sourdough Gingerbread Pancakes
Easy Cheesy Sourdough Flatbread + Why Sourdough Starter Is Amazing

Watch me rave about sourdough on YouTube

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One Comment

  1. im so glad you’ve shared your love of jesus, not enough people do (im as bad as anyome else for that too!) god bless you in your endeavour to reach out! i found this site while searching for ways to use sourdough starter – ill be back 🙂