P1020081A fully developed, acidulated and bubbly sourdough starter

Cultivating a sourdough starter from scratch is easy – as long as you use the right ingredients.  When I first tried making a starter about 20 years ago for How to Bake I began with white flour, distilled water and nothing else – it was a hit-and-miss process.  Last summer when I needed to get some starter going for BREAD! I consulted Professor Calvel’s book Le Gout du Pain (The Flavor of Bread) and saw that he used a combination of white and whole-grain (dark) rye flour.  I also discussed cultivating a new starter with Sim Cass who developed new bread formulas for the career-training baking program at ICE.  Then I went about developing a formula that merged both methods. 

If you want to participate in our ferment-along (it won’t be a bake-along until the starter gets going in a week or so) here’s what you’ll need:

1 and 2-quart glass bowls (so you can easily see how the starter is fermenting from the side of the bowl)

A digital scale that measures grams

Standard measuring spoons

A new or very clean rubber or silicone spatula

Several 1-quart plastic containers with covers


Half a pound of organic dark rye flour (a health food store is your best bet)

1 or 2 quarts distilled, purified, or spring water

2 pounds unbleached bread flour (I always use Gold Medal Better for Bread)

A teaspoon of organic barley malt syrup or maple syrup

Additive-free salt

I’ll start with the instructions at the end of this week and photograph the steps and progress of the starter so you’ll see what to look for.

By the way, it only takes about 5 minutes a day to do this; you'll be glad you did, especially if you haven't had good results in the past.