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Basic Sourdough Starter
Makes roughly 1 quart (4 cups/32 ounces) of starter

Day 1

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (4 ounces)
1/2 cup of filtered or spring water (4 ounces)
a large container (at least 2-3 quarts) with a lid (glass or plastic, avoid metal)

Combine the flour and water in the container until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no more dry particles. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and cover. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Note: If you’d like a little extra insurance, you can throw in a pinch of commercial yeast to get things started. While not technically ‘authentic,’ this does help get things moving along.

Day 2

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (4 ounces)
1/2 cup of water (4 ounces)

Your starter should be fairly thick and soupy. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast from the air and the flour itself have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, preventing other ‘bad’ microbes from growing.

Add the fresh water and flour. Stir vigorously to combine everything and incorporate more oxygen into the mixture. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours.

Day 3

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (4 ounces)
1/2 cup of filtered or spring water (4 ounces)

By day three, your starter should be getting nice and bubbly (see below), be the consistency of pancake batter, and have roughly doubled in size. If you taste a little (Go on! Try it!), the mixture should make your mouth pucker with sour and vinegar flavors. It will also smell musty and fermented, a bit like grain alcohol.

Go ahead and mix in the fresh ingredients as with Day 2, cover, and let sit for 24-hours.

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Day 4

Repeat day 3.

Day 5

By day 5 (or even day 4) your starter will be ripe and ready to use. The surface will look frothy and fermented (see below), and if you’ve been using a clear container, you can see an intricate network of bubbles when you hold it up. It will smell and taste very pungent and tangy like, well, concentrated sourdough!

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At this point, your sourdough is ready to be used, or you can cover and store it in the fridge for up to one week. After a week, you’ll need to refresh the starter by taking out a cup or so of starter (to use or discard) and then “feeding” it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Likewise, after using some of your starter in a recipe, you can replenish what’s left with equal parts flour and water.

Starter will keep indefinitely as long as you feed it every week or so. Treat it like a household plant that needs to be watered and fertilized regularly. It’s very hardy and will even perk back up with a few daily feedings if you’ve neglected it too long. If a clear liquid forms on the top, just stir it in (this is actually alcohol from the wild yeast). The only time you should throw away the starter completely is if that liquid has a pinkish hue, which indicates that the starter has spoiled.

Ready to give it a try? Let us know how your starter is coming along or if you have any trouble along the way!

(All Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

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