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Sourdough Starter Day 1

First, let's get this out of the way. There are as many sourdough starter recipes as there are humans making sourdough starter. Trust me, I've read (almost) all of them. This is both good and bad. It's good because there's a lot of wiggle room, and if you need to adjust the ratios of ingredients along the way, that's totally OK; you can make a successful sourdough starter without following some magic formula. It's bad because there is no magic formula. It's not like simply following the step-by-step instructions for a cake recipe. Your success depends on a number of factors like the type of flour you use and the temperature of your house, and it requires constant monitoring and adjusting and going with your gut. What does it smell like? What's the texture like? How much is it growing throughout the day? Where is it at its peak? What color is it?

For my starter, I started off using this simple recipe from Food 52, but eventually (after some recommendations from other bread-making friends), I switched to this recipe from The Perfect Loaf. If your photos and experience vary wildly from mine, that's totally OK, every starter is different!

  • On day one, I mixed 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 6 tablespoons filtered water in a large glass jar, covered it with a tea towel, and set it in a plastic container (in case of overflow) in the only spot in my house that somewhat consistently stays in the 70-80 degree range (you want it in this temperature range, so if you have a proofer or a proofing setting of your oven, even better! I don't have either).

If You're Making a Sourdough Starter For the First Time, Here's a Daily Guide in Pictures

I named him "Voldy" after Voldemort, and yes, this is an important first step to a successful sourdough starter. However, my husband preferred to call him "Yeastie Boy" (even playing him "Intergalactic" to prove the point that this was a superior name), and while this happened to coincide with Voldy's upswing after some dicey days, I stand by this being purely a coincidence. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Ah, the sourdough starter. So simple, and yet, all consuming. "Make bread easily without yeast," they said. "It only requires two ingredients: flour and water," they said. "Just 10 minutes a day," they said. If only I had known just what I was taking on that sunny spring day when I threw together some flour and water in the only large jar I owned and stuck it on the windowsill in the warmest room in the house.

Now that I'm at the point where Voldy is essentially a Tamagotchi requiring minimal effort to keep alive and thriving, I can finally share my experience so that you, too, can ruin your life with a sourdough starter. I kid, I kid. I'm sure it will go smoothly without any problems. But if it is a trainwreck, just know that you're not alone. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and incessant googling all through the night and persevere until you have a crusty and delicious loaf of bread at the end of this. And if not? Well, there's no shame in store-bought.

Buckle up, let's take a yeast journey, shall we?


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