Why sourdough bread? How to make your own sourdough starter? Simple sourdough starter maintanence guide.

March 24, 2021

What is sourdough bread?

Isn’t it just bread? Well, yes and no. Sourdough bread is made essentially from flour, water and salt – the same ingredients as most bread but without the use of commercial yeast or the addition of oils, sugar and other chemical additives. It IS a better bread for you in many ways and here are some of the simple facts.

Made with natural yeast: Sourdough breads are made using natural yeast, a starter made with just flour and water which is then fermented with the wild yeast in the air.

Easily digestable: Sourdough breads rise with the aid of this natural yeast starter, which takes longer than commercial bread yeast or dried yeast. The longer rising time breaks down the gluten in the dough and thus reduces the effects of bloating or other digestive problems caused by gluten.

Better absorption of essential minerals: Meanwhile, the resulting lactic acid produced in the long fermentation of sourdough bread neutralises the phytic acid contained in essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron, thus making it more easily absorbed by our body. So even though the basic ingredients are the same for sourdough and normal bread, it is much healthier in many aspects.

Sugar, oil and additives free: sourdough breads are also a better option because there are no nasty addictives like preservatives, bread softener or bread improver found in commercial bread. There is also no need for the addition of sugar and oil.

Contrary to what you may believe, it is actually not that difficult to make your own sourdough bread. You may have heard scary tales of having to feed the starter like a hungry baby all day, everyday, but it really isn’t like that once you have learnt how to cultivate your starter, maintain it and established your prefered baking schedule. You may just learn to love your ‘sourdough baby’ and the exciting journey of sourdough baking, plus your body will thank you for it!

Some starter recipes involve discarding excess starters while cultivating which I find wasteful. I would like to share with you this simple way of making sourdough starter and my simple sourdough starter maintanence schedule for those who like to only bake once or twice a week.

If you have sourdough baking friends, you could ask them to give you a little active starter to start your sourdough baking journey, which makes life easier for you. But if you have to make it from scratch, I’ve found this starter recipe from Sophia Hanschuh’s REAL BREAD book which is simple, does not require discarding any starter, yet still works really well.

Making Your Rye Sourdough Starter

What you need:

A clean large lidded glass or plastic container about 600ml capacity

50g rye flour

50g potable tap water or bottled mineral water


Day 1: Using clean fingers (wash well without soap) mix till combined 50g rye flour with 50g water in a clean container. Cover with lid slightly ajar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 2: Your starter will start to smell slightly sweet. Add 50g rye flour and 50g water into starter from Day 1 and mix with clean fingers. Cover with lid slightly ajar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 3: You may start to see some activity eg. small bubbles. Add 50g rye flour and 50g water into starter from Day 2 and stir with a clean spoon till mixture resembles a creamy paste. Cover with lid slightly ajar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 4: By now your starter should smell a little like cider with a lot of bubbles. Once more, add 50g rye flour and 50g water and stir with a clean spoon* till mixture resembles a creamy paste. Cover with lid slightly ajar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

Day 5: Your starter should be very active now. Feed it once more with 50g rye flour and 50g water, stirring with a spoon. Cover with lid slightly ajar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Your starter is ready to use when you see a lot of bubbles and smells acidic.

Day 6: Feed starter again in the morning, take out what you need to make a pre-ferment in the evening. *

Day 7: Make your dough in the morning with the activated pre-ferment.

* I prefer to stir with a butter knife, or a small spatula because some starter will get stuck in the curve of a spoon

* The pre-ferment is the amount of starter you will use in your recipe. If you need 150g of starter, use 50g of your active starter and feed it with flour and water at a ratio of 1:1:1. You may use rye flour or bread flour to make the pre-ferment.

Simple Starter Maintenance Guide

To feed your starter, always feed in a ratio of 1:1:1. Equal weight of starter to rye flour and water.

For the once or twice a week baker:

Keep your active starter in the fridge. Take it out and feed it once or twice to activate it before using. Returning it to the fridge if you are not baking the next day.

I suggest you keep only 50g of starter each time. This is so that you only need a small container which will not take up too much space in the fridge.

So if you do not bake regularly, discard what you do not need. You can use sourdough discards in all kind of recipes that involves batter or dough from scones, crumpets, pancakes, buns, steamed baos, bread sticks to waffles.

For avid regular bakers who bakes everyday:

You may leave your starter at room temperature. Depending on your baking schedule and ambient room temperature, feed the starter once or twice a day. Time feeding to 5 to 7 hours (or the number of hours it takes for the starter to reach peak) before you wish to start making your dough. One of the secrets to successful sourdough baking is knowing your starter, how long it takes to be activated so you can time the feed in order to use it at its most active stage during dough making.

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