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 with this post about sourdough starter. –Jeff

This sourdough starter recipe appears in The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day–and also in The Best of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You can create sourdough starter (in French, levain) easily 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 “strengthen” your starter enough to actually use it to rise a batch of bread.

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. 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, or brown rice) and 1/2 cup water. That’s it (some readers report more reliable results with a combination of white and whole wheat or rye, which makes sense, since the microorganisms required are more prevalent on the outside of the grain).

*the jar needs to be big enough to hold 2 quarts and it needs to be open to the air. If you seal your jar, it may actually 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 may see some 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 don’t worry, it is not unusual, feed it by adding 1/2 cup more flour and 1/2 cup water.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

(you don’t have to stick to the same kind of flour you used on the first day. You can use a combination of whole wheat, rye and white flour or use whatever flour you have on hand, just NOT BLEACHED). Stir together and let sit for one day. If at any stage dark liquid collects on top, don’t worry about it. Just mix this in as you feed/expand your starter.

Easy Sourdough Starter | Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Day 4, 5, 6: Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup 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. – If your starter isn’t bubbling at all by this stage, see the troubleshooting at the bottom of the post. Don’t give up, it can take a little more time.

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.

Some starters will be super active by day seven and others will just be a mild simmer of bubbles, both are normal. If your starter is not frothing yet, just keep up the feeding, but you’ll need to pour out at least a 1/3 of the starter before feeding it again.

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 continue feeding it daily if you intend to bake with it or store what remains. You can store it in the fridge and feed it every 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 makes 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 levain 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, and in any case, don’t screw down the lid.

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. Be patient! Depending on local conditions (especially cool/cold kitchen temperatures), this could take fourteen days of feeding, rather than seven. Most often, the process slows down around day four or five, so persevere–don’t give up–keep feeding through those days. If at any stage dark liquid collects on top, don’t worry about it. Just mix this in as you feed/expand your starter.
  2. Expectations: After incorporating starter into a dough and baking your first loaf, you should get the nice open hole-structure that is the hallmark of sourdough. If you’re doing our stored-dough method, that same dough probably won’t yield an “open” crumb on subsequent days. You’ll get smaller, more uniform holes, but sourdough flavor will still be there (and will intensify over the storage life of the batch).
  3. 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!
  4. Feed/expand twice-a-day rather than once: You’ll be giving the growing microorganism colony more food to eat. If you increase the feedings, you’ll need to pour off about 1/3 of the starter before feeding or you’ll end up with too much.
  5. Whole grains: It can be helpful and speedier to use at least some whole grain wheat or rye flour in the starter.
  6. Filtered or bottled (still) water: If your local water supply is high in chlorine, that can inhibit wild yeast growth.
  7. Transfer to a clean jar for every feeding: Contamination with poorly-rising microorganisms could be the culprit in a slow-to-expand starter.
  8. If you’re bread isn’t rising well, it may be that your starter isn’t quite active enough before use. One fail-safe way to test for this is to take a spoonful of starter and drop it into water. Really “gassy” starter, with lots of bubbles, will float on the surface. If it doesn’t float, keep feeding for a few more days, and be patient.

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

    1. Reactivating dried out starter: scoop it 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.

  1. My starter developed a hard skin on top which has a wet soupy layer under it. It’s like it separated. I used whole wheat, white unbleached, and rye. I am on day 8.

    1. Just mix that stuff in, it’s fine! The key is whether you’re highly active yet–follow the new troubleshooting tips if not.

  2. Most methods I’ve seen ask for you to discard portions before feeding it, is that not necessary?

  3. Thanks for a great recipe! I’ve enjoyed baking your other breads for a decade now, and I’m looking forward to trying this. But, the only flour I can get right now is Bleached All Purpose. Will that still work? Thanks

    1. In general, you’re better off with unbleached–avoiding chemicals helps the natural microorganisms grow.

      1. Thank you so much! I made my first batch of sourdough bread loaves two days ago. The results were simply spectacular – reminding me very much of the professionally made sourdough I bought in San Francisco years ago. I just followed your very easy directions, and the bread seemed to make itself. I really appreciate your wonderful work! : )

      2. Fantastic! Did you use the tips we’ve added in the last few weeks? In the initial burst of sourdough interest that came with the lockdown orders and the yeast shortages, people weren’t having quite the level of success that you’re reporting. So I added the material at the bottom. Were those part of your understanding from the beginning of your sourdough experience?

      3. Yes – I used the info in the new posting – 20 April 2020. It was very helpful! I have also shared it with several friends. It may help additionally that we live in the Southern U.S. and I enjoy keeping a warm house – in the high 70’s to 80 or so. But, whatever variables made it work, it’s wonderful. (BTW – since I make your other bread so often, I have plenty of good yeast that was bought long before all this happened, just trying the sourdough for fun : )

      4. Also, I only used water that had boiled & cooled, to be sure to avoid chlorine, etc, that might be in the tap water. My electric kettle always has some boiled & cooled water in it from making herb tea. I don’t know if that made a difference to the outcome or not, since I am a novice at this.

      5. Anna this is all great news. I’m glad that the recipes are and the tips are working for you!

  4. I tried this twice but gave up on it. My house is rather cool this time of year (drafty at over 100 yrs old!) and I was wondering if that could be the issue. I never saw bubbles and the starter just separated with a large layer of dark liquid on top. I tried stirring it in and leaving it/feeding it once and never any bubbles. I have well water which doesn’t contain added chemicals and used new flour in a very clean container with a loose lid the first time and left open the second time. Thanks for your advice!

    1. The cool house is the problem– see the tips we’ve added to this post–scroll waaay down to the bottom.

  5. Hi Jeff and Zoe! I’ve been having trouble with my sourdough bread often sticking to my basket or cloth. I’ve dusted them well, also put extra flour in top of the surface but they always tend to stickWould u mind sharing with me any tips to avoid this from happening? Thank you so much!

    1. We generally avoid cloth, because our wet-dough method tends to stick to it. Cover it with something that won’t actually touch the surface, like a roomy overturned bowl. If all else fails, just make your dough a little drier, increasing the flour 5% or 10%.

  6. You briefly mention in your first book using what’s left at the bottom of the batch to help your starter. How do I incorporate this? Thanks!

    1. That’s just to incorporate into a new batch, and you can do it for yeast-risen, or for starter-risen doughs. Just mix it up with the water you’ll be using in the recipe. A fist-size portion is nice for one of our full batches.

  7. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, so thank you for sharing, starting my starter today. Your step by step guide is brilliant. Thank you

  8. So when making a loaf of bread to the 3 cups of starter how much flour are you mixing that with? Also are you hand mixing this and using the lift and fold method every half hour or six times and then refrigerating overnight. Or are you mixing the dough in a mixer and cooking the same day?

    1. The answer’s in this post– you have to decrease the water and flour by the amount of water and flour in the 3 cups of starter (approx 1.5 cups each). I’m confused by your question, but our basic method for a simple loaf is here on the website (type “back to basics” into our Search Bar above). And much more detail on that in our books.

    2. I mixed my flour and water and let it sit uncovered on my counter. Days 2&3, it looked a little dry on top, but did seem to be bubbling around the edges, so I left it alone. On Day 4, the dry bits sprouted puffy mold. 🙁 Should I have been stirring it each day? Or partially covering it? I want to try again, but I don’t want to make the same mistake twice, especially since flour is so dear these days!

      Thank you so much for all your guidance. The first book is my bible and my family has enjoyed many home baked treats as a result. Sourdough has always seemed intimidating, but I’m determined to figure this out!

      1. Hi Laura,

        We’ve added some troubleshooting advice at the end of the sourdough post.

        Next time you make it, I would try pouring off about 1/3 of the mixture after day 2 and feed it the 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Repeat this process every day until you have some bubbles. If it starts to bubble, but isn’t really excited, feed it every 12 hours, pouring off 1/3 of the mixture first.

        Thanks, Zoë

  9. Mine bubbles and seems active but I cannot get it to FLOAT I did have float once and made bread which was great but I have even used the sourdough without it floating and it came out very well. How do I make it FLOAT?
    I am talking this sourdough starter was started in February. I have 3 two quart jars going because of ” discard ‘
    I have made pancakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls, with discard, but NO ‘FLOAT’ what do I do? I love your web site and recipes Thanks so much.

    1. The float method isn’t in our list of tips; not sure it’s a necessary bar to meet before baking. You say your sourdough came out “very well” without that, so sounds like there’s no problem?

  10. Can I cut the recipe in 1/2? 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water instead of 1/2 cup. I typically only make my dough from you book in half batches, no way I’ll use all that starter. Thx

    1. Sure! And you may have to discard half of it from time to time with the feedings, if you’re accumulating too much.

  11. What’s wrong if after 6 days, my starter just looks like thick paste? No nice acidic smell, actually, very little smell to it. No bubbles either. I have been keeping it in the oven, away from drafts. Thanks.

    1. I’ve been reviewing and updating this post and it’s Troubleshooting Tips–please review that at the very bottom of the post

      1. Hi Jeff,
        I have read the tips several times & don’t seem to find anything about it looking like paste?

  12. Good morning!

    I tried to do your sourdough starter with rice flour and I am on day four and there’s mold in there! What went wrong. Please advise thank you Amelia

      1. Yep, it’s mold– discard it and start over with very clean jars, and possibly different flour.

  13. It is not a uniform gray like the article you sent me it’s fluffy white stuff with spots of mold it looks gross

  14. I’ve tried this three times. First two with AP flour never rose much and smelled like the worst vomit – throughout our entire house – after 3 days. The mixture rose using whole wheat King Arthur Flour quite well but again the smell was horrible after just a few days. I’m fine with sour and acidic but the smell should not be like a bodily fluid and so incredibly pungent, right? We cook a lot and I love sourdough, so I think something is wrong with what I’m doing, not my nose. Can you help?

    1. Have you been through all the tips at the bottom of the post? We keep updating them so if you haven’t looked in a while… But it almost sounds like you have contaminated flour, jars, or… water? Put everything through the dishwasher on hot. The tip about whole grains (whole wheat and/or rye) might also help. Because the bran portion of the grain is the outside, it has more of the microorganisms we’re looking for, which might out-compete with the ones you are getting.

      Isa, we’ve never gotten this response before– something unusual is going on. Another possibility–what we, and other writers call a “pleasant barnyardy” aroma, may be perceived by some people as something completely offensive and negative. In which case, this just might not be a bread-baking approach that will be to your liking. I should say, for both Zoe and I, our respective spouses, just don’t like sourdough bread (though neither finds the aroma to be offensive, as you do).

    2. Isa – I had the same issue! smelled so bad – cow poop mixed w/ vomit. my family was not happy. BUT, i pressed on since it was for science and they wanted fails too. By day five, it smelled a bit better and vaguely like sourdough and now it smells amazingly sourdoughy. One thing i did change was a the cloth covering the jar – it was too thick maybe and on tight. went with a thinner cloth and no rubber band. It smelled almost like it was going anaerobic so that is why i changed. not sure that will help you but maybe…

      1. Glad that worked? Sometimes if you get to that point, it makes sense to throw out part of it but keep going, glad your alternative worked.

    1. I don’t know what that little thing with the circle in the crosses in my last post but ignore it please

  15. Hi there
    I just got your artisan in 5 book which I’m loving, and keen to incorporate some starter but wanted to check – does it matter when in the starters daily feeding cycle I add it to the master recipe? Many sites seem to say it has to be when it has just reached its peak. I’m having trouble timing that right around my workday. Thanks!

    1. It has to be very active–like in the pictures above. You’re right–sourdough isn’t a great fit for after work. How about the weekend?

  16. My starter was doing very well after three days. It’s now come to a sudden halt. It hasn’t risen or bubbled in two days now. It’s been in the oven, off, with a light on since day one , so temperature isn’t The issue. Shall I keep feeding it nonetheless everyday? How Many more days should I give it before coming to the conclusion that it’s ‘dead’?

    1. Go nine days, consider twice-daily feedings (see tips at the bottom of the post) and start throwing away half–you’re going to accumulate too much and this may help anyway.

  17. I just bought your book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and love using my sourdough starter. I made loaves before receiving your book and they were great! Are there any recipes in your book that I definitely should NOT use the yeast starter and use normal Fresh or granulated yeast?

    1. It’s really a matter of taste– brioche and challah traditionally don’t have a strong sourdough element, but that said, it must have, once upon a time–before commercial yeast had been invented. Everything should basically work, if you like the flavor.

  18. I’m sure someone has asked this question, but why would I buy the New Artisan….book if I already have the old one? I’m 73 and on Social Security , so I need a good reason.
    Also, I heard that you can use potatoes boiling water to use for the starter fluid and I want to know your opinion.
    Also, not being computer savvy, how do I access your answers and these comments. They seem to disappear when if I lose the email.

    1. Katie: I’m reprinting this from our post that announced the new book; that link is at https://artisanbreadinfive.com/2013/07/30/the-new-edition-of-artisan-bread-in-five-minutes-a-day-is-available-for-pre-order/ Our new edition has lots of material that wasn’t in the original Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

      —More color pictures, there are 40 now (compared with 8), and 100 B+W instructionals

      —A gluten-free chapter

      —An expanded Tips and Techniques section

      —Weight equivalents for every dough–for those of you with digital scales at home (optional!)

      —Instructions for adjusting yeast and salt to your taste. And we decreased our standard yeast amount to 1 tablespoon (used to use 1.5 tablespoons for four pounds of dough).

      —And 30 new recipes, including crock pot bread, a whole wheat variation that lets you increase the whole grain, rolls, panini, and more. About 130 more pages than our first edition.

      —————— Potato water is fine but we haven’t tried it, so can’t vouch for it. About “losing the e-mail,” not sure what you mean. There’s nothing related to e-mail here on our website. You can “bookmark” posts that you like…

  19. I am on day 4 now and the starter has some bubble and a nice pungent smell, but the dough is not rising very much. I also see water separate the starter into two layers of dough, dense and thick below and bubbly above. Are things going as expected or do I need to start over?

    1. Hi Sandeep,

      Try pouring off 1/3 of the mixture and feed it the 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water. Repeat this process every day until you have some nice bubbles. If it starts to bubble, but isn’t really excited, feed it every 12 hours, pouring off 1/3 of the mixture before feeding.

      We added some more tips at the end of the post.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thank you! I will start doing this at the next feeding time later today.

  20. I am reading the posts about sourdough and offer a couple of suggestions for starting and temperature. Cover the jar at initial start when “capturing” natural yeast in air with a paper coffee filter – I attach mine with a rubber band. I use the coffee filter for a few days before switching to the (loose) jar screw top cover. The other thing I do for a warm environment is to place my jar on the counter top of the 12 inch kitchen cabinet that is right next to my refrigerator. It is perfect for the early spring house temps as the fridge compressor’s intermittent running keeps that area a little warmer. Another suggestion is to use a jar with the the straightest side you can find. It is is easier to feed and blend the starter and/or pour to measure for a recipe from a jar with less curve near the top.

    1. I love this “keep next to the fridge to keep warm ” idea. I will definitely be using that.

  21. I am so excited to do this today. I am one of those who used all of the purchased yeast I had on hand and I still don’t see any yeast on store shelves. I have started making my own kefir and this a natural progression. Thank you for making it seem so ease. I am off to the kitchen right now, was going to say wish me luck but I with all of your information I don’t think I’ll need it. You have covered all the bases – thank you very much!

  22. I got all the way to final proof then put in fridge overnight. In morning I took it out and sat for an hour took it out of my benneton and the loaf was still actively bubbling. I went score it and it all deflated. What should I have from there.

    1. Hi Chantel,

      Which bread recipe are you using for the dough? How warm was the spot it was rising in the banneton? Did you bake it and get any oven spring?

      Thanks, Zoë

  23. Most other starter recipes say to discard everyday (which seems a waste). Yours doesn’t say that. Is that correct with your method?

    1. Hi Rita,

      Yes, that’s right, we don’t discard every day, unless you seem to be happing issues with getting it to bubble excitedly. You can see the tips at the end of the post if it seems too slow going.

      Thanks, Zoë

  24. Why is it necessary to use unbleached flour? Does it interrupt the feeding process? It’s so hard to find bleached flour right now, let alone unbleached flour. Also, is there a difference in using bread flour and all-purpose flour?

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      The natural yeasts are present in the flour, so bleaching the flour will inhibit or kill the yeasts. Once the starter is established you may be able to use it to feed the starter, but I am afraid your success will be lower if you start with it. You can use either all-purpose or bread flour. The bread flour starter will just be a little drier.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Zoe,
        Thank you for your reply! I have one more question. I have been working on my starter for about 8 days now. The top gets a foamy layer, about 1/4″ thick, there is a similar sized layer of liquid under that, and then about 4″ of thick pancake looking mixture below that. It smells pleasant – past the barn yard phase, but I feel like it should be doing something more by now. I have increased feedings to 2 times a day, one day I even fed it 3 times. Any suggestions? Thank you in advance!

      2. Hi Rebecca,

        Stir, pour off half, feed and repeat this every 12 hours. If you do it more than that, you will dilute the starter too much and it will actually lose strength. It may take two or three days.

        Thanks, Zoë

  25. My starter never got bubbly enough as it has been rather cold here. Now that the days are warmer, I put it out again. Hopefully it fill start bubbling now.

    1. Hi Shari,

      Did you see the tip about leaving it in the turned-off oven with the light on?

      Enjoy, Zoë

  26. Seems like I read something somewhere about making crackers out of what you pour off your starter. Am I dreaming?

    I am at day 6 and have a soupy wheat flour mixture in my jar, and I suppose a decent number of bubbles. Did try the oven light tip, no change. Wondering about my city water, will try the boiling water idea. Used King Arthur’s Whole Wheat Flour all days except 1, which was generic white all purpose flour – bleached.

    Ideas? I am gonna get this!!!

    1. Hi Rene,

      Keep going, sometimes, depending on conditions (water, flour, temperature) it can take up to 2 weeks. Pour half of what you have off and feed the remaining. Continue doing that every 12 hours until it is happy.

      Thanks, Zoë

  27. Hi Good Bakers,
    I have a terrible time getting my starter to “Float” Do you test your starter every time you bake?
    Some seem to not worry about it, just say make sure it is bubbling or alive. What is the secret? I am going
    to bake some tonight. Thanks for your good recipes.
    Phyllis Massey

    1. Hi Phyllis,

      No, I don’t test it every time, but I am used to what it is supposed to look like. If you are new to using a starter floating it is a good way to know if it is bubbly enough. If your starter isn’t floating, pour off some of the starter in the jar, feed it and let it sit in the oven with the light on.

      Thanks, Zoë

  28. Thanks so much however I have been doing the oven/light on.
    it bubbles a lot and smells like beer. I have used more than
    5 pounds of flour and still no float I have used it as is and
    the bread turns out VG ?? Thanks so much Phyllis

  29. I have your first book and have enjoyed baking the main recipe. I’m on day 7 of my sourdough starter. Would you mind confirming my conversion of your imperial measurements to metric?

    Use 3 cups of sourdough: 375g
    Decrease these ingredients when using sourdough:
    * Flour by -187g
    * water by -355g


    1. That sounds about right, but honestly, the reason sourdough is a harder technique is that I’ve found you can’t be that precise. This is something I estimate and target the consistency of the final dough.

  30. Thank you for this great information. I have your first two books. In the original Healthy Bread, there is nothing about sourdough, and the master recipe calls for salt and vital wheat gluten in addition to the flour, water and yeast. If I use sourdough starter as you outline here, do I still need to use the salt and vital wheat gluten in the master recipe? I am trying to figure out if the sourdough starter replaces the yeast as well as some of the flour and water, or if the starter obviates the need for salt and vital wheat gluten as well. Many thanks.

    1. Rose, the idea in this recipe is to use purely sourdough, so you wouldn’t need yeast (though you can add a little for more dependable rising). The salt is still part of the recipe, as is vital wheat gluten.

      1. Thank you for your prompt answer, Jeff. I have some starter going on the counter and hope to be able to make some bread next week. Fingers crossed!

      2. Correct, there’s no vital wheat gluten in the first book (do you mean our 2007 book?). The master from that book is pure white flour, which doesn’t need it. Many of our testers preferred the addition of VWG for loaves made mostly with whole grains–lighter, airier result. Other questions:

        Yes, you can use starter in the Peasant Loaf… and about how our recipes differ–all I can tell you is that we tested it this way, and it worked. I’m guessing it just doesn’t matter much.

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      I have never made a GF sour starter, but my friend Aran from Cannelle et Vanille has, and I know there are others.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. GF sourdough starter: this is a dark starter
        1/2 cup matiya flour (mat bean, a type of lentil)
        1/2 cup teff
        1/4 cup acorn starch (optional, but helps a lot)
        some yoghurt or its whey
        boiled cooled water (room temp water) to make a slurry
        leave out 24-48hrs to rise
        feed every 10 days

  31. You’re saying to add half cup of flour and half cup of water. Other starter recipes I have call for 113 grams of flour and 113 grams of water. Totally different. Should I stick with the 1/2 cups?

  32. What about the slightly darker ‘crust’ that forms on my starter overnight? OK to just stir that back in? Or should I discard it?

      1. I made the peasant bread recipe from your 2007 Artisan Bread in five minutes… , using the sourdough starter recipe above. No additional yeast, and subbed bread flour for all purpose. The dough rose beautifully, and the bread is delicious. Very dense though, which I attribute to the bread flour. Next I’ll use your sourdough starter recipe for the master recipe boule, and use all purpose flour. I’m assuming this will give me more of a traditional sourdough texture?

      2. there are a number of reasons that this might have come out as it did, but your suggestion is a good place to start. Second thing I suggest is that while our method talks about storing the dough, you only get the open, open whole structure of traditional sourdough for the very first loaf, before there’s been storage. After that you lose the large hole structure and that might be accounting for what you’re seeing. this only applies to natural sourdough. With the regular braids based on commercial yeast, the whole structure opens with storage.

  33. Will any sourdough starter work with your recipies? Also,do I substitute it in equal amounts as if I were using your stater? Thanks

    1. I can’t think of any reason why not, though we can’t exactly vouch for things with which we haven’t tested. If I’m understanding your question correctly, you want to keep the salt amount constant regardless of which starter recipe you use (but keep in mind that starter itself doesn’t use salt).

  34. Hello, I am on Day 4 of the starter. The first 3 days looked good with bubbles and smelled like beer. It developed dark crust overnight the past 2 days which I stirred in. But just now (day 4), the bubble disappear, I tries to feed and see what happens. Do you think my startee is gone and I should start over again (this is my second time trying and the first time the bubble disappeared completly and turned into liquid on Day 2). I did put the starter in the oven with lights on.

    1. Hi YC,

      Have you tried pouring off a portion of the old starter before adding the fresh ingredients? It seems like that would be a good next step, but don’t start from scratch, you’ve got some good flavor developed.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Hi Zoe,

        Thanks fir reply. Yes I did, I use new jar whenever I feed some are left out. Will continue with this batch and keep you posted if I succeed or not! Thanks again!


      2. Hi YC,

        Please, keep me posted. One of the things that was a game changer for me was switching to filtered water. Mpls uses a lot of chlorine in our water and it really messed up my starter.

        Good luck! Zoë

  35. Hi Zoe,

    Sorry for not writing back sooner. Just want to let you know my starter came out great and I baked my first loaf with success! Thanks for telling me to stick around and not start over. It turns out after Day 5/6 it became active all of a sudden. I used rye flour to feed the starter and will continue to do so. I also used filter water like you suggested.

    I ordered the New Artisan Bread in 5 book and can’t wait to try out the recipes!

    Thanks again! I never knew baking can bring such great joy.


    1. Hi YC,

      This is fantastic news! I’ve had some starters that took a couple of weeks to really come to life, so sometimes it just takes longer than others. So glad it worked out!

      Enjoy all the bread! Zoë

  36. Zoe and Jeff Can you post more information about Red Star Platinum Sourdough starter. I read all the posts as well as all of your tips. Having problem finding unbleached flour. Based on all of that information it sounds like if I try to make starter with bleached flour it will fail and ruin my master recipe. Is there a way to either add yeast or Red Star Platinum Sourdough starter to make homemade starter. Also I make beer in a MrBeer kit. After each batch of beer there’s leftover wart shhould I use that to compensate for bleached flour from Aldi?
    Please post as MW rather than using my full name thanks

    1. Hi MW,

      If you use the Red Star Platinum Sourdough Yeast product, you can use the bleached flour, since you are relying on the yeast and not creating a sourdough starter from scratch. You can use a bit of the spent beer leftovers for flavor, but it will not add any rising power to the mixture. You just want to add a little bit or it may throw off the consistency of the dough.

      Thanks! Zoë

    1. Hi S,

      Yes, you sure can, it will just take longer to get to the amount you need, but you can just increase the amount as you get closer to using it.

      Thanks, Zoë

  37. Hello~
    I’ve been working on my starter and made a batch of dough for a 100% levain-risen bread with whole wheat flour from your book The Best of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It rose beautifully! (I let it rise a bit over 12 hours.) I was very proud, but then when I pulled the dough out and went to shape it, it flattened and stayed flattened. I gave it a long rest and it’s still didn’t rise. Do you know what could have gone wrong?

  38. My starter is THIN. From reading questions above seems only thing not doing correctly is having tightly closed jar. Will try coffee filter/rubber band.
    I have done 3 times and toss after 7 days. Will keep feeding and pour out as directed. Keeping in oven with light on. Starter bubbles first 2 days and gets thin and doesn’t smell bad enough.

    1. If your starter is too thin, you need to constantly be adjusting the thickness. On the first day it doesn’t look right, just add more flour

  39. Jeff, I added twice amount of flour for the day and no water and what a good difference it made. Thank you so very much. I had been scared to do that, but that’s what common sense had been telling me.
    Haven’t found tips and tricks at bottom of these comments and responses.

    1. It’s not underneath the comments/responses, it’s underneath all the text and pictures but BEFORE the comments and responses. Scroll down past the pictures and you’ll find the section, which starts with the words:
      “Troubleshooting tips: If your starter is stalled…”

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