Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you may want to try creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. Baking bread from scratch is satisfying in its own right, but when you’ve also had a hand in the creation of one of the most fundamental components, the leavening agent itself, you’ll feel an even greater satisfaction and connectedness to the process.

Are there kids in your house? This little science project is ideally suited to sharing with any children you can convince to join in. Culture their budding scientific minds while creating your own bread culture.

This video outlines one simple method that worked for me the first time I tried it. In the video, I give credit for this technique to Peter Reinhart. It has since come to my attention that Debra Wink, a chemist and accomplished baker, is the mastermind and author of this Pineapple Juice Technique. A lot of research and testing went into developing and refining the technique. The choice of pineapple juice over other juices is from much trial and error. Debra was kind enough to email her essay on the Pineapple Juice Technique. Click here for a printable copy of it.

As I mention in the video, the wild yeast spores and lactic-acid bacteria that give your starter its leaving properties are all around you. You are simply creating the conditions ideally suited for them to thrive and multiply. I used whole wheat flour in this recipe because fresh whole wheat flour may harbor greater numbers of yeast spores than ordinary all-purpose flour and so increase your likelihood for success. It worked for me, so you might try the same. If, at any time, you wish to transition your whole wheat sourdough starter to a regular white flour starter, it’s super easy to do so.

I’ve listed the ingredients and approximate steps here to save you the note taking.

  • Step 1. Mix 3 ½ tbs. whole wheat flour with ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).
  • Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)
  • Step 3. Add to the above 5 ¼ tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.
  • Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.

Notes: I do wonder if the fact that I bake all the time with a sourdough starter (and so theoretically have wild yeast floating around our house by the gazillions and covering everything we own) would increase the likelihood that I would have success creating my own sourdough culture from scratch. So I anxiously await feedback from anyone who attempts this process at home. (You’ll see a nifty little form below for comments and feedback. If you’re shy; you can use the Contact link at the top of the page. While I may report your (mis)adventures, I’ll keep your identity anonymous ;).

{ 2009 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry April 16, 2014 at 11:53 am

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this video and actually making the starter! I ended up with a beautiful rye starter. Your instructions were perfect… Thank you so much for your time and caring! Next, I’m trying your beautiful recipe for rye bread. God bless:)

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I_S April 13, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Made my first sourdough starter a week or ago and I’ve been feeding it regularly and playing around with a sourdough cinnamon raisin vanilla bread. I’m done playing as perfection has been achieved.

2 and 2/3 cups of white flour (whole wheat works too)
1 and 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup whole wheat sourdough starter (mixed into the water)
1 cup raisins
2 and 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure mexican vanilla

Mix ingredients together exactly the same as no knead bread and let rise 12-24 hours. (I break the raisins up and left them drop into the dry flour so they distribute evenly.) Flour a surface and your hands then fold the dough 4-5 times and place into warm bread pan seam down. (I use cast iron.) Let rise for 2-4 hours in a warm place then cover loosely with oiled foil. (the rising dough will stick if not oiled.) Bake for 45 minutes at 450F then remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until internal temp hits 205F.

You can slice and eat immediately or allow it to cool. For an incredibly rich and decadent desert cut a thick slice and toast in a toaster then butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Goes great with Pedro Ximenez wine. Is also excellent with Samuel Adams Utopias if you happen to have a bottle.

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Chris April 12, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Hi Eric,

We used this recipe this week to make our very first sourdough starter. I have a sensitivity to wheat, so we are using spelt instead. I have been using spelt for years, and I seem to be able to handle it much better than wheat — particularly the commercial bleached, wheat flour.

At first, I was a little concerned, because we were 5 days before we saw any bubbles from fermentation, but it eventually did catch-up. We were about 1.5 days behind what you had illustrated in your video. I think that this could have been for one of two reasons (or both): 1) we are using spelt flour, which is not as glutenous and 2) “room temperature” in our house this April has been around 62-65 degrees F. It finally warmed up today, and the starter really took off. I was even able to use it for our first attempt at a whole grain spelt loaf (as per your pair of videos on the subject).

Thank you so much for taking the time to produce your videos. I probably never would have tried to make my own starter if it weren’t for them :).

-Chris

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Lisa April 12, 2014 at 10:57 am

Success!! I gave this a go last Sunday, and this morning we’re a-bubblin’ and a-brewin’. I used unbleached flour rather than whole wheat… I’m outnumbered when it comes to whole grain baking in our house (but I sneak it in sometimes anyway, mwuahahaha). Since It Lives! I suppose it’s time to name it… a friend of mine came up with “Clint Yeastwood” and “Sheena Yeaston,” but I’m still thinking. I’ll let you know. ;)
Since I’m brand new to this, I do have two questions, and they boil down to “continued care.” What is the best method of storage, and how often should I feed it? I imagine how often I plan to bake with it is a factor, and I really can’t say… probably once a week or every two weeks, but if I have early success, I can see using it twice a week at times.
I’m a little apprehensive about baking sourdough loaves/rounds with it already; I don’t want to end up with bricks, as others have described… can I start with pizza dough? or focaccia? and then, once the starter has “matured,” try loaves? Will I be more likely to have success if I wait? or is the culture the culture, and it’s as much about bread-making technique as it is ingredients?
Thank you for your patience with my over-thinking… and for this simple starter method! Food science is so fun & fascinating! I joked with my husband that I want to keep this starter going and when my daughter (17) buys her first house or gets married, I’d give her a bit of this starter as a housewarming or wedding gift… he just looked at me like I was crazy. Aaah, to be a foodie. :)
Thanks again.

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Bill April 14, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Lisa,
I enjoyed your post. I measure by volume and am used to getting different but always tasty results.

To avoid bricks, I handle the dough as little as possible. After the initial stirrings or foldings, before the long rise, if the dough seems too wet I put it on a well floured surface and add more flour until it feels like I’m massaging a relaxed cat. I then put the dough in my buttered baking tin. No proofing basket for me. After the long rise I put this tin in the oven, covered during the first 30 minutes by a loose tent of aluminium foil.

Depending on the temperature of my kitchen, and sometimes with the aid of the oven light, and depending on how much starter I use the long rise can take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours.

I keep my starter in the fridge and bring it out and begin feeding it the day before I want to bake.

I recommend drying and freezing some starter after it has aged a few months and repeating this process every six months or so. This gives you a backup in case your working starter goes bad or if, as I once did, you forget to put some aside when baking.

Maintaining starter and freezing starter are discussed in two excellent videos.

I had twin starter jars for a while. I named them Thing One and Thing Two and would mix them once in a while, like a play day. I finally realized that one jar would serve me well. I suppose that now I just have The Thing.

Well, good luck. And I can tell you from experience, even the bricks taste great.

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peter April 10, 2014 at 11:34 am

My sourdough starter is going strong and well. I tried to make bread, but they keep turning into bricks. I left it to rise for a total of 10 hours. Is this because the starter is still new?

I made three different loafs and they all turned out to be doorstoppers. The latest one I put some instant yeast in addition to the sourdough starter and it turned out pretty good. Not a rich sourdough bread taste, but still very good. I only left it to rise and knead for 4 hours.

How can I make bread without the instant yeast? Do I put more starter? Do I let it rise longer?

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I_S April 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm

I would try proofing the dough in a warmer place. Place the covered dough in your oven with the light switched on. That should really get it going.

If you have not already watched it, check out this video also on the breadtopia site: http://www.breadtopia.com/sourdough-no-knead-method/

When I feed my starter it quadruples in volume within hours.

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peter April 2, 2014 at 9:27 am

I did the starter recipe, however I used white flour instead. I see activity (bubbling), however I do not see as much as the video after the fourth step. Should I be seeing more?

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Paul April 10, 2014 at 11:26 am

Mine took a few days longer and was more sluggish as you describe. I think temperature is a big thing. In my house at the time I did this the temp during the day was 70-71 and at night 65. I notice a lot more activity as the temp goes above 70. I am not on my third loaf and I have a very active starter.

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peter April 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

Thank you :)

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Paul March 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm

So my first bread came out great. I did not have a good form to bake it on so it was a bit wide and not very high. Perhaps stiffer dough? Anyway, after only one week with my starter I had a nice mild flavor 50% fresh ground whole wheat bread. So today I will start my second batch and cook it in my just received La Cloche. This time I will go with the 50% rye and molassas bread.

I have been making regular bread for years with a made up recipe where I use about 50-60% fresh ground whole wheat, 5% or so fresh ground flax seed, the rest AP flour. I also add about 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup molasses. It is a great tasting bread. I was wondering how much molasses a sourdough will take so I’ll start with the rye recipe on this site and its 2 TB of molasses and see where it leads.

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Paul March 29, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Forget to mention my recipe with molasses makes 2 loaves of bread.

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Lesley March 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Hi Paul
The sourdough rye recipe listed on this site to the left makes a fantastic bread with molasses. Its my absolute favorite.

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Paul March 30, 2014 at 9:26 pm

made it tonight. Indeed very tasty. Next time I will probably double the molasses, I like molasses.

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I_S March 28, 2014 at 10:09 pm

I’m also wondering if the SDS needs to be refrigerated at all? I had an uncle who lived on the SD/MN border. When I was about 11 or 12 we went to his farm and I distinctly remember seeing this mason jar with disgusting contents on his kitchen counter. He explained that it was his sourdough starter. I had no real concept of what he was talking about but he said that that same jar had been sitting in that exact spot for more than thirty years. That was about 1979. I recall his starter looked quite a bit dryer and was more of a lump than a batter or dough. The jar looked like it had never been washed.

Is refrigeration really needed to keep a starter?

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Eric March 29, 2014 at 8:32 am

I’ve maintained a sourdough starter for about a year, and generally keep it at room temperature when I’m baking fairly often, and refrigerated when I’m not. If you keep your starter at room temperature you should simply feed it more often – a good rule of thumb is once a day if at room temperature, and once a week if in the fridge, though it takes a lot of neglect to kill a solid starter. I was away for two months recently, left my starter in the back of my fridge, and apart from being very acidic it was fine when I returned. Good luck!

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I_S March 28, 2014 at 9:53 pm

I made my first attempt at making my own SDS last week. After reading of the trials and tribulations of others I expected disaster. For fun I decided to try making SDS using the pineapple juice method and just using flour and water.

I used Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Stone Ground Organic Flour in both cultures and canned Dole pineapple juice in one and room temperature tap water straight from the tap in the other. The temp where I kept the cultures was about 63 degrees F.

Due to my erratic work schedule I forgot about the experiment for the first two days which meant I did not stir at all. Both samples were stratified at 60 hours and showed no signs of life when I remembered them. I gave them both a good stir making sure not to cross contaminate and went to step two.

I only remembered to stir them a total of two times during the next 48 hours and again both samples were stratified and showed no life. At 60 hours I found vigorous life in the pineapple culture and the water sample was stratified and appeared dead but I moved to step three.

I was in the kitchen making whole wheat no knead bread and whole wheat no knead vanilla cinnamon raisin bread and remembered to give the cultures a stir. To my amazement both samples were very alive and vigorous. Wow! The other interesting thing was both samples had the same aroma now. The pineapple culture had a deeper, more complex aroma than the water only sample but the aroma is identical.

Trouble is I don’t know what a SDS should smell like but these smell good enough that I’m definitely making bread with both of them next week.

Anyway I’ve completed step four now and both starters smell virtually identical. The pineapple juice culture is still deeper and more complex.

Who knew I could mistreat the cultures so badly and still get great SDS on the first try!

I’ve been home brewing beer for 25 years and I’d be interested in opinions on using beer yeasts to make dough. There is an enormous range of aromas and flavors that beer yeasts impart to beer and there are dozens of different beer yeasts. They even have wild sour yeast cultures that are used in lambic beer. If anyone has experience in using beer yeast to make bread I’d love to hear about it.

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maxine lesline March 25, 2014 at 6:46 pm

My first sourdough starter attempt is 48 hours old and seems to be ok… I spent a few minutes gazing at it lovingly thru the glass jar… oops here is teeny bubble… and another one ! My starchy neighbor
might be horrified, but two other neighbors have called to check on the progress here. They want to be informed daily…. is this fun or what?

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Breadtopia March 25, 2014 at 6:49 pm

I love it!

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Richard Cooper March 22, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I tried to make my first sourdough starter 3 weeks ago. Complete fail. I followed the instructions carefully, but it would not really rise. Oddly, the starter smelled right, and I used it to supplement and flavor my dough, but it would not rise. I didn;t know if I had missed something, but I had the right pineapple juice and the right whole wheat flour. Disappointed, I gave it one more try.

The start was the same, and by the fifth day, still no significant bubbles or rising. I realized my kitchen was cool, about 68 deg. So I left my container near a hot air register overnight. One corner was dried out a little the next morning, but the starter had risen significantly and smelled excellent. I transferred it to a glass starter jar, fed it, and about 4 hours later, the freshly fed starter rose more. In about 6 hours has doubled. :)

I had used the previous batch in pizza dough, and it tasted great, but did not rise. I am ready to bake using the new batch, can’t wait to use the batch….

If you are having difficulty, make sure you have a warm place for the starter. Really made THE difference for me.

Next is some purchases at the bread shop here. That Super Peel is looking mighty fine…And a stone for the oven.

I am new to this sourdough stuff, but I am tired of bread without a good flavor. this sourdough starter adds a great flavor to my pizza dough. With it working now, my pizza will get better yet!

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maxine lesline March 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hey Paul… Did your sourdough end up in a delish loaf of bread? Just getting ready to do this for first time in my looong life… 88yrs old. The comments here of people’s experiences are quite interesting.

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Paul March 23, 2014 at 9:23 am

When I got the last step and let it sit for almost the whole day I ended up with a jar half full of delicious smelling dough. I mixed it one last time and put it in the fridge. So I will either start my bread today or tomorrow, not sure what recipe to follow because I don’t want to bake the bread on Tuesday. So far, so good.

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Paul March 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm

So have looked at lots of different sourdough starter recipes on the web and decided to go with this one because of its simplicity and use of whole wheat. I am now on day 4 and things are looking promising. I fresh ground some whole wheat I had from Montana so I assume it was filled with yeasty bugs from Montana. In addition this wheat has been in my garage for almost a year and every time I open it to scoop out a few cups I’m sure I get some local yeast floating in, I also let it sit open outside on a very nice spring day for a half hour or so to collect even more local yeast . I just started step 3 and I have a fair amount of bubbles and it smells wonderful.

I am looking forward to my first loaf, whenever my starter tells me it is ready.

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Charlyn March 13, 2014 at 9:07 pm

How do you catch the wild yeast? I have read that different places give a different sourdough starter. I watched the video but what I don’t understand is with a lid on the jar of starter, how does the wild yeast get in. Thanks for your help.

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Carrie March 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hi, I live in Denver (high altitude), I have a starter that was made here. I watched your video on the no knead method and ordered the bakers & proof basket. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) 3 times to make the no knead bread. It’s got to be the altitude, just wondering if anyone else has tried with success and is willing to share the secret(s)?

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Barb March 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I’ve made no-kneed English Muffin Bread in Denver too many times to count with regular store-bought yeast. It comes out perfect every time. I’ve not tried home made sourdough starter yet so can’t account for that. I’m on this site tonight to learn how. : ) At any rate, if the altitude doesn’t hurt what I’ve been making I can’t see it hurting other kinds.

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Beth March 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm

My starter is a sweet one, fed with sugar, potato flakes and warm water. I have cut the sugar in half successfully. It is growing and making wonderful mixed-grain bread weekly.
How can I transform it into a whole wheat, not sweet starter? Thanks for your help.

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Breadtopia March 4, 2014 at 6:06 am

Hi Beth,

All you have to do is start feeding it only whole wheat flour and it will very soon be just that, a whole wheat starter. Sugar isn’t necessary at all to maintain a healthy starter. It only accelerates the fermentation process.

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Laura February 27, 2014 at 8:55 am

Hello!

Ok, this is my second time attempting a sourdough starter.. and I’m not sure what is going wrong. Both times, after three days, I get a sour smelling very bubbly starter but with absolutely no rise and it seems that most of the liquid rises to the top. I am following these directions exactly and with this second attempt I am on Day 5. I know something is happening due to the smell and the small fizzy bubbles but again, there is no “doubling in size” as I’ve read on other tutorials. Any suggestions? With the last attempt, it got bubbly in side as well and stringy when I stirred it but it just isn’t rising.

Thanks!
L

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Bill February 28, 2014 at 12:55 am

Hi Laura,
It sounds like your starter needs to be a little stiffer (dryer). If it’s too wet then the “walls” around the bubbles will collapse instead of allowing the starter to rise.

It seems that different flours are wetter or dryer with the same amount of water. After I got my starter bubbling I forgot about exact measurements and concentrated on texture. Many times I add a little too much water and have to throw in some extra flour to get the texture right. I let it double in size and then put it to sleep in the fridge for next week’s baking.

Good luck!

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Wendy February 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Eric, I just want to thank you. As a newbie bread baker I have found your videos an enormous help. They are very easy to follow and understand. I can read till I’m blue in the face and not get it. But watching your videos I get it. I made my own sour dough starter. It was fanastic. I even dried some of another I had purchased live. Thanks so much. Keep them coming!

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Carlos February 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

My starter over the past few feedings has developed a very strong almost acidic smell to it …not a unbearable smell but surely I would’nt consider it pleasant.That said it is very vibrant and bubbly still… has it gone bad ??!!

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Gene Huszcza February 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Well here is my latest White Sourdough Ciabatta. I finally GOT IT! This was made this weekend for Valentine’s Day.
It was made using the Sourdough Starter I got from “Breadtopia.com” called the “Pineapple Solution Starter” and using “Chef John’s No-Knead Sourdough Ciabatta” recipe that I adapted.
I used a full 1/3 cup of the white high gluten flour starter originally made using Whole Wheat Flour for the Pineapple Sourdough Starter and added 2 tsp. Kosher Salt.
I did a 14 hour initial rise in the KitchenAid mixing bowl on the counter top but covered tightly with plastic wrap. Then only a 1 1/2 hour rise cloth covered dough after shaping on the corn meal dusted pan. Baked for 33 minutes at 400ºF in a convection oven with a pan of boiling water on the bottom rack for the initial 12minutes.
It is the BEST BREAD (Ciabatta) I have ever made. Moist & tender inside with large air holes and a truly crispy crust.
I will say that the dough was extremely moist and sticky. And, if you don’t use Chef John’s process of shaping the dough on the flour-coated plastic wrap & then using it to transfer the dough to the large sheet pan, it would not work.
Good Luck if you try this.
Gene

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Ina February 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm

First successful looking loaf, after 3 bricks! Hope it taste as good as it looks, kept making mistakes re: proofing, not proofing etc hence the bricks!

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Matt February 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm

What does it mean if my sourdough starter smells sweet, not that early smell which was more sour. I made my starter about 4 months ago.

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Mary March 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I read someehere that starters go through different periods of sweet and sour or even cheese like smelling (slightly). This it said was perfectly normal and has to do with season changes, flour or water differences.

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Karen February 8, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Mine worked great- I planned poorly and had to take it on a business trip with me and use Chlorinated,hotel water, and it still worked!

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Cheri February 8, 2014 at 10:28 am

“Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.” I have completed all the steps and wondering what to do next?? The starter is much thicker than others starters I have made. Do I refrigerate this until i am ready to make bread, and how do i go about using it? I’m a little flabbergasted as to what to do next, and the video I used is missing…?? SOS :-)!

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Bill February 10, 2014 at 1:10 am

I keep my starter in the refrigerator. I bring it out and start feeding it the day before I want to bake bread. This gives me time to grow plenty of extra starter (two or three cups), which I like to use instead of following the recipes.

It doesn’t hurt to add more water if you think your starter is too stiff. Of course you probably know that if the starter is too wet it won’t double in size after feeding because the bubbles are escaping from the surface. This confuses many beginners.

Some of the videos were temporarily unavailable. The video you want may be back in service.

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anne February 7, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Re sourdough starter: how do you store what’s left after you taje what’s needed for your current baking project? In the refrigerator? How long will it be viable for new projects?

Thanks!

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Bill February 8, 2014 at 12:48 am

I use all of my starter except for a tablespoon or two. I feed it and leave it on the counter until it has doubled and then put it back in the refrigerator. I bring it out and start feeding it again the day before I am going to bake. I bake once a week.

My starter was in the fridge for a month last summer while we were on vacation. On the first couple of feedings after we returned it would make bubbles but would not come anywhere near to doubling in size. It took two or three days of feeding and leaving at room temperature before it came back strong.

The three videos about Managing, Drying and Reviving Starter were invaluable to me.

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Nick person February 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I tried my starter using high pulp OJ and rye flour. I didn’t have any pineapple. My starter looks and smells amazing after only the 3rd day.
Thanks,
Nick

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Gene Huszcza February 3, 2014 at 5:23 am

I tried your Pineapple Solution for making
Sourdough Starter and it worked very well.
After 72 hours in the step by step process, I
had great activity in this Starter. I do bake bread
about once a week, but not sourdough.
I have been using the Arisan Bread in 5 Minutes
A Day process. I tried using some left over dough
From that process to try making a sourdough
starter, but after a week I read detailed information
about potential bad bacteria that could develope, so I
decided to scrap that starter and try this Pineapple
Solution. I thank you for this great process and look
forward to making some great sour dough Ciabatta
I plan to make a white starter from this Whole Wheat
Sourdough Starter. Thank you and will let you know
how the Sourdough Ciabatta turns out.
Gene H. in Pompano Beach, Florida

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Breadtopia February 3, 2014 at 5:49 am

Excellent. Glad it’s working out so far.

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susan chute February 2, 2014 at 11:11 am

I enjoyed listening to videos, but I need to copy recipe. Don’t trust my note taking. I there any way I can get a hard copy od recipes?

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Elizabeth January 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Well today was the day I started my sourdough starter… I miss San Francisco extra sourdough so much (now living in NYC) I had to take the leap! I can’t find good sourdough bread here in NY. I miss the chewy crust with a mouth watering center. I do make a lot of bread, beer batter bread is my second favorite. Thanks for the tips!

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Larry Landon January 27, 2014 at 9:57 am

I made your starter. I have more action on the 2nd day then the attempt i did using King Arthur method on the 8th day.

Sure has a great fruity smell as it is working.
The starter is really working hard with tons of action

I put some of the starter in my sheepherder bread I made and it really has a great taste

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Megan January 26, 2014 at 6:13 am

Well, my first loaf attempt could have been used to hammer nails, but my second attempt has been much more successful! It’s edible…..that’s always a good start! (Actually – it’s quite delicious, with a mild but unmistakeable sour flavour.)
I don’t think my starter is very robust yet (my yeastie beastie is only a few weeks old), and I am hoping this will develop over time, but in the meantime, I have a very happy hubby (who loves his sourdough) and am feeling very pleased with my early efforts.
Thanks to all the people who share their experiences – they all help!

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Paulose January 25, 2014 at 5:38 am

On day 4 and it’s looking nice and bubbly and smells like yeast. How about a bread recipe to use this with?

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Tony January 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Hello, I usually don’t make replies but am quite proud of this accomplishment and had to share. I know everyone says to use purified water but the tap water we have must be good for a Sourdough Starter. I did change the amounts some. Day one, 2 tblsp. each AP flour and pineapple juice. Stirred, covered and forgot about it till the next day, stirred once and covered again. Day three, added 2 tblsp. each AP flour and pineapple juice. Stirred well and covered, day four stirred and covered. Today is day five, I added 1/4 cup tap water and 1/4 cup AP flour, and within three hours it has doubled. It seems that a couple of more feedings I’ll be able to start using it. Hooray finally away from commercial yeast unless I want a fast rise. Thank-you so very much.

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Bill January 25, 2014 at 2:01 am

The tap water here in Valencia, Spain is pretty harsh so I use a Britta filter. I’m inspired by your experience, though. I’m going to separate some starter and give it a try. Thanks for the info.

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Dennis January 25, 2014 at 2:28 am

I live in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I grew my starter using tap water and it came out great. I’ve been using it with very tasty results.

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Breadtopia January 25, 2014 at 6:53 am

That’s great, Tony.

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Christopher Dobney January 25, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I always use tap water, and I’d match my starter up with anyone’s in terms of vigor.

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Sara January 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

Hi Bread Lovers,

I have a friend who just passed me a sourdough starter in a little plastic bag. I have to say it sounds very complicated. So, I have my little bag which my friend told me I can even keep out of the fridge (note there are normally 12 degrees in my house). Now, I am going home and I want to bake a bread. What do I do? Do I take 2 big spoons of the living thing and mix it with my 500 grams bread? And then I ‘feed’ the living batter with 1 sprinkle of salt, 1 sprinkle of sugar, 2 big spoons of yeast and 2 big spoons of flour? Do I have to do that every day or only every time after I used it? If I feed it now how long do I have to wait before I use it for my bread again?

sorry about all this questions, I love sourdough and really want to give it a go!! thank you

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Lesley January 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Hi Sara
If your starter is already active you should only have to feed it with flour and water. There is a place on this website that tells you how to maintain your starter. Just to the left here. For more reliable results I would find a recipe for my first time sourdough baking. There are several on this website as well.
I have had nothing but good results by following the instructions on this site. Good luck to you.
Lesley

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Bill January 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Hi Sara,
Do be sure to use non chlorinated water, bottled or filtered. You probably already know that, though.

Your rise times will be slower, but not necessarily as slow as some of these recipes indicate. I use more starter than called for and it seems to speed things up. The videos have really helped me. I recommend Managing Your Sourdough Starter to begin with.

The starter is sleeping when it’s in the fridge. Out in the room, or in a warm spot in the house, give it enough food and it’ll come out of the jar and take over the house!
Enjoy!

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Notjustachick January 22, 2014 at 9:32 am

SO… about a year ago (maybe a lil’ less) I had a thriving sour dough starter – which – over the course of some life “stuff” got pushed to the back of the fridge – a couple times, I’ve taken it out.. with the intent to feed – etc – but it ended up back in the fridge. Last night – took it out, cleanned out the jar – took about 1/4 cup of the creamy “goo” that was once my active started, and fed/water….stirred… now I’m hoping it’ll liven back up – any tips on how to get it thriving again??? (this morning there was bubbles on top, and appeared more “watery” – so I think it’s a sign that there’s still some “life”?!?)

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Bill January 23, 2014 at 2:50 am

It sounds like your starter is on the way to recovery. I left mine in the fridge for a month while traveling last summer. On return, it was alive but took about a week of feeding before it was strong and ready to double its size on demand.

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Chris January 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Like a kid at Christmas!!!! Day 5 and looks just like the video. Been baking all of 2 months & love it! Now this!!! WEEEEEE!

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Kathie January 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I have a started that I did a few weeks ago. I’ve had it in the fridge and it has a very good sour smell and overall looks pretty good. However – it is VERY thick. I saw a previous comment to add a little more water or juice, but what kind of consistency should starter have to give me an idea of what to look for.
Thanks!!
Kathie

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Christopher Dobney January 20, 2014 at 3:27 pm

A starter doesn’t have to be any particular consistency, the exception being that you want it to be thick enough that it will expand when you feed it rather than the bubbles just rising to the top. A poolish starter can be the consistency of pancake batter, while a pate fermente used in French bread can be the consistency of a finished bread dough.

It’s really a matter of preference. For home use, I find that about a 100% hydration (equal parts flour and water, by weight,) is the easiest for me to work with.

Chris

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Christopher Dobney January 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

P.S. There is no reason to use juice after the initial development of the starter. Once the correct lactobacilli have taken hold, it’s very difficult foe any other type of organism to gain a foothold in your culture.

Just use water.

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Kathie January 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Thank you very much! This is my first try at sourdough. I’ve been making more and more bread over the past year. I’m excited to see if I can make a good sourdough.

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Christopher Dobney January 20, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Don’t worry, you will. It’s important to realize it may take a few times to get it just right (third time was a charm for me.) :)

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Jim January 9, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hi
I notice in the videos that all the steps have the starter covered after feeding and mixing.
As the starter is developing, apparently the air in the covered container is enough to keep it alive between stirring and feeding?
Also, when the starter is to be placed into the refrigerator for long periods, using a glass jar with a gasket, how does it survive?
Just need to know how air plays a part. To me the starter is alive, needing air. I’m a bit confused.
Thank you.

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Christopher Dobney January 11, 2014 at 5:32 am

Actually, the starter needs air to multiply, but not to survive. While it’s suspended in the flour/water solution it still eats and produces CO2, but only the yeast on the surface, in contact with the air, is actually “budding.”

So the short answer is yes, the air is sufficient to keep the yeast alive, but it IS necessary to vigorously stir the starter several times daily during its development to aerate the starter and allow the yeast to reproduce.

For further info, see Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdough book He’s a microbiologist by trade and explains it quite thoroughly.

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Phil January 2, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Today is the 5th day and I found what looks like mold on top. Looks like tiny little hair or spider web.

Is is spoiled? Do I need to try again?

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I_Fortuna January 5, 2014 at 9:27 pm

It sounds like it died by starvation. It is hard to tell without seeing it. I would start over. It is really easy to make a sourdough starter with just water, flour and sugar. If you find a recipe you think you can enjoy using, try following it closely. If you used sweetened pineapple juice (not recommended) some unwanted yeast or bacteria may have intruded. Make sure your jar for the starter is super clean even boil it. If there was bacteria from a previous food in the jar it may have taken over before the starter got a foot hold. You might even try buying a completely, new, unused jar and washing it well with hot water and soap. Be sure to rinse it well to be sure it is free of soap before using it. Keeping a journal of your activites and outcome might really help as well.
Maybe others could weigh in on this and help you better.

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Bill January 6, 2014 at 2:50 am

I_Fortuna, I agree with your comments about beginning with a clean jar. Using a clean spoon each time you stir is also a good idea.

I like the unsweetened pineapple recipe because the acidity of the pineapple juice retards contamination. I watched the Making and the Managing Starter videos several times each to make sure I understood all the steps.

Good luck!

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Phil January 6, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Thanks to both of you for your advice. I did not use pineapple juice, only water (pure water)

I’ll start over. Thanks again

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Charles January 2, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I live in New Zealand and made my first sourdough starter this week, I used rye flour and on day four, it rises and has doubled overnight.

I was worried about mould which can be prolific in NZ so I steamed my container and spoons when I started. I steam the utensils every time before I work with my starter. Don’t know if it helps but I am very happy with the results.

I never thought I would be able to do this! Thank you.

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Megan January 2, 2014 at 12:18 am

Hi, this is my first attempt at this technique (after a failed attempt with just flour and water). I am on step 2 and am seeing very little activity. I’m about 24 hours past the second lot of pineapple juice and whole wheat flour. It smells fine and has what I assume are glutinous strands when I stir it (kind of like mozzarella) but no bubbles within the liquid. There are generally a few bubbles (maybe 4-6?) on top when I take the lid off to stir it, but none throughout the mixture.
Am I just being a little impatient, or should I be seeing more by now?

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Lesley January 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Hi Megan,
I’d give it more time if you’re only into 24 hours. If you continue and don’t have success you might want to try whole rye flour. I found it seems to ferment easier.

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Megan January 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Ok, so I think I’m on the right track, but am still a little unsure. I went on to step 3 as described above, and 24 hours later I had a beautiful network of bubbles throughout the starter. I then did step 4 and 12 hours later there are still bubbles throughout the mix, but no rise at all. Shouldn’t the mixture have increased in size? The only extra size I’m getting is from the additional ingredients I’ve added.

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Lesley January 5, 2014 at 12:15 am

It sounds like your starter is ready Megan. I suggest you have a look at the video about managing your starter. Sometimes your starter needs a bit more flour to rise. If it’s too wet it will just have bubbles.

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Megan January 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Thanks Lesley! Over the last few days I’ve made the mix a little drier, by adding more flour than water. Combined with the higher temps we have been having in Melbourne (Australia) over the last few days, my starter has really kicked along. The bubbles are now starting very shortly after feeding, and I am getting some rise. If anyone is thinking that theirs might not have worked, my advice would be to wait a little longer than the instructions above convey, as all may not be lost!
Now to bake some bread…..

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Mary December 30, 2013 at 9:07 am

I noticed that you used a metal whisk to stir your starter. I was told to never use any metal to stir or use the sour dough starter. Is there any truth to this?

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Breadtopia December 31, 2013 at 8:21 am

Hi Mary,

I wouldn’t store sourdough starter in a metal container long term, but otherwise the whole metal thing is a myth.

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sandra December 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm

This is my forth attempt. day two it looks like pancake batter but has the texture of glue or paste. Should I continue to work with it or toss it and go for number 5?

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Bill December 27, 2013 at 9:32 am

I’m no expert but I’d give it another day or two. Feed it a bit of flour and water each day and stir it every 8 hours or so.

The texture may be a tad dry but if you get it too wet you’ll just see bubbles on top and the mix won’t expand (rise).

Either way, once you see bubbles you’re good to go.

Good luck!

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Jackie December 27, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Mine isn’t doing anything either, but I keep my house at about 60 degrees; I think it’s just too cold. I’ll just use my “herman” starter to get things rolling. Way too sweet but frothy and healthy and it might give my new starter a tiny lift…..

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Heide December 23, 2013 at 9:01 am

Hi,

I am living in very far north China, and am unable to find pineapple juice (as we know it) here. Can I use fresh juice drained from a pineapple I just cut? Or do you think it should be heated first (like they do for bottled juices and the like)?

Thanks,
-Heide

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Breadtopia December 23, 2013 at 9:03 am

Sure, that’s fine. No need to heat first.

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Heide December 23, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Thanks for such a speedy response!

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Eve December 24, 2013 at 9:03 am

Actually, there’s no need to add any juice at all. Just water and flour does the job!

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Rainer December 26, 2013 at 1:30 am

You`re right
I do it always with water

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Rocket December 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Hello there. Great video! I was wondering a few things:

At what point the starter is ready to use?

How much for a loadf (2 1/2 cup loaf I asusume)?

After so long, does it go bad or need more pineapple juice?

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Bill December 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

There is another great video on Managing Your Sourdough Starter that will teach you how to care for it.

Moving forward you will be feeding the starter with water and flour. But not water straight from the tap. No chlorine. The video is very helpful.

The recipes on this site give amounts of starter to use. I always use more just because I like to play with my starter and I don’t like to discard it.

If you’re using another recipe you might extrapolate from one of these recipes.

Good luck and enjoy!

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Rocket December 25, 2013 at 12:10 am

Hey BIll,

Thanks for the reply. Do you happen to have a link to the video you referenced? Thanks so much for the help.

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Sandra December 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

I’m not sure what I am doing wrong…..I get lots of bubbles in the mix but it’s not rising…what would cause that? Thanks.

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Christopher Dobney December 11, 2013 at 1:47 pm

If you’re getting bubbles but no rise, try thickening your starter a bit.

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Sandra December 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Thank you Christopher!!!!!

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Sandra December 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Actually, if there is a lot of bubbles but not a lot of rise to it is it still a viable starter? Could one still work with it? Thanks.

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Christopher Dobney December 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I’m not quite sure what you’re describing. Are you talking about bubbles on the top, like froth on a beer, or can you see bubbles in the starter when you look at the side of the jar? If you’re using the pineapple juice method, it’s possible but not likely that you have a contaminated starter. What does it smell like? Does it have an acetone smell, like paint remover?

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Sandra December 6, 2013 at 9:14 am

Hello,
When making a sourdough starter does it always need to be started with a whole grain flour? Can one be started with an all-purpose white spelt flour…would that work?
Thanks.

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Breadtopia December 6, 2013 at 9:17 am

Hi Sandra,

Sure, that will work. Supposedly there’s a higher probability of success with a whole grain flour as there may be more yeast in the wheat, but just about any grain or flour can work.

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Sandra December 6, 2013 at 10:09 am

Thanks. One more question…. could I use a spelt starter to make a rye bread? Or do you have to bake with the same flour as your starter? Thanks again.

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Breadtopia December 11, 2013 at 6:04 am

You can use any kind of starter. The more important thing is that the starter be healthy.

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Christopher Dobney December 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

No problem. just add some water (or juice, depending on which stage you’re at.)

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Mark December 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Thanks
it looks better already, going on 2nd day.

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Mark December 4, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I just started my starter, not that hard, but it looks like I messed up.
My starter is real thick. Should I add more juice, start over, or leave it alone. I really wanted to give bread for Christmas.
Thanks for any help.
Mark

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Denise December 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

Can somebody tell me how I can achieve a lovely ‘holey’ loaf – mine are always so solid. I have even bought myself a cloche as I had read where that can certainly improve things – but sadly not for me.

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Bill December 3, 2013 at 1:11 am

Denise,
I wanted large floppy ‘holey’ slices of bread for my morning toast. I changed the Whole Spelt Sourdough recipe a bit and have had consistent results for months. (Something of a miracle for me.)

Instead of using 5 cups of whole spelt flour I use three cups of the whole spelt four and two cups of whole wheat flour. I also use 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sourdough starter. I’m not sure if the additional starter makes any difference. I just like to play with my starter and so I end up with this much when I’m waking it up from the fridge.

When I’m doing the stretching steps I sprinkle out enough flour so that the dough is not so sticky, at least on the surface.

After the third stretching step I gently roll out the dough to the length I need and transfer it directly to my buttered metal baking pan. I let the dough rise for two or three hours, until it begins to top the pan and then I preheat the oven and bake it. My oven spring is variable.

I use two pans and get similar results. Since the dough is not stiff, when the weather is warm it sometime escapes the shorter pan during the rise and starts crawling across the counter.

12 x 4.5 x 2.5 inches
12 x 4.5 x 3 inches

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