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

  1. Zoe- thanks for showing the bloopers, too. As an insecure baker, it is always reassuring to see the mess other bakers make!

  2. So to adjust the flour and water when using the starter, should I use Baker Percentages based on the original recipe for proper hydration levels? In other words, the starter is 100% hydration and the recipe calls for say 70%. So i need to adjust flour and water in order to achieve 70% hydration. I know math well enough to get the proper weights and I assume since the water to flour ration is 1:1 then it is 100% in the starter.

    1. Hi John,

      Yes, that sounds about right, you need to go by the baker percentages of the recipe you hope to incorporate it into. The book has the amounts of starter by weight, which may also be helpful.

      Thanks, Zoë

    1. Hi Colleen,

      You’ll want to save about 1/2 cup to keep it going. There are more details in the book about keeping it going and the best ways to store it. Hope this at least gets you started. Oops, no pun intended! 😉

      Thanks, Zoë

    1. Hi Phyllis,

      Yes, it was just easier for me to show the growth through glass. You can use any type of non-reactive container.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Zoe, is the easy sourdough recipe discussed on your posting the same as the Levain (The New Health Bread, pages 386-388)?
        Thank you!

    1. Hi Colleen,

      It depends which recipe you are making with it, but I would suggest 5 days is about right. If you use yeast, you can store it longer.

      Thanks, Zoë

    1. Hi Shawndra,

      Yes, you can. We don’t cover GF sourdough starter in the book, but we’ve had readers who have shared their success with us. Maybe one of them will share their method.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Hi Flo, so nice to hear from you! Your loaf looks fantastic.

        As always, thanks for all the kind words. Laura and I were so happy to finally meet you in Paris. But that was a long time ago…

  3. I just bought your gluten free book. The pictures look wonderful and I think I am brave enough to start making bread because of your book and all the work and time that went in to it. At some point I would like to try making a gluten free sourdough starter. Should I try this recipe with rice flour? Or a gf flour mixture?

    1. Hi Denise,

      I’m so glad you are diving in, enjoy all the bread! I would suggest you start with commercial yeast for a few batches and just get the feel of baking GF breads. When you are comfortable with those then sourdough is great fun and tasty. You can use a blend of flours, but they can’t contain any gums or binders. Most GF flour mixes do contain these things, so you’ll want to avoid them.

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. Hey Zoe,

    I am at day 5 and while my starter looks good, it is a bit watery,it doesn’t seem to be thick (like your photos) or climbing up the jar. Do I need more flour? I have been doing the half cup of each.

    1. Hi Marie,

      What kind of flour are you using? It will seem watery if you are using white flour only. If so, you can add 3/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup water for the next couple of additions. Whole wheat absorbs more water so it will be thicker.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. I was using all AP flour as I was out of whole wheat, so took your advice and did two days of 3/4 c. flour and 1/2 c. water…it got my starter bubbling again, as it had seemed to stop and had a lot of liquid settling out on top. However, it never got as thick in appearance as your photos (esp. the “blooper” photos at the bottom of the post)–more like slightly thin pancake batter–definitely pourable. Is this what it should be like? I just mixed up my first bucket of dough, using the starter in the master recipe. The dough seemed to be the correct consistency, so I’m hoping it rises well.

      2. Hi Taryn,

        The blooper photo is actually the dough, so you should be all set. I will make a note of that, so it isn’t confusing.

        Thanks, Zoë

  5. This is my very first attempt and I have a few questions…..
    I am currently on Day 5 of making the Sourdough starter- no knead method.
    While I do have bubbles they are small. Also, the smell is not so great. It does not smell like a sourdough to me. I am using a 5 quart plastic bucket- so the opening is quite large.
    Here’s what I have been using for flour:
    Started the starter with King Arthur Unbleached bread flour for day 1.
    The days I added flour I used 1/4 cup of the above flour, as well as 1/4 cup of King Arthur 100% whole wheat flour.

    Am I using what I should? I thought sourdough would smell differently.


    1. Hi Melanie,

      Yes, that sounds like a great flour combination. In our book we describe the smell as being a little “barn yard” like, but in a pleasant way. It is the smell of fermentation. If you only have small bubbles, you just need to let it go a bit longer. If your kitchen is on the cool side it may take a tiny bit longer. The bubbles indicate that it is working and you have gathered the yeast.

      I hope that helps. Thanks, Zoë

  6. I’m on day 3…I have some small bubbles, and there is a little dark liquid on top, which I know is normal. But there are a few spots that have an almost blue/green tinge to them. Is this normal? I’m about to feed it and I guess I’ll see how if it continues, but I just wanted to make sure this isn’t mold. I’m using a glass half gallon jar that came straight out of the dishwasher.

    1. Hi Taryn,

      Yes, this is all quite normal. The mold would take much longer than 3 days to develop and it would be hairy.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. At day 7 of my starter, I tried mixing up a full batch of the master recipe from the original Artisan Bread book with my starter…it never rose. I read on some other sourdough websites that the starter should be doubling in size after feeding before using it and that depending on the conditions of your kitchen, this could take several weeks…so I continued to feed it once a day for 3 weeks. My starter never did start rising significantly, but it was definitely foamier about 8 hours after feeding. So I tried mixing a batch of dough again..and again it didn’t rise.

        Is there something I could be doing wrong? I used mostly AP flour, but did use whole wheat a few days. I always measured 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, except for 2 days where it seemed rather thin (before I used the whole wheat) so per your previous suggestion I upped the flour those days. Towards the end, I did start discarding part of the starter each day before feeding because I was getting so much volume. My kitchen fluctuates between about 65 and 70F depending if I’m home or not, so I kept it on the hot water heater to provide a little additional warmth

        I decided finally to toss it out and will try again, but I was hoping you might have some insight into what I may need to change to make it successful.

      2. Well, things are failing at the starter step, not at the dough step.

        OK, some would say this is cheating–but start your next batch of starter with 1/8-teaspoon of yeast, and go through the cycles. After a few cycles, there isn’t really any commercial yeast still living in there–it’s been replaced by wild strains.

        Other possibilities–highly chlorinated water–you could switch to bottled water, though I think this is remote. Organic flour also might remotely help (try that last).

    2. Hi Taryn, I have to use bottled water for bread and other ferments. Our municipal water contains chlorine, which will evaporate in a day in an open container, but also has chloramine, which does not evaporate so easily. It just kills everything. It is helpful to add a few mineral concentrate drops to bottled water, as yeast likes some minerals. I have heard that a few raisins or half a dried fig will also add minerals, but I have not tried that.

      1. We’ve had no problem using tap water for natural sourdough (Minneapolis, MN USA). I don’t have any information about minerals needed by yeast that aren’t in the flour itself.

  7. I’m definitely encouraged to try this now.
    I have a question about the 10 grain recipe. How long can I keep it in the refrigerator?
    How do you tell if your dough is spoiled or just sourdough?

  8. Hello there! Are there any tips on maintaining the sourdough starter- as in replenishing what we use so that we can keep it going? Thank you for your help, in advance.

    ~ MK

    1. Hi MK,

      There are several ways to maintain a starter, depending on how frequently you intend to use it. We have an entire chapter in our new book about creating a starter and how to bake with it and maintain it. You can find it in New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

      Thanks, Zoë

    1. Also, use a paper coffee filter held in place with a rubber band to cap your jar. It lets it breathe but keeps out any buggies that might be attracted to the smell of bread-alcohol brewing.

      1. Lot’s of ways to do that, but I’m guessing that the coffee filter’s not going to be a long-lasting solution. Also, a gallon’s kind of generous for starter unless you’re making huge batches, and as always, be very careful with fermenting grains in glass–it can shatter, as in the pictures at the end of this post.

  9. I’m using a 2L glass jar for my firs time starter, I’m on day 1. I let the jar cover down but did not snap it shot. I’m not sure if I should leave it completely open or as is?

    1. So long as air can escape, “down but not snapped” is fine. Just don’t snap it shut. Cheesecloth and rubber band are also fine.

  10. I bought your book “The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and made the starter. Today was the 6th day and the starter looked very healthy so I decided to make two loaves of Sourdough Bread. I followed the Whole Wheat Levain Risen recipe on pages 389-394, with the options of adding just a little Vital Wheat Gluten and half white flour and half whole wheat flour (King Arthur). The mixture was fine, and I allowed it to rise for 2 hours, then placed them on the pizza peels on corn meal, and let them rise for another 40 minutes each. However, when it came time to put them into the 450 degree oven, I slipped them in and they immediately went flat, not 100% flat, but lost a good deal of their rise. What did I do wrong? The final sourdough loaves did rise a little bit in the over (oven spring), but not as much as they should have. They do still taste good, and the sourdough flavor is quite strong, but they are somewhat dense, though still edible and taste good. The outside did come out crunchy from the hot water, but what can I do to ensure they won’t fall flat when transferred from the pizza peel to the oven?

    1. There is a little loss when you slide it in–be careful but brisk as you go. Biggest reason for inadequate oven-spring is a too-cool oven– check yours with something like http://ow.ly/8CVPU

      The easiest slide-off is if you use parchment, but I’m not certain that roughness of slide-off is the problem. Another possibility–you made the dough a little too dry. Could go for a wetter effect next time.

  11. Hi Zoe,
    This is my first attemp at making a sourdough, I have made other breads from the site and have ordered the book 🙂
    I’m a little confused when you say decrease the water in the recipes by 1 1/2 cups, and the flour by 1 1/2 cups. Does this mean when using 3cups of starter i use 1 1/2 cup water and 2 3/4 cup flour? And will adding grains, roasted garlic or cheeses affect the ratios?

    1. It means that in the original recipe it had a certain amount of flour and water–and you now need to decrease each of those by the amount you’re putting in, in the form of sour, which is (approximately) half and half flour and water.

      Those other items won’t affect much unless they’re big water-absorbers (like a dry grain productd like cracked wheat)–that requires more water so don’t decrease quite so much–you’ll need to experiment.

  12. To keep the started going, do I have to feed it everyday? Keep it on the countertop all the time? I don’t want to dry it out, what are my other options?

  13. Just baked my first bread from the starter. Not too great: I let it rise in a basket and then transferred it to a clay dish, it went completely flat. I baked it, still flat. It’s a focaccia at best.
    Second loaf, I let it rise in an oiled bowl. Transferred it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, flat again. Baked it, another focaccia.
    It took the dough more than 12 hrs to double in size. Does that have something to do with it?
    What went wrong?

    1. First thing I need to know is: which of our dough recipes are you incorporating this sour into? Which book, which page number?

      1. I”ve been baking breads for the past 4 yrs using different recipes from your books. This time around I’m following the “100% Whole Grain Levin-Risen Bread” p.389 from “The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day”.

  14. OK, so the basic recipe then. One of the complexities with that recipe is that the amount of water in the starter is variable. So the final dough can be variable too, and our method is sensitive to that,. It’s a wet dough, but if it’s a little too wet, you can have problems with too little structure–it can’t hold up it’s own weight because it’s too wet.

    That may be what’s happening here–but you didn’t say what the baked bread was like, other than that it didn’t hold its shape and collapsed. Was it super-dense? Where there holes? Were the holes, large, small, or variable?

    One semi-solution if the hole structure was good and it wasn’t super-dense: bake in a loaf pan.

    1. As Zoe says above: …”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…” in the book, on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1NdVkgj

      The publisher asked that we not publish the full recipe…

  15. Hello and thanks for all your efforts on simplifying bread making. My questions are: (1) can your starter be substituted in other non- Zoe/Jeff recipes i.e. more traditional sour dough recipes and (2) if yes, would one simply use the called for amount of starter in the recipe?

    Thanks and I will be buying the book later this week.


  16. My second attempt at a starter was much better…my dough actually rose! In about 4-5 hours it more than doubled. I made a half batch of the master recipe from the original Artisan Bread in 5 book. I had to add approximately 1/2 a cup additional flour to get the dough to what seemed to be a pretty normal consistency. I put the dough in the fridge after the initial rise, and noticed it fell a little…it was still double the original volume but it definitely deflated a bit. When I took it out to shape it 2 days later, it seemed wetter than the recipe does when made with conventional yeast, despite the extra flour I’d added, and there wasn’t much stretch to it when I pulled it out of my bucket. After shaping it, it just spread ever flatter and flatter over the 90 minute rest. There was virtually no oven spring when I baked it, and it’s essentially a ciabatta.

    Thoughts? I’m thinking it needed even more flour to have the structure to keep it’s shape.

    1. Hi Taryn,

      What recipe are you using the starter in? Depending on the type of flour/s you are using, it will require different amounts of additional flour. It also depends a little on how thick your starter is. The type of flour you were feeding it with will make it slack or dry.

      Give me some more details about what flours you are using in your starter and the recipe.

      Thanks, Zoe

      1. Hi Zoe,

        My starter has been fed with approximately 1/3 whole wheat, and 2/3 unbleached all purpose flour. It seems to have a lot of fluid separate out between daily feedings, but has a foamy/bubbly layer on top.

        I used it to make the master recipe from the original Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes book…page 26. I used unbleached all-purpose flour as directed. Since I made only a half batch of dough (2 pounds), I used 1.5 cups starter, 3/4 c. water, and 2.5 cups flour, then added approximately 1/2 cup additional flour to bring the dough close to the normal consistency I remember (it’s honestly been awhile since I’ve made the recipe with conventional yeast, so maybe I remembered incorrectly) . The finished loaf has an irregular, open crumb with some nice big holes, and the flavor is good…it is just very flat.

  17. Thank you for this amazing post on sourdough starter! I have your artisan bread in 5 book (and it has changed my life) and I typically just add a new batch of dough in a just-finished-a-batch container. While I do plan to try this method to make some serious sourdough bread, I have a question about the sourdough shortcut method in the book.

    How many times can I repeat this shortcut — adding a fresh batch of dough right after I’ve baked all the loaves in my now-empty-but-still-has-bits-of-old-dough container — before I have to clean it out and start over?

    1. Hi Adina,

      As long as the dough is just flour, water, salt and yeast, you can continue doing it indefinitely.

      Thanks, Zoë

  18. Beautiful posts…and so much inspiration! I’ve been baking breads for quite some time and find the retail cost of yeast a bit prohibitive. Your starter will be a new staple in my kitchen. It’s funny to me the amount of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ one gets from a simple home-baked bread. I’ve bookmarked your site and will be back for more. Thank you for your generosity of spirit. ~Kim

  19. Love that you all came up with a sourdough starter short cut!!

    So I made a batch of the master white recipe and I have a boule of the master whole grain recipe on the counter that has wheat sourdough starter. I have a couple questions.

    1. For the first rise, do you let the dough double in bulk or do you do the two hour rise you recommend in the other master recipes?
    2. For the second rise, do you let it rest for the recommended time or do you let it rise till more doubled because of the sourdough starter?

    Love your recipes. I use them as the basis for the breads I sell at the local farmers market 😀

    1. Well, takes a bit more judgment, which is why this isn’t a beginner recipe. If your starter isn’t fully active, it’ll take longer than 2 hours. You need to see expansion; doubling is a good rule of thumb.

      It won’t double after shaping though–our usual rules apply. 90 min should do it, even if things don’t double.

  20. I have my grandmother’s sourdough starter, it’s over 125 years old. IT makes the best sourdough bread but I want to convert part of it to gluten free and use for gluten free breads for me. My family can still eat regular bread. Do you, or will you have a gluten free sourdough cookbook?

    1. Our gluten-free book doesn’t have sourdough in it, but my guess is that you can use The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day’s gluten free chapter (on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1NdVkgj). But swap in gluten-free flour. Warning: haven’t tried this… so be ready to experiment.

  21. You say here that in the new version of the book (which I bought), you had your recipes also using starter, but I find you only gave this one paragraph: 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.

    But no where in the actual book, do you have the proper measurements for making refrigerator dough, using starter instead of yeast. I never cook with yeast and I bought The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, for my kindle reader. I was hoping you’d have the measurements.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Ann,

      The book I linked to in that post is actually the New Healthy Bread Book. It looks like you bought the New Artisan Bread Book and you are correct, it only has a brief explanation of the sourdough process. I’m not sure if you can exchange them, but you will indeed find the sourdough instructions in the New Healthy bread book.

      Thank you! Zoë

  22. Hi there!

    I have your new book, and I’m on day 4 of my first sourdough starter. I’m really excited to bake my first loaf in the next few days (fingers crossed!), but I have a few questions on the sourdough process, and I want to make sure I’m not ruining my starter before I can use it.

    On day 2 I saw bubbles in the dough, but I waited until day 3 (yesterday) to feed it with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water – at that point there were even more bubbles, so I figured things were going well. What I’m a little confused about, and I’m having trouble finding specific instructions in the book, is how often I should feed it, and how I know when I should feed it after that first feeding. The book says to feed on days 3, 4, 5 and 6, but does that mean no matter what it looks like I should feed it every day? Are there any times when I should feed it more than once? What should I look for before feeding it?

    This morning I saw the dark liquid on top of the dough, which you mention is normal in the book, but I was concerned that this happened after feeding, and after I had seen so many bubbles the day before. The book says that after a half day of feeding the levain should be bubbling nicely… Since this wasn’t the case I assumed it needed to be fed to get things bubbling again, so I stirred in another 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour this morning. Now it still looks pretty stagnant with the dark liquid on top. Is this a bad sign? Do I discard the dark liquid before feeding the dough?

    Any insights would be greatly appreciated – Thank you!

    1. Hi Katie,

      If your starter is bubbling, then you’ve done it! You’ve attracted the natural yeast and now you feed it to grow stronger. Just feed it once a day for days 3, 4, 5 and 6. By the 7th day it should be quite strong and ready to use. This may take a day less or more, but typically day 7 is the one. There may be days that the starter is slower to bubble, but it will bounce back. This could be temperature, the environment or that it is just slow to rise that day. If the water you add is cold, it will slow down the process.

      The brown liquid is part of the fermentation process and you should just stir it in when you add the flour and water. No need to pour it off.

      Hope that helps? Zoë

      1. That’s very helpful – thank you! I’m happy to hear it should bounce back…I’ll just be patient 🙂

  23. Hello thanks for the recipe im in day 5 and i didn’t discard any of the starter followed the recipe plus no hooch seen i only see few bubbles on top the lid is partially open and the kichen temp is 24c im i on track ? And if the starter bubbles up on day 7 as the above pic can i use it in the recipe im using a bread maker which requires 100m starter?

    1. Hi Banan,

      Because everyone’s environment is different, your starter may just take a touch longer. If you have bubbles forming, then it is working and will get stronger. What kind of flour are you using?

      Thanks, Zoe

      1. Thanks !
        I started with fine rye organic flour for day one, then on daily feeding half rye and half whole wheat all orgainc one a day.. today instead covering it with small plate i left the jar lid open .. do you think using below recipe with starter (if it bubbles ) will work im using bread make with rustic french setting and the recipe is used for bread machines:
        390g strong white bread flour
        150g sourdough preferment
        6g salt
        205g cold water

        Thanks again

      2. Hello Zoe im day 7 and there hard layer with white fuzz on my starter .. in the morning before i left to work it was bubbling up but after 9hrs i saw hard layer with white fuzz and it shrunk … I removed the layer added extra flour mixed it for tomorrow ? Is it ok or should i just get rid of it ?

      1. Saw your starter recipe on Facebook from your FB page. Wanted to make the starter from the recipe you posted while awaiting the book to arrive 🙂

  24. Hi Zoe and Jeff,

    My starter has a layer of water on top, even in day 7 and there are no foam. But there are bubbles below the water. What should I do?

      1. Thank you for your reply! Yes, I have been feeding it faithfully every 24 hours. How do I know when it is ready to be used since mine doesn’t foam?

      2. After you feed it, does it markedly expand in size? Almost doubling? If not, it’s not ready, and keep feeding it and maturing it.

  25. I cannot get rid of the chunks when mixing the previous batch of dough in water even with a blender. Keep chunksor toss them?

    1. Hi Marc,

      If what you are describing are chunks of dough, then you can leave them and they will be incorporated as you work the dough. If they are a different color, you may see them in the bread, but that is okay.

      Thanks, Zoe

  26. After combining the flour and water with the sourdough starter, can I just let the dough rise for a few hours and then refrigerate the whole batch as I normally would do with your master recipe? Then just take out a small amount to make a small boule or batard as needed?

  27. Hi there! I am on day 7 of the starter, and I noticed a day or two ago a hard bubbly layer on top. I’m using unbleached all purpose flour and tap water. It doesn’t look like there was any mold– just hard. I stirred it back in but now I’m wondering if I should have skimmed it off and thrown it out. There are some hard chunks in the starter now. Can you advise?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Amy,

      It will soften as it sits. If you were hoping to use it today, then I would skim those pieces out. It sounds like you need to cover your starter a little bit more. Just with plastic, and not airtight, because you want to capture wild yeast and allow gas can escape, but will prevent your starter from drying out.

      Thanks, Zoë

  28. Wow, I can’t believe how well this is working out! I enjoy sourdough, partly for health reasons. When I make a recipe, I need my dough to ferment for about 12 hours in order to avoid health issues. So in the past, if I wanted to make a sourdough pizza, I needed to prep the dough and wait 12 hours before I could assemble the pizza. Not exactly convenient or practical!

    I followed your recommendations and made your olive oil dough recipe with my sourdough starter. I let it rise for 12 hours and then refrigerated it. Now when I want a pizza or calzone, I heat my baking stone for about 20 minutes while I take out my dough and roll it out and make my pizza or calzone. Then I bake it for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on what it is. I love it! A delicious sourdough pizza ready in 30 minutes from the time the idea first pops into my head until it is on the cooling rack! I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. You have changed my life! ( and my husband is pretty excited about it too!)

    1. Hi Cathy,

      We are so thrilled to hear this. So pleased that you are enjoying all the bread. Thank you so much for trying out the method and for the lovely note.

      Cheers, Zoë

    1. Hi Mary,

      The weights for our sourdough starter is in our Healthy Bread Book, is that the one you are talking about or more generally? It will really depend on the starter you are using.

      Thanks, Zoë

  29. I have been adding a half cup of flour to my starter for at least 11 days now and I have made two loaves of bread. How do I store my starter when I don’t make bread? I want to keep it going. How long can I keep it going like this?

    Thanks, the bread I’ve made with this is so yummy,

    1. Hi Janet,

      That is so exciting, I’m so thrilled to hear it. Do you have our New Healthy Bread book with the sourdough chapter? It goes into all the details about how to use and store the sourdough when you are not actively using it.

      Thanks, Zoë

  30. Good morning Zoe and Jeff,
    I purchased your book “Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day” a while ago, but before I started working with your recipes, I was told I couldn’t use Baker’s yeast as I was intolerant and so was my husband. I have researched and tried recipes with not much success. After reading your book, I was wondering if I could use some of the recipes with gluten free sourdough starter? Is there some recipes better than others? You like to mix three types of flour for your sourdough starter…what other flour would you use with sorghum flour (not brown rice as I am also intolerant)? In your new book, do you cover a lot of Gluten free sourdough? Thank you for your help!!

    1. We haven’t tried sourdough starter in our GF recipes, but I’m guessing it’ll work, sort of–in GF breads. The problem is that GF breads tend to be denser than wheat, and starter gives a less-vigorous rise, so you may find it too dense. In The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, we have some GF recipes, and we have a WHEAT-based starter chapter–so you could experiment. But since we haven’t tried it, I can’t promise you that it’ll work.

    1. Hi Nicky,

      No, that is just great. You may need to use less water if you are only using AP flour, since it absorbs less water.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  31. Hi Zoë & Jeff,
    I’ve been a long time sourdough baker. I recently bought your “New Artisan Bread…” book and want to try a loaf with my starter. What weight of 100% hydration starter are you subbing in for the Master recipe? I bake by weight, not cups.

    1. Hi Marisa,

      3 cups of our starter, which is what we use in a batch, weighs about 2 pounds or 910g. If you are making a loaf from NewABin5 with white flour, you may need less and if you are not using our starter, you may need to try out a batch and see if any adjustments need to be made. Have you made our dough before, using yeast, to know the consistency you are going for? If not, there are videos that may help.

      Thanks, Zoë

  32. Hi Zoe and Jeff,

    Your sourdough starter is equal parts water and flour by volume, not weight. My starter is equal parts by weight. How would I adjust your recipes to work with my starter? My starter is only AP flour.

    1. Hi Jeanne,

      You are going to have to experiment, and will likely need to add more flour to the dough to get it to a proper consistency. Have you made our dough before using commercial yeast, so you know the consistency you are going for? I don’t think our starters will end up being that different, since ours is based on whole wheat flour, which absorbs more water than AP. Are you going by the recipe in NewHBin5?

      Thanks, Zoë

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Hi Zoe,

        I have all your previous books, but not that one yet! I’ll have to experiment as you say – I’ve made regular sourdough bread before, but I’ve come to love the ABi5 method for making bread. I’ve been waiting for your sourdough version to come out for some time now. Glad you’ve mastered it! I’ll pick up the book and try it out. Thank you.

      2. Hi Jeanne,

        That is terrific, it really is a fun way to bake, but can take a bit of experimenting, since every starter is slightly different.

        Enjoy! Zoë

  33. Hi Zoe and Jeff,
    First, thank you for your work – I have really enjoyed playing with your recipes and have been able to create some fantastic loaves as a result. Love it! My question is related to the smell of my sourdough starter. I made it to day 6 of the recipe described in your book, but the smell was so terrible that my family made me throw it away. I used Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour each day except the second. I kept it in a glass jar partially covered by plastic wrap. It bubbled well each day, but the smell was unpleasant from maybe the third day and only got worse. Any thoughts on what might have gone wrong for my next attempt?
    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Scott,

      Have you made sourdough starter before that didn’t have this smell. Did you see the description that it will end up smelling a little like “Barn Yard” and that is totally normal.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Hi Zoë,

        Thanks for your reply. I tried again and this time it smells just as I imagined and looks right as well. I’m not sure what I did wrong last time, but happy that it seems to be working. Excited to try our first loaf this evening. Thanks again!


  34. I have always read that you should throw out half of the starter before adding more flour and water, but this is not in your instructions. Is it not necessary?

    1. You only need to do that if you’re “expanding” faster than your need for starter. Or if you’ve developed an off flavor and need to start with only a very small amount of the fermented material.

  35. Hi Zoe and Jeff! Can I use this sourdough starter in a pizza dough? How would I adjust the flour, yeast and water if it was possible ? Thank you for all the wonderful recipes 🙂

  36. Hello! I have 3 teenagers and we can really go through a lot of bread in a week. If I wanted to make two large batches per week, would one jar of starter be enough? Would it ‘regenerate’ enough for a midweek batch, or should I maintain two separate jars?

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