How to Make a Sour Dough Starter (Tutorial)

Tuesday 28 April 2020

One thing I have been longing to master for quite a while now is to make a working Sour Dough Starter that I can use to make my own bread with.  We are experiencing a shortage of yeast at the moment (and flour and sugar for that matter) so creating something like a sour dough starter is a skill we can all use.  I had tried once before with NO success.  I thought I would try again and I watched quite a few videos on You Tube and finally felt secure enough that I thought I could master it. (Fingers crossed)  What I am sharing with you today is the result of about two weeks trial and error and finally SUCCESS! 

 I think the real key to my success this time was using filtered water. The time before I had used tap water. I had no idea that the chlorine etc. in tap water would have a hug impact on the success of your starter.  This was something that I learned this time and it was a real boon to my success.  I just used bottled filtered water that you can buy in the shops.  Apparently you can leave tap water out on the counter top for a couple of days also. I decided not to take a chance and just used filtered water from our water storage.  What good is a Pandemic if you don't use the time in quarantine to learn a new skill!  It is my greatest hope that eventually I will be turning out really great loaves of bread with the skill of one who has been doing it all of their lives. But for now, here's my tutorial on how to get a really great starter going as well as a few ideas of what you can do with it!


1. a mix of equal parts of strong whole wheat and white flours
2. filtered water
3. a glass jar with a loose lid (I use a Weck jar,which comes with a glass lid.)
4. a rubber spatula for stirring and scraping


Measure 50g (6 1/2 TBS) of your flour mixture into the glass jar.  Add 100g ( 3.5 fluid ounces) of the filtered water.  

Stir together until the mixture is completely smooth and amalgamated, scraping down the sides of the jar using your spatula frequently. 
Sour Dough Starter

Just keep smoothing, stirring and scraping until you have a completely homogenous mixture, then carefully wipe down the insides of the glass with a clean damp cloth.  (use filtered water to dampen the cloth.) 

Place the lid on top and set  the jar aside for 24 hours.

DAY 2 

As you can see there are a few bubbles forming on the top of the flour. 

Sour Dough Starter

Give the mixture a good stir, replace the lid and leave it for a further 24 hours. 


This is what my starter looked like on the morning of day 3.  As you can see there is a lot of activity going on.  I AM EXCITED ABOUT THIS!!  Progress!  I might actually have some success this time around!

You will need a clean jar.  What you are going to do now is to decant 3 TBS of the live mixture into a clean jar.  Once you have done that you will need a further 70g (1/2 cup) of the whole wheat/white bread flour mix and a additional 80ml (1/3 cup) of filtered water.

Add this to the decanted 3 TBS of live mixture in the clean jar and give it a good stir together. This is called "feeding" it.

Scraping down the sides with your spatula and making sure it is all mixed together well so that there are no dry lumps or streaks.  Clean the insides of the jar with a clean piece of paper towel, moistened with filtered water . . .  so that there are no streaks up the insides of the jar . . .

Put the lid back on the jar and then mark the level with a rubber band on the outside of the jar.  (Look, you can see it already bubbling.)  Set it aside to work for 11 hours now.

Some suggested that you give your Sour Dough Starter a name.  I thought long and hard on this and decided that I am going to call mine HOPE.  Why Hope?  Because one, I really HOPE that it works for me this time, and two,  we have never needed HOPE more than we do at this time during this disheartenig World Wide Pandemic. 

jar labels

I have the perfect Jar Labels to use as well. Innoveem Jam & Chutney Jar Labels.  These premium quality jar labels have a strong adhesive which means the labels won't fall off my jar.  You can write on them with any pen or biro!  They are also easy to remove, leaving no sticky mess or residue after use (HUGE plus), and the set contains some really classy Vintage shaped designs.  Perfect for this!  

I can also offer my readers a discount of 20% off if they follow this link
 to purchase and add the discount code JLABEL20  at checkout! Offer is good until the end of June.  They really are fantastic labels.  I have been using the same one on my jar of sour dough starter removing it and reapplying it every day for almost two weeks now without any problem.  Looks brand new and sticks as well as it did on the first day!

I am really filled with HOPE this time.  I am so excited about this.  Can you tell???  This appears to be working well for me! (Fingers crossed, I don't want to jinx myself!) 

DAY 4, 5, 6, 7  

On these next four days you will need to do the following:  

Decant 50g (about 3 TBS) to a clean jar.  Add 100g plain flour (3/4 cup) and 100g filtered water (3 1/2 fluid ounces).  Stir it vigorously.  Clean any residue from the inside of the jar using filtered water on some clean paper towels.  Cover loosely, mark the starter level with an elastic band.  Let rest for 24 hours.  (You can discard the rest of the starter in the first jar, left from the decant, or save it to make pancakes, etc.)

This is Day 4   I am impressed.  Look at the action!

Sour Dough Starter

This is Day 5  There's a fair bit of bubbling going on.  Not quite as much as yesterday.

Sour Dough Starter

This is Day 6.  As you can see it had risen a good inch above the red band and then fell back down again.  It has a really fermented smell to it. Not unpleasant.  Almost but not quite like an alcohol. Almost like a beer.

The starter will be ready to bake with when it rises and falls consistently for a few days in a row.  

Sour Dough Starter

This is Day 7.   

As you can see there is a ton of action going on! Its also getting lighter in colour because my feed has been plain strong flour rather than a mix of whole wheat and white.  I think I am now ready to bake some bread with it, but first a few pictures to show you what I have been doing with the discard.  I have a jar in the refrigerator I am keeping the discard in. Flour is so precious at the moment, I really can't bring myself to throw it away.  

sour dough recipes

You can do quite a lot with it.  King Arthur Flour has a large number of recipes and suggestion on their page. 

I have made us Sour Dough Pancakes several times.

  They are the best pancakes I have ever eaten. As you can see they are incredibly light and fluffy and the flavour is fantastic.  Todd enjoys his with syrup, but I am perfectly happy with them just on their own, they are that good!

Sour Dough Pancakes

Sour Dough Pancakes

Yield: Makes a dozen pancakes
These are so light and fluffy.  Best pancakes ever!


Overnight batter:
  • 200g of sour dough sarter discard, stirred down (3/4 cup)
  • 240ml buttermilk or milk (I used milk) (1 cup)
  • 2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 TBS white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g butter melted (4 TBS)
  • 280g plain flour (2 cups)
Add prior to cooking:
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
To cook and serve:
  • softened butter to grease the pan
  • your favourite syrup


How to cook Sour Dough Pancakes

  1. The night before you want to make the pancakes, whisk together all of the overnight batter ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.  Cover and leave to rest on the countertop overnight at room temperature, or for up to 12 hours.
  2. Just before cooking whisk in the remaining ingredients. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a griddle pan or large non-stick skillet. Rub lightly with butter.  Pour in large dessertspoon's full into the pan (abou 1/4 cup measures). I can get 3 onto my griddle pan.  Cook until golden brown on the bottom and the tops are covered with small bubbles.   Flip over and brown the other side.
  4. Serve warm with your favourite syrup. We like Maple.


You can scatter a few of your favourite berries over top before flipping them over. We like blueberries.

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I have also made Sour Dough Brownies.  These are incredible!

They are dense and fudgy like a good brownie should be.  Moist, and yet you can hold them in your hand.

I had thought about stirring some chocolate chips or nuts into them, but didn't this time.

The flavour is really nice, with just a hint of tang.

Sour Dough Brownies

Sour Dough Brownies

Yield: 9
Use your sour dough discard to make perfect moist and fudgy brownies!


  • 115g of semi sweet chocolate (4 ounces)
  • 115g unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
  • 190g caster sugar (1 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large free range eggs, at room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 190g sour dough starter discard (3/4 cup)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 9 inch square baking tin and line it with some baking paper, leaving an overhang to ease in lifting the cooled brownies out of the pan.
  2. Chop the chocolate and place it into a bowl along with the butter, also cut into bits.  Heat in the microwave on high for about 1 minute.  Stir to melt the chocolate and butter. If it is not quite finished, pop it in for another 30 seconds or so. Stir until all are melted and amalgamated thoroughly.  Stir in the sugar.  Add the eggs, vanilla and salt, mixing well together. Finally stir in the sourdough starter, combining everything thoroughly.  Pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean with no wet batter attached.  Do not over bake.
  4. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 to 15 minutes before lifting out to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into squares or rectangles to serve.  I dusted  the tops with a bit of icing sugar.  Store in an airtight container.  Will keep for a few days.

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Tag @marierayner5530 on instagram and hashtag it #EnglishKitchen
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Having mastered the starter I figured I was ready to bake a loaf of bread.

I decided to start off simply with my first try at baking a loaf and I found the perfect recipe on Little Spoon Farm.

Baking Sour Dough bread can be a bit convulated, requiring many steps.  I thought I would do simple for the first time, and this was the perfect recipe to begin with.

It turned out really nice. Not bad for a loaf of bread that was 8 days in the making (counting the number of days it took for me to get the starter going!)

As you can see it has a really nice texture.  The crust is really nice as well.

Lots of lovely holes . . .  the crust is a bit chewy for Todd. He has a difficult time with anything chewy or hard.

I will need to find a recipe for a loaf that makes a less chewy crust  for him.   MY sister found this for me on True Sour Dough

  1. Wrap your sourdough bread neatly in a thick damp tea towel.
  2.  Place loaf in a large sealed container for about an hour. 
  3. Take it out of the container and place on a cooling rack still wrapped in the damp cloth for the remaining cooling time. 
  4. Once it has cooled, you can remove the damp tea towel and you’ll find a lovely soft crust!
I will try that the next time.  I do need want to get a few more things if I am going to bake sour dough regularly.  A proper razor for cutting slashes in the top and some proper proofing baskets, but we will see how it goes.  I don't want to spend too much money until I figure out if this is just a flash in the pan for me.  I really hope to keep it up!  



Once you have managed to create a workable starter you won't want to be baking bread every day. Maybe you will ony want to be baking it once a week.  Maybe you will be away on holidays at some point and won't be able to feed and keep it going every day. There are viable ways of storing your starter for anywhere from a week to longer.  I found a valuable source of information here on The Perfect Loaf.

I am going to try each of his methods.  Watch this space!


  1. Oh Marie, you've really outdone yourself. What a brilliant tutorial and you've inspired me to give it a go. I've always been somewhat curious about sour dough, but never attempted it. I've seen starters in the fridge section at the supermarket, but never considered starting from scratch like you've done.

    How clever to use the daily excess for something else - I love that no waste approach. Thank you for this! I will be making this for sure.

    1. You need to try it Marie. I am sure you will do very well with it! I was so surprised to finally have success! xoxo

  2. Wow, Marie, your loaf of sour dough bread looks beautiful. I bet it tastes wonderful toasted with jam or peanut butter. Your tutorial was very clear in its instructions making me think perhaps I should try it. I've passed your recipe for Greek Yogurt Biscuits onto my other friend Marie and we are both going to make some. It is supposed to be rainy here today so they will taste good with jam and a hot cup of tea. I'm off to hard boil a few eggs as I fancy an egg salad sandwich on toast for breakfast. Enjoy your day. Keep safe. Hugs, Elaine

    1. Thanks very much Elaine! I hope both you and your friend enjoy the Greek Yogurt biscuits! I have been busy finishing off my work for the month. I will be even busier next month with two extra sites to produce for. I am hoping I am up to it! You and Larry keep safe also. Maybe sometime we could talk on the telephone. Now wouldn't that be a treat? Love and hugs, xoxo

  3. Looks absolutely lovely! I had a starter going in Ohio, we made sourdough pancakes and waffles that were wonderful! I added a bit of rye to the mix to keep things good and bubbly. you can't taste it, but it works wonders. A little lemon juice maybe 1/4 teaspoon does too. I have yeast, I buy a pound at a time and keep it in the freezer. However, this is great knowledge for if I run out, or just to do.

    1. I love the sourdough pancakes. I would like to try othe flours Raquel, but at the moment it is difficult to just find white flour! Yeast is in short supply as well. And I have to wonder why? xoxo

  4. Thank you for the tip about bottled water. I haven't made sourdough yet since I moved house, but the water here is awful so I think I will need to. I also notice that your recipe uses far smaller amounts of flour than mine did. It used, and discarded,far more flour than your recipe does, which, frankly, none of us can spare at the moment. Good luck with your sourdough, hope it tastes delicious xxx

    1. Thanks Karen! I liked that this one used less flour. You are right we need to be really careful with what flour we have at the moment for sure! xoxo

  5. Fascinating post Marie....I love a good sourdough...and those pancakes look heavenly. I would like to give this a try, but fear there would be too much waste on my husband eats very little bread or baked goods, so it would be just me and that is likely not a good idea LOL. But I did just see yesterday a recipe for cheese crackers to use up starter dough and was very curious.... Every now and again there seems to be a wave where people here start "Friendship Bread" starters...and it gets passed from friend to friend to friend. Haven't seen that for a while though...and am thinking now with this pandemic and the heightened concerns it has awakened, I doubt we will be seeing it again. ~Robin~

    1. Oh Robin the pancakes are to die for. There are so many ways to use up the discard. I am going to look for cheese crackers. I am intrigued! Love and hugs. xoxo


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