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How to make your own sourdough starter

sourdough starter

If you don’t have any yeast, because it’s all been panic bought during lockdown, it’s still possible to bake delicious fluffy bread at home. Healthy Food Guide editor Jenny de Montalk explains how to make and maintain your own sourdough starter.

All you need is a week or so to get a sourdough starter active. Sourdough starter is basically a fermentation of dough. The fermentation is caused by naturally occurring yeast and bacteria called lactobacilli. These bacteria are thought to play a role in preventing inflammation, reducing cancer risk and boosting immunity.

The only ingredients you’ll need are a little wholemeal flour, plain flour and water.


2 tablespoons wholemeal flour (you can use rye, if you prefer)
2 tablespoons plain white flour, plus about 1kg for feeding
lukewarm water (ideally filtered)


1 In a large bowl or container combine wholemeal flour and 2 tablespoons of the white flour with enough water to make a thin batter (about the consistency of pancake or crepe batter).

2 With a wooden spoon, beat some air into your batter. Cover loosely with a lid, clean tea towel or beeswax wrap and leave overnight, somewhere free of draughts and fairly warm.

3 The next day, you will hopefully start to see some bubbles forming, meaning fermentation has begun. Don’t worry if that hasn’t happened yet. Fermentation can vary and might start after just a few hours or take a few days.

4 Now it’s time to start feeding your starter. First, remove half of the starter and discard or place in a jar to give to someone (share the love, but you’ll have to feed it till they’re ready to receive it). Stir in 4 tablespoons of the plain white flour and enough water to maintain a sloppy texture. Cover and leave in a draught-free (fairly warm) position. Repeat this process once a day until, after seven days or so, your starter will begin to smell good – sort of sweetly yeasty.

5 Once your starter is ready, you can begin baking bread with it. To do this, you’ll need to get prepared the night before baking by making what is called a ‘sponge’. Remove about 100mls of starter and, in a large bowl, combine it with 250g flour and 300ml lukewarm water. Mix well and cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and leave it overnight. In the morning it should be bubbly and ready to use in a loaf.

6 Start baking your bread. Try this delicious sourdough recipe.


  • If you’re only going to make bread occasionally, rather than daily, keep your starter in the fridge in a jar or container with a lid, and just feed it two or three times a week
  • If your starter develops a brown liquid layer, pour it off and scrape off the layer of starter below it, then increase feeding. This usually happens when there is not enough food
  • If mould starts growing on your starter, throw it away!
First published: Apr 2020

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