Easy Sourdough Starter (with new troubleshooting tips)

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Before we even start, if you’ve already tried this recipe and are having trouble getting your sourdough starter to the “very-active” stage, or if your loaves aren’t rising well, or if they’re too dense, you can skip to the Troubleshooting tips below… scroll waaaay down. If you’re new to this page, start right here:

The recipe that excites me most in our latest book, The The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is the easy Sourdough Starter. I’m an admitted baking geek, so spending hours on a recipe can be exciting to me, but I know this concept sounds like work to some and just terrifies others. That’s why Jeff and I set out to write these books in the first place, being able to compel busy people to bake bread at home has been our mission. Now you can also create a sourdough starter (in French, levain); easily, without fear and without dedicating your whole day to the project. In fact, it only takes a few minutes a day to get your starter up and running. It really is that easy, but it takes several days to get your starter strong enough to actually use in a batch of bread. Until it is ready to go, you can always bake any of the other yeast filled recipes in our books.

All you need to make your sourdough starter is flour, water and a container to keep it in. Nothing special or fancy. Just make sure the container can hold at least two quarts of starter. You’ll see some Baking Bloopers below of what happens if your container is too small.

Sourdough Bread Loaf | Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Once you have created your starter you can use it to bake beautiful loaves, with or without added yeast. The flavor is incredible and you will still be making a large batch of dough and storing it for up to a week, so you will do the work on one day for many loaves.

To make the starter:

Day 1: In a clean Jar or container* add 1/2 cup flour (unbleached white, whole wheat, rye, brown rice) and 1/2 cup water. That’s it.

*the jar needs to be big enough to hold 2 quarts and it needs to be open to the air, since you want to gather the natural yeasts from the flour and the environment. If you seal your jar, you won’t collect the yeast and/or the jar may actually explode. Yes, I said explode, see picture at the bottom of the post.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Stir the flour and water. Let this mixture sit for 2 days on the counter at room temperature.

Day 3: You should see bubbles forming in the starter. That’s the sign you are off to a great start. If you don’t see any bubbles on day 3, leave it for another day.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

If you have bubbles, add 1/2 cup flour (you don’t have to stick to the same kind you used on the first day I like to make mine with a combination of whole wheat, rye and white flour) and 1/2 cup water. Str together and let sit for one day.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Day 4, 5, 6: Add 1/2 cup flour and water to the jar and stir on each of these days to build the strength of your starter. Let sit at room temperature after stirring.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

By the 6th day your starter should seem mildly bubbly and it will have a pleasant sour smell building up. Add more flour and water so you have at least 3 1/2 cups of starter to use in a batch of dough.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Day 7: Once it is nice and strong, the starter will be actively bubbling and puffy.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

If your container isn’t big enough, the starter may try to escape. You’ll notice I never snap the jar shut.

Now you are ready to use the starter in any of our recipes. After incorporating starter into a recipe (keep scrolling down), you’ll need to store what remains. If you’re using it soon, it’ll be good in the fridge for a few days, but if you won’t be baking for a while, try drying-out starter: Mix in as much flour as you can get it to absorb, and refrigerate in a non-airtight container. This will preserve the starter without the need for feeding. Re-activate within a month for new loaves, or the starter will die out. You can also freeze a starter, either dried-out or not, for up to a month or so, but you’ll have to bring it back to life by feeding it again for a few cycles. Reactivating dried-out starter: Defrost and scoop starter out of its storage container into a larger one, and work in water until it’s a very loose pancake batter. Then add back new flour until it’s the consistency of a thick pancake batter. That’s your first feeding cycle; continue until active.

Sourdough Bread Dough in a Banneton/Proofing Basket | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Here is a basic rule to using sourdough in your recipes, but for WAY more information and specific recipes check out chapter 11 of The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You will also find information about how to store your sourdough long term and how to reactivate it if you haven’t used it in many months.

To bake with your starter: Use about 3 cups of the activated sourdough starter for a full-batch of dough, which make 4 to 5 pounds of dough.  This means that you need to decrease the water in the recipes by 1 1/2 cups, and the flour by 1 1/2 cups. Adjust the water and flour to create a dough that looks and feels just like what you get with our yeast-based recipes. Depending on the strength of your sourdough starter it may take 2-12 hours for your dough to rise. This slow rise is part of the beauty of a natural lavain bread.

If you want to use your sourdough in combination with commercial yeast, you can use half as much starter (replacing just 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup water). Some people like the lighter sour flavor and it gives beginner bakers a sense of insurance to add the yeast.

Shape and bake as you would any of our recipes. This one is proofed in a Round Basket/Banneton and baked on a preheated Baking Steel.

Sourdough Bread Loaf | Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Sourdough Bread Loaf | Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Baking Bloopers:

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This why you never want to use a screw top glass jar for your starter. If you have a really large glass jar that will fit the dough, be sure to poke a hole in the top of the lid so the gas from the yeast can escape.

Troubleshooting tips: If your starter is stalled and it isn’t getting to the very active stage seen in the Day 7 pictures above, or if your loaves aren’t rising well, or if they’re too dense:

  1. Increase the temperature: getting a starter to look like the Day 7 pictures requires a warm environment, and in cool weather, or anytime at all, you may have better results by storing the developing starter in a oven with the heat off, but with the oven light on. Many people have better results in the summer for this reason, but our problem of course… is that we like to bake bread in the cool seasons!
  2. Feed/expand twice-a-day rather than once: You’ll be giving the growing microorganism colony more food to eat.
  3. Transfer to a clean jar for every feeding: Contamination with poorly-rising microorganisms could be the culprit in a slow-to-expand starter.


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243 thoughts on “Easy Sourdough Starter (with new troubleshooting tips)

  1. I have a beautiful, active, gluten free sourdough starter that I’d love to try with a recipe from your gluten free book ( which I love!!) I know how to adjust flour and water amounts to incorporate the starter but I’m wondering if the dough should be refrigerated at some point like the original recipes or just baked after an 4-6 hour initial rise? Any possibility you’ll write a sourdough recipe for us GF folks? I recommend your GF book to people all the time, it really does make the best gluten free bread!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Cynthia. But… I’m afraid we don’t have experience pushing the sourdough option in GF. We refrigerate our dough because that’s how we get the time savings, and since stored dough gets a little denser, and GF is denser in the first place, we’re suspicious that this is going to be… well, dense. If we ever get the energy to really test this, who knows, a book could be in the offing.

      I’m guessing that you’ll get better results without the storage, but then you have a lot of work for each loaf.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I do not, but I know several of our readers have done it with success. I am not sure what they used for a starter, since we don’t have a GF starter recipe in our book.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thanks! I’ll have to play around with it – I’ve had great success with your first book, and now that I have Celiac, the GF one. It’s really been wonderful to bake bread again.

  2. Hi,
    I’m new to sourdough and intrigued by your method, which seems a bit different from any other method I’ve seen. My starter did not get nearly as bubbly as yours, and my first loaf turned out very dense and lacking flavor wise. Of course, I’ve developed MANY questions as a result. As I’ve researched to try to understand my problem, I’ve come to wonder if there is a facebook group or any other resource for sharing information on how to make this particular form of sourdough?

    Also – does your starter method have a particular name? It’s proportions make me wonder if it’s a poolish? And I’m wondering why other methods all have one discard some starter but your method does not require that?

    Thanks much!

  3. From what you’ve said (“didn’t get bubbly,) it sounds like your starter wasn’t mature enough to actually raise the loaf adequately. Don’t try a loaf until it looks like ours in the pictures.

    The only reason to throw some away is if you’re “expanding” through feeding faster than you can use it up. That’s not the operative question. Make sure you’re at the pancake batter consistency when you’re feeding.

    And right here–is the forum for our stuff. We don’t have a separate forum for sourdough.

  4. Hi, I have ordered the new artisan bread and the new healthy bread books… I love them both… question- I have been playing around with sourdough starter and I love how natural it is…in the healthy bread book you speak about it a little but not in the artisan bread book…. so can I do this with your master recipe… you say always remember 6 2 2 13… if I substitute sourdough starter in that recipe should I do 6 cups starter then decrease flour by 3 cups and water by 3 cups? Also is the maximum time I can keep this recipe in the refrigerator 5 days?

    1. Hi Heidi,

      Yes, this is right, but you may need to adjust the dough depending on your starter and the flour you are using. 5 days is a typical life span for this dough, after that it doesn’t have the rising power you may need.

      Cheers, Zoe

  5. I’m getting ready to embark once again with sourdough starter. I haven’t made sourdough starter in 30 years so I am using your tips from the website. I do have a couple of questions though….
    My questions are as follows.
    When using only my starter to raise my dough, should I let it raise in the fridge over night to develop the flavor? Or, should I just let it raise on the counter?
    Also, when making a whole wheat or rye sourdough should I use vital wheat gluten to help with the rise if I am not using any commercial yeast.
    I love your books by the way. I have the first two editions, the flat bread book and just ordered the celebration book from Amazon.

    1. Hi Sherry,

      We typically let the dough rise on the counter, just because it is so slow to rise anyway. I suggest you start with that and see if you like the results. You can use either our recipe with or w/out the vital wheat gluten, again it is a preference thing, but the vital wheat gluten will give the dough a bit more strength.

      Have fun and enjoy the bread! Zoë

      1. Hello Zoe and Jeff , I am on day 2 of starter. I have noticed dark greenish spots should I start again? There is no smell or fuzz. Help! First time making starter

  6. We’re about to embark on our 1st attempt at making sourdough. You show it starting in a jar but would a crock also be acceptable? Also, any modifications for altitude, 5400 ft.?

  7. Hello Zoe and Jeff!
    Love your bread from the New Artisan Bread in five minutes a day. Thank you!
    I ma working on making a sourdough starter. does it need to sit on the counter for the first 7 days? mine has fo five days now? Should I get rid of it. Sorry for the silly question. I never found when to refrigerate it on the recipe.
    Eveline,

    1. Once it’s fully “active” and bubbling, you store it in the fridge. Shouldn’t have to discard unless there are off-flavors. We have more details on this method in our other book… on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1NdVkgj

  8. Hi this is my first time at making the starter. I’m on day 3. So far ok.
    But when it’s ready to use do you have a recipe online or should I look for one. Also do you use all the starter. Should I start it all again or reserve some. Thanks

  9. I am wondering if you have abandoned your exactness in measurements when making sourdough starter and bread. I am attempting my first sourdough bread and it appears the recipe is more a little more of this and a little less f that…… Am I correct?

    1. Hi Mike,

      Yes, it really is less exact, because every starter is different. Some are dry and some are quite loose, so we have to account for that in our directions.

      Thanks, Zoë

  10. After using the starter do you just keep adding flour and water everyday? Also, is it ok o double the recipe, or is it better to make separate batches?

    1. Hi Dana,

      If you intend to keep using the starter, then you want to keep it active by feeding it daily. If you aren’t going to use it for a while, you’ll dry it out, like we talk about in the book.

      If you are making big batches of bread, then you certainly can make more starter, but you want to pour off some of the old starter each time you feed it.

      Thanks, Zoë

  11. Hello,
    I have your book “the new healthybread in five minutes a day” and trying to bake the 100% Whole-Grain Levain-risen Bread. The table of weight says 2pounds of levain equals 910grams and it says 1pound flour equals 765 grams. Is that right? 1 pound is 435grams, and since both a weight measurements it can´t be correct. So how much gram flour for 2 pounds of levain should I use? thank you in advance VS

    1. Hi VS,

      flour is 1 pound, 11 ounces = 765g
      levain is 2 pounds = 910

      I think you just missed the 11 ounces in the chart.

      Thanks, Zoë

  12. I started my starters week ago. Although I have some bubbles it isn’t much and isn’t bubbling or rising up at all? It has a sourdough smell to it? Do I just need to wait longer? Someone told me to test it by seeing if it floats- then it is ready? Mine does not float.

    1. The aroma means you do in fact have active culture, which is good. But the fact that it’s hardly risen and there’s no perceptible bubbling means that it isn’t active enough to actually rise bread. Do more expansion steps even though it hasn’t risen, see if fresh flour helps. And while we’ve had success with tap water, if your own water is very chlorinated, you may benefit from using filtered or bottled water. If I had to guess, that’s not the problem.

      And about floatation–I don’t use that test, but it clearly means that there’s not much bubble action in your dough–not active enough to raise the dough.

  13. I had what I thought was a pretty active starter going. I added 3 cups to the master recipe, reducing water and flour by 1.5 cups each. The dough didn’t rise really at all after 12 hours. Does this mean my starter wasn’t as active as I thought?

    1. Unfortunately, that’s probably right. It’ll probably make excellent pita, flatbread, pizza, etc. Or give it longer to rise. Type “flatbread” or “pita” into our Search Bar above (different results from each)… for recipes, or check out out books.

  14. Hi I am on day five of my starter and is bubbling but is very watery. I have only added flour today. Should it be runny or more thicker in consistency. It has a nice sour smell and looks good now I’ve only added flour and stirred it.
    Thanks.

  15. I started my starter yesterday, so I’m waiting the 48 hours to feed again but this morning it already has liquid at the top, a hooch. Should I feed it today instead of waiting until day 3?

      1. Ok thank you!!!
        There was bubbling and the hooch, I am using white flour so I did 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 cup water.
        It’s still pretty liquidy, should I add more flour next feed?

  16. Thanks for this recipe. Can I decrease the amount of flour/water to make a smaller batch of starter? Let’s say instead of 1/2 cup each, could I do 2 tablespoons each to get it started or it will impact the result? Thank you! I got your book and has been baking sandwich loaves for months according to your recipe. It’s been a life changer!

    1. It’ll work, but you do need a fair amount to rise a full batch of the sizes we call for in our stored-dough method. It’ll certainly ferment and you can expand it after the fact to any amount you like.

      1. So my question. I got busy and forgot my starter and it’s been on the counter for days 8-13 without any attention for me. It has separated with a good skim of water across the top. What’s my next step? Did I kill it? I have your original healthy bread book, but not the new copy. So, I’m not able to read that chapter. Thoughts? Thanks!

      2. No, you should be able to just toss away half of it and now continue with feedings and expansion.

  17. I am currently on day 4 of making a sourdough starter and don’t really understand what recipe I need to follow once I get to day 7.

  18. My starter is just about ready to use, so I’m thinking ahead. In order to keep it going for the next round, do I have to start over, or can I just keep adding to what I already have?

  19. I followed this starter method (my first time ever with SD) I’m on day 5 and my husband says it smells like poop. It looks just like the picture except there is liquid on the top. Also, on day 2 the liquid was dark. Has it started to turn? (cry cry) should I throw it out and start again?

    1. Dark liquid on top is normal, you just need to keep feeding it to be sure it’s bubbling (may already have happened but you didn’t say). That said, if family doesn’t like this smell, they may not love levain-risen bread, so just be aware…

  20. Hi guys ,
    I started my sour dough starter 7 days ago it bubbled the second day pretty much but not after that I kept feeding it everyDay but now it’s flat. It smells very sour but it’s not bubble is it ok to use it or has it died .
    Thanks

  21. I made your sourdough starter. All seems good. I mixed up a batch of your master recipe using the sourdough starter. Let it sit on counter overnight; put in fridge this morning so that it would be easier to work with. The “elasticity” is definitely there but it is way sticky to handle. I sprinkled just a tad of flour on top like in one of Zoe’s videos but it still seems too wet. I’m letting the boule shape sit and going to bake to see what happens. Should I try to add more flour to the rest of the dough in the fridge at this point? I don’t want it all to be a flop! Thank you!!!

  22. I’m on Day 6 of following your starter recipe and there’s a lot of liquid pooling on top. Should I be dumping this off before feeding? Every other starter recipe I’ve seen involves discarding some starter before feeding — do you NOT do this? Thanks in advance!

    1. Your right, we don’t do that, this expands the starter faster. If you don’t need so much, you can discard. That liquid isn’t a worry.

  23. Jeff and Zoe,

    A question… i love your books and I have 4 of them. I did the sourdough bread using the substitutions as outlined in the book… my question is this… by just doing the mix, rise and leave the dough in the fridge for 48 hours I am not getting the same oven spring as if I do the stretch and fold method. I did a sude by side comparison and ut is just not coming out the same. I eventually gave up on doing sourdough in this way and do the stretch and folds as outlined in a King Arthur recipe. Do you have any suggestions that get me aesy from the stretch and fold producing the same results.

  24. Hi Zoe! I love your website and your instagram. I just ordered your book. I wanted to make a starter and followed your instructions. Today is day 3 and my starter has not bubbled or risen. It has a little bit of liquid that has risen to the top. I keep stirring back in but it continues to separate. Should I start over? I like to weigh my ingredients. How many grams water and flour? Thanks, in advance, for your help.

    1. Well, don’t throw it out, at least not all of it. Throw it half and start again with the proportions we specify, but this time try filtered water. In some localities the tap water has a lot of chlorine. Not the case where we tested, here in Minneapolis but that could be it

      1. I am having the same problem. Today is Day 8. there’s some small bubbles on top but it has not risen. I use AP flour and bottle water. I even put it in the oven with the light on during the day since I suspect my house is a bit cool (this is how i rise my dough every time and it works great). Not sure what i should do now? Thanks!

      2. It won’t visibly rise, because it’s too loose to support its own weight. It does get bubbly though, and fragrant.

  25. How long can the starter sit out? Should I store my starter in the refrigerator if I’m not going to be using it for a while? When I want to use it, do I need to refresh it first or can I use it right away?

    1. Fridge is best for storage. For longer storage than a week, you should “dry it out,” by adding as much flour as it’ll take. This will increase storage life in the fridge, even longer in freezer. But you have to then refresh it to proper moisture and activity when ready to use–probably will take several feedings.

      1. Thank you for your prompt reply. I just made my starter following Zoe’s directions. It’s not ready yet but I wanted to know what to do when it is. I just put a loaf of bread in the oven using the Platinum instant sourdough yeast.

  26. Hello,

    My starter was doing great at the beginning. Lots of bubbles and it doubled in size (or more). All of a sudden (day4-5) it’s not growing at all and it doesn’t appear to have many bubbles. Should I start over? I discard half of it every day and add 60gr of flour and 60gr of water, but nothing…

    Any suggestions will be very much appreciated!

    Thanks so much!!
    Arianna

    1. Something went wrong– would start over. I can’t guess the problem because you had such a good initial fermentation.

  27. Hello! I’m on day 5 of growing a new starter and I’ve noticed that it’s quite watery. On days 2-3, there was a small layer of dark liquid which I understand to be a normal part of the fermentation process. The liquid I see now is now dark in color, pretty sure it’s just the water clouded with flour. Any thoughts? Should I not add water during tomorrow’s feeding?

    1. The dark liquid, or liquid in general, is fine. Just make tomorrow’s addition “dryer” so that the consistency comes back to thick pancake batter.

      1. Thank you, Jeff! Today I only added flour and no water to get that consistency. It smells like sourdough and I see some bubbles in the Liquid sitting on top, but my starter has not increased in size past the added flour amount. Should I be worried? I’m guessing temperature is playing a role as it’s still chilly here in the Pacific Northwest.

  28. Who has a 2 quart jar?? I have a 1 qt jar and will start with that and order one (and your book) from Amazon. Should get here before things get too out of hand, dontcha think??

  29. I am trying making sourdough stater for the first time. I am on day 2. I am using whole wheat. My jar had a line of water on top that was dark. It smells normal. Is this because it’s whole wheat or is my flour bad.

  30. Hi,

    I’ve been using your recipes for years…thanks!

    I followed the instructions for the sour dough starter. I’m on day 7, but mine is very thin with water separating at the top. You images show the started as appearing thick. Any ideas as to what I’m doing wrong?

    Also, when I finally do get the started working, how do I replenish it? If I take some out to start bread, do I add flour/water back in to keep the started volume constant? Thanks again…

    1. You’ve been using too much water in the mix– next replenishment, use a higher proportion of flour

      After doing a loaf, you have to “expand” again, by replenishing

      1. How do I incorporate the starter mix into your ‘basic artisan bread in 5 minutes recipe?’
        Do I make the recipe with the sourdough and let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or make the dough and cook right away?
        Thanks

      2. You can use it right away, after the rising step, before baking. You can store it but the hole structure won’t be the same after storage.

  31. Help…it’s been about three days now. I have been getting hooch every six hours or so and bubbles within a couple of hours of feeding. I just did a replace and feed of 100 grams. I have been using Einkorn (as it is a whole grain flour) to make the starter, but it is not doubling in size since my first 24 hour feeding. It looks like it has grown about 25% and then collapses back. I know that I have not had consistent temperatures in my kitchen (lots of warm and cold fronts coming through). Should I keep going in spite of all of this?

    Thoughts? Ideas?

    1. Einkorn–that’s a new piece of info! It doesn’t support as high a rise, especially in a very wet environment like a starter. This should work, BUT…

      If you’re using pure whole-grain einkorn, with no white flour, this is going to be tricky. If you’re not an experienced bread-baker, this probably isn’t the first starter-risen I’d recommend you begin your baking career with.

      1. Ok, so I switch over to another flour at the next feeding and keep going? I can use white whole wheat and/or AP KAF. If I have lots of bubbles (and liquid) should I be on a 12 hour feeding or 24 hour feeding? It’s only been 31/2 days.

        Thanks for all of your help here!!

  32. 2 questions on starter recipe:
    I’ve made the starter using the formula in the NEW HEALTHY BREAD IN 5 MIN A DAY: 70g flour 115g water.
    1. I have read about “hydration” for dough and starter. What hydration is this?

    In this FAQ you specify the starter by volume not weight
    I measured 1/2 cup of flour at 150g
    I measured 1/2 cup of water at 100g (I realize its not exact ; my cup measure is not exact)
    This is the formula in the FAQ.
    2. Why is this FAQ formula the opposite – ie more flour by weight than water – than the formula in the book – more water by weight than flour?
    Thanks . We enjoy making our bread this way and have sent the book as gifts to many friends.

    1. It’s a VERY WET hydration (ratio of the weight of water to the weight of flour), where technically speaking, this is 164%. That’s not meaningful, and people don’t generally use the hydration number for talking about sourdough.

      No other explanation for what you’re seeing other than that your weight-measurements must be off–or you’re packing the flour into the cup (we use scoop and sweep method).

      1. Jeff
        I measured again. You are of course correct.
        1 cup flour definitely lighter than 1 cup water.
        More import the starter I made with 70 g flour + 115 g water produced some very tasty good looking bread.
        Alan

  33. Hi Zoe & Jeff
    I came across you IG page and this website since I thought I would use the time at home to try and figure out Sourdough Bread.
    I followed your step by step instructions but my bread turned out to be gummy / wet although the crust was good and the taste was like a good sourdough.
    Any suggestions or tips that you could share to help get over this problem

    1. Sounds like your starter wasn’t active and bubbly enough when you decided to try a loaf with it… make sure it’s very active. Or… your dough was too wet, go drier next time.

  34. Once the starter is up and running, and we’re in the use/replenish cycle, do we continue to store on the counter at room temp? Ever any need to refrigerate? If we’re going on vacation or otherwise not baking for a while, can we freeze it without killing it?

    1. After incorporating starter into a recipe (keep scrolling down), you’ll need to store what remains. If you’re using it soon, it’ll be good in the fridge for a few days, but if you won’t be baking for a while, try drying-out starter: Mix in as much flour as you can get it to absorb, and refrigerate in a non-airtight container. This will preserve the starter without the need for feeding. Re-activate within a month for new loaves, or the starter will die out. You can also freeze a starter, either dryed-out or not, for up to a month or so, but you’ll have to bring it back to life by feeding it again for a few cycles. 

  35. Hello – I love getting the updates on everyone’s sourdough starter – I have to keep mine gluten free but before celiac did all purpose. I just can’t stress enough to not overthink the starter. There’s not really anything to do except throw in some brown rice flour, a little water each day and stir with a wooden spoon. Sometimes I won’t add water, depending on the consistency, which is thick pancake batter. One thing I will say is that the starter doesn’t like to be suffocated. I keep mine on the counter in a mason jar and cover with a flour sack towel, double thick. I don’t discard any before a feeding because as soon as I hit three cups of starter, I bake a loaf and refill the used container with new, fresh flour (always finely milled: brown rice, quinoa or sorghum) and water. I will use a fresh container every few weeks after transferring some starter to the new container. I always use glass that has been sterilized in the dishwasher and always a wooden spoon. I use our Mpls. city water but will use spring if we have it. I hope this helps! Gluten free never really rises as much as gluten filled flours but they are just as tasty. Love your cookbooks and wise-ness on baking : )

  36. I am on day one of your recipe for SDS. I like your recipe because it does not say throw half of it away the next day and the next. Some other recipes say that. I also have a jar with a paper towel on it and a rubber band so that it can breathe.

    1. Great– you may have to throw some away if you’re producing more than you’re using, but otherwise we feel it’s unnecessary.

    1. Sounds too wet–first thing to try is using more flour (or less water) in your final dough. This final step always has an element of doing it by feel, because the starter doesn’t have precise measurements of the hydration ratio.

  37. To keep busy while in self-isolation because of the virus decided to try your sourdough-starter instructions on artisanbreadinfive. Began with whole wheat flour and bottled water on day one in a clean jar. By day 3 starter was bubbling away and had a pleasant sour smell. Added unbleached white flour and water as directed on day 4 and day 5 and starter continued to bubble and expand. Now the starter has stopped bubbling, there is a layer of liquid on the top and the starter has a more pungent sour smell. What do you suggest I do?

    1. Follow the tips at the end of the recipe, but given the “sour” smell, throw out half of it, feed again… repeat until you have something like what’s in the pictures.

  38. This is my 3rd starter and I think I finally figured out what was going wrong to cause it not to get bubbly or rise. I am on Day 2 of my newest starter now and there’s a huge difference (almost doubled with lots of bubbles). Make sure to use Whole Wheat flour (or other whole grain flour I would assume) at least for the first 2 days to give it enough natural yeast. Most of the recipes I read always ask you to use whole wheat, etc and says it’s super easy to grow your own starter, but they never explained why. So I used the flour that I had on hand (turned out to be bleached AP Flour) and I tried to grow 2 starter over the past 6 weeks with no result. After a lot of online searching and I finally stumbled upon a recipe that explained the importance of whole grain flour, and voila! So save yourselves some time and use whole grain flour! Two, I used lukewarm bottled water instead of room temp.. My water was at about 80 degrees F. My house is on the colder side so I think that helped too. For this batch I also put the jar in the oven with light on to create a warm environment. I am gonna try to leave it on the counter tomorrow but I think it will do just fine. I am discarding half (113 grams) at the moment but I am saving the discard in the fridge to bake with when I accumulate more (it’s 1:1 flour:water ratio so just adjust the rest of your recipe according to weight). Anyways as you can see I am beyond thrilled to see some action on Day 2!! It’s been a long time in the making.

    1. I think the biggest issue for me was I used BLEACHED AP flour. I think that killed it. Before summer comes, I’m gonna try a few more combinations and ratios and see how it works. 🙂 I’m very excited.

  39. I’ve been making your Artisan Bread for years now and have even taught my husband to make it too which he loves.

    We just made a sourdough starter from a recipe I had and wondered how to use it in your basic Artisan Bread recipe. How can I get that recipe? The starter is done and I’d like to make a couple of loaves today.

    Thank you.

    1. Our basic recipe is at…
      Just type “Back to Basics” in our Search Bar above, and between that, and this post here, you should be on your way. Much more detail’s in our books though.

  40. My starter was bubbly at first but in the subsequent days when I would check it, it would have a liquid layer on top. I kept going adding the flour and water but each day the liquid returned. What went wrong. I am on Day 7 and my volume has not increased except for the added flour and water.

    1. Rose: keep feeding it, but try all the suggestions I posted at the bottom of this post (I keep updating it). Temperature is the likeliest culprit, if I have to guess, but maybe using whole grain flour or rye is the other one high on my list for a “stalled” sourdough starter.

      Don’t worry about liquid forming on top, just mix that in.

  41. Hello!
    Im on Day five of starter. On day four noticed liquid on top, stirred in half a cup more flour but the water came back. Today ( day five ) I noticed liquid on top again after I fed it. Should I feed twice day ? Should I get rid of water every time it collects? Only three to four bubbles. Help!

  42. Hi,
    If you get to the point of discarding some starter to make room for feeding – could you save that discard in a second jar and feed it as a second starter? Basically splitting your one starter into two?
    Tnx 🙂 Love the books!

    1. I can’t see why not, unless you’re discarding it because it’s developing an off-flavor (that is an approach to fixing off-flavors).

  43. Hi there, Been baking your bread for over 10 years and have developed some of my own recipes as well. Everyone loves my bread. Question re. the sourdough starter and baking sour dough bread: Once I have used the 3 cups of starter in a recipe and there is a bit of sour dough left, do I start over with the sour dough process for the next batch? My experience in past with sour dough was using half the amount with yeast and then feeding it, storing it in refer, and always having enough for the next batch. However, I really like the extra “sourness” that this no yeast process produces but not sure other than to start the 7 day process again to have enough starter on hand other than to have a couple batches going at at time. I think I just answered my own question. I found that the sourdough batter was not as stiff as my other doughs. Is that commom? I baked it in a tin but was not happy with the aesthetics of the loaf. Should I be free forming the loaf? Thanks for you attention to my concerns

    1. Marilyn: You can do it either way, with our Lazy Sourdough method that you describe, or starting from scratch.

      And yes, sourdoughs have less structure–the acidity breaks down gluten, which is what gives you the larger irregular hole structure (storing the dough lessens that effect).

      I prefer free-form but that’s just a matter of taste I’d say.

  44. Day four and not so much activity. Small bubbles sitting at the surface. I’ve fed it once(yesterday) I can skip the day three feeding to see what happens, yes? Or should I go ahead and feed it? Unsure which route is best. My house is a constant 68-71 so should I be storing the starter in the oven?

    1. Heather, don’t skip. Consider all the trouble-shooting tips we have been adding to the bottom of this post. Scroll way down… Especially about warmth– yes, the oven with the light on (no heat though).

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