Rating: 2.47 stars
30 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 1
  • 4 star values: 4
  • 3 star values: 8
  • 2 star values: 10
  • 1 star values: 6

A starter, which is a mix of active wild yeasts and bacteria, is the key to leavening all kinds of sourdough-based delicacies. This recipe, adapted from Artisan Bryan, calls for a combination of flours; the rye flour helps speed up the process. Once the starter is established, you can continue to feed with a mix, or transition to entirely white flour. Note that you don't add any yeast yourself; instead, you allow the wild yeast present in the flour to develop over time. 

Martha Stewart Living, March 2021

Gallery

Credit: Johnny Miller

Recipe Summary

prep:
1 hr
total:
1 week
Advertisement

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Mix together both flours. Measure 45 grams flour mixture (about 1/4 cup), setting the rest aside. Place in a bowl or container (we use a quart takeout container, so it's easy to watch grow). Add a scant 1/4 cup lukewarm water (45 grams) and mix until it creates a thick batter. Keep at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel.

    Advertisement
  • Repeat feedings of 45 grams each water and flour mixture once a day at the same time, mixing with a rubber spatula, for 4 days. In the beginning you won't notice much movement; by the end, the starter should appear lively, with a bubbly appearance.

  • On the 5th day, switch to entirely white flour and water, and start feeding twice—once in the morning and once at night. (At first you may smell some strong, not-very-pleasant smells, but eventually the starter will smell nutty and a little sour but pleasant.) Once it ferments—predictably rises, doubling in volume and creating a porous, webby-looking mixture after feedings—it is ready to use; this took us about 7 days. From this point, refrigerate your starter completely covered with the container lid.

  • Start a regular feeding schedule—at least once or twice a week. For each feed, to maintain a large starter, remove all but 100 grams (discard the rest, or use for another purpose, such as our banana bread and cookies recipe), and add 100 grams each all-purpose flour and water.

  • To maintain a smaller starter, remove 40 grams (discarding or using the rest), and feed with 40 grams each all-purpose flour and water. In the latter case, you may need to build your starter up to have amounts you'll need for recipes with leftover to maintain it; just feed without discarding for a couple of days in advance of when you'll need it.

Cook's Notes

To ensure your starter is ready to bake with, always feed it a day before you plan to mix your levain. If you are very confident it's lively enough—it has reliably doubled in volume after feeding and is stretchy and webby—you can replace the levain in bread recipes with fed starter equal in weight to the parts of the levain combined. 

Advertisement

Reviews (4)

30 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 1
  • 4 star values: 4
  • 3 star values: 8
  • 2 star values: 10
  • 1 star values: 6
Rating: 1 stars
01/13/2019
had to give it a one star to get the review posted.. I have been making my own starter for years..... Nothing like this one . Tried it and will not try again. going back to my original. Always perfect. Better luck next time Martha. This is surely not a Southern Sour dough bread starter....
Rating: Unrated
07/05/2010
I used this in 1999 and still have it today, though it seems to lack on the sour side, but it still rises. I don't take it out of the fridge every day to add anything, at one point it was lost in the back of the fridge, and I just scraped the top off and started using it again. I recently used it for the Perfect Pizza recipe and it turned out just as good as a fresh packet of yeast. I still use it for the Sourdough Waffles, but I use egg replacer, and keep the left over in the fridge.
Rating: Unrated
01/10/2009
I found this lacking in flavor. Unfortunately, it takes time, just using flour and water, and replacing half of the starter every day until frothy. The wild yeasts this attracts add much more flavor, although my bread with the above was very good and the crust was marvelous.
Advertisement
Rating: Unrated
12/23/2008
its going bananas! This is the fastest sourdough starter! It has jumped straight to the stringy step. Going to have to use it immediately.