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Sourdough Starter

Use this sourdough starter to make bread or a number of other delicious treats.


  • 1 package (2¼ tsp.) active-dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour


Create Starter: In medium bowl, dissolve yeast in 1⁄4 cup of warm water. Add remaining water and flour, and mix well. Place bowl, uncovered, in warm place or cupboard overnight. In morning, put 1⁄2 cup of starter in sterilized pint jar, cover, and store in refrigerator or cool place for future use. Leave lots of room for expansion in container, or set lid without tightening it. Remaining 3½ cups of starter can be used immediately.

Set Sponge: In medium bowl, place the 1⁄2 cup of starter. Add 2 cups of warm water and 2 cups of flour. Beat well, and set in warm, draft-free place to develop overnight. In morning, sponge will have risen and will be covered with air bubbles and smell yeasty. At this point, it’s ready to use.

Store Starter: Sourdough starter will keep almost indefinitely if covered in clean, glass container in refrigerator. Never use metal container or leave metal spoon in starter or sponge. If unused for several weeks, starter might need to sit out one extra night before you add the flour and water.

Information provided by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

This recipe originally appeared in Popular Kitchen: Homemade Bread.

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Sourdough Starter

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Reader Comments
Thanks for another great article. And THANKS to Steve, Elk, WA
Posted: 1/4/2013 5:46:21 PM for your added information. We have hard well water and my sourdough starter always died on me. I am going to try your suggestions.
Patricia, Memphis, NY
Posted: 8/21/2013 3:11:02 PM
Sounds great.
Galadriel, Lothlorien, ME
Posted: 3/7/2013 12:48:21 AM
To Trish in Batesville, IN ---

To replenish and keep starter alive:
Once a week, stir in equal amounts of all-purpose flour and warm water (100o to 110oF). Stir until smooth. Cover and let stand in warm place until mixture is bubbly and sour-smelling and a clear liquid has formed on top, about 12 to 24 hours. Use or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Hard water
If you have hard water in your area (above 7 ((hardness is graded from 1 to 14,On PH scale, with 7 being neutral and 14 the hardest), add 1/2 c of cider vinegar per 2 cups of water used in the sponge. This will cause it to rise better as it reacts with the soda. It is well to add 1 T of vinegar to your starter pot about once a month as it likes the acid environment.

Soft water
If the water is too soft (PH less than 6) it may be well to add 1/2 t baking soda as a reading of 6 to 7 is best.

There is a lot of speculation about the sourness of bread. One idea is every once in awhile use dark rye flour to feed the starter or some in the bread dough. Another is to let it rise at a lower temperature (60?) so it rises longer and gives the bacteria a longer time to do their work. I have been told that the special San Francisco flavor is created by the bacteria they have in the water there which comes from the Sierra Mountains under the ground. Maybe so ????

Drying starter
Cover a dish or a pan with plastic wrap or waxed paper to prevent sticking. After you have fed your starter and let it get active, pour some onto the covered dish. The thicker the layer the longer it will take to dry. I use a broiler pan and pour it 1/4 inch deep as I use a lot of it. This takes nearly a week to harden.
Set aside at room temperature till it gets brittle -may be a few days. Break into small pieces and grind in a blender, coffee grinder or food processor. There you are! It will keep a long time in an air tight container. The yeast has sporulated and will stay that way for years. At one time it was used to “chink” the walls in log cabins and some of that stuff has been reactivated.
Steve, Elk, WA
Posted: 1/4/2013 5:46:21 PM
How do you "maintain" the starter? As in, if I take a cup of starter out, how much flour, water, and yeast (if any) would I mix back in?
Trish, Batesville, IN
Posted: 12/11/2012 9:34:17 AM
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