Jar of sourdough starter, flowing over edges

Sourdough starter

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(19 ratings)

5 days feeding the starter, chilling and cooling

More effort

Makes 2 loaves (12-15 slices each)

Learn how to make a bubbling sourdough starter using white bread flour and water. After feeding the starter for five days, you can use it to make a sourdough loaf

Nutrition and extra info

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan


  • kcal-
  • fat-
  • saturates-
  • carbs-
  • sugars-
  • fibre-
  • protein-
  • salt-
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  • 250g strong white bread flour, preferably organic or stoneground


  1. Day 1:

    To begin your starter, mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water in a jar or, better still, a plastic container. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for 24 hrs. 

  2. Day 2:

    Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

  3. Day 3:

    Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

  4. Day 4:

    You should start to see some activity in the mixture now; there should be some bubbles forming and bubbling on top. Mix 50g flour with 50g tepid water and stir into yesterday’s mixture. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and leave, semi-uncovered, at room temperature for another 24 hrs.

  5. Day 5:

    The mixture should be very active now and ready for making your levain (starter). If it’s not bubbling, continue to feed it on a daily basis until it does. When it’s ready, it should smell like yogurt. 

  6. You now have a starter, which is the base to the bread. You’ll need to look after it, but naming is optional! Keep it in the fridge (it will stay dormant) and 24 hrs before you want to use it, pour half of it off and feed it with 100g flour and 100g water. Leave it at room temperature and it should become active again. The longer the starter has been dormant, the more times it will need to be refreshed – the process of pouring off half the starter and replacing it with new flour and water – to reactivate. If your starter is ready to use, a teaspoonful of the mixture should float in warm water.

    The starter can now be used to make white sourdough bread.

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Comments, questions and tips

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Sonya Moseley's picture
Sonya Moseley
14th Jun, 2020
Hi, I’ve used wholemeal bread flour, I’m on day five with no sign of any activity. Will this recipe work with wholemeal flour? Thank you
Amanda Platts's picture
Amanda Platts
5th Jun, 2020
I tried other started recipes before I came across this one (more faffy ones) and they all failed on me. I was about to give up on sour dough then I found this. Soo happy that it finally worked and the loaves were amazing even though I had no proofing baskets or dutch oven. I used steel bowl and tea towel as proofing bowel and oven proof pan with a tray on top instead of Dutch oven.
Lynn Williams's picture
Lynn Williams
3rd Jun, 2020
I didnt read recipe properly and started with plain white flour realised day four should i chuck and start again or continue using strong bread flour ,there are some small bubbles on top
Adam Townsend's picture
Adam Townsend
3rd May, 2020
My started was very active at day 3 - but now day 5 and just looks like curdled custard and smells absolutely awful! Have I done anything wrong?
Dominika Kaliszewska's picture
Dominika Kaliszewska
24th Mar, 2020
I don't discard the starter - such a waste and keep it in room temperature because I bake 3 times a week,
23rd Mar, 2020
Fun activity when isolating!! ....saves money and makes food!
1st Jun, 2020
I forgot to feed it on day 3... should o throw away and start again, or just feed when i realise and carry on?
lulu_grimes's picture
7th Jun, 2020
Hi, You just feed it and keep going if you've only forgotten one day, I hope it has turned out ok. Lulu
24th May, 2020
I am on day 9 of making me starter. I am using strong white bread flour. On day 3 there were lots of bubbles but after that it has just been completely flat with no bubbles. I have tried pouring half away and then the next day it was great but then the day after that it was just super flat again. I have followed the recipe precisely and I have no idea what has gone wrong! Any advice?
lulu_grimes's picture
26th May, 2020
Hi, It sounds as if your starter is fine, you just need to catch it at the right point to continue with the recipe. It will activate after feeding but once it runs out of the feed it will slump back down again, but this is normal. Feed it and watch it until it is bubbly and active and then do the float test at that point to continue with the recipe. It's warm at the moment so things can happen much more quickly. Mine has taken 4 hours to activate this morning. I hope this helps, Lulu
23rd May, 2020
I have followed the sourdough recipe in the May issue but find the dough quite difficult to work with when trying to shape and make into a tight ball tends to stick to worktop and my fingers any advice?
22nd May, 2020
I am on my second attempt with this recipe, so I’ve decided to ask a few niggling questions. What is the consistency supposed to be like? Mine is rather runny. It is sticky, but I am a bit worried that it is too runny. What kind of flour should we use? Should be try to use one with protein over 11g? 12g? Does it matter? I am in day 4 after 12 hours from the last feed (day 3) and it looks hungry - deflated, with marks on the sides of the jar. What do I do? Feed it now or wait 12 more hours until 24 h? Thank you!
lulu_grimes's picture
22nd May, 2020
Hello, It sounds like it needs feeding again so you could do that rather than wait, but it won't come to harm if you don't feed it. IS it somewhere cool? The warmer it is the more often it needs feeding, it's hot where I am at the moment and mine is rising and falling within hours. Use a bread/strong/high protein flour for it. Don't worry too much about the consistency, it gets thicker as it activates and then can thin again, mine was runnier for the first month or so, and then gradually got thicker. It's like really thick pouring cream now. I hope this helps. Lulu
22nd May, 2020
It helps, thank you!
18th May, 2020
Hi. Just checking if I understand it. For the first 5 days I add 50g of each flour and water and from then on I pour half out and add 100g of each flour and water, and should wait 24hr at room temperature before using it. Is that it?
lulu_grimes's picture
18th May, 2020
Yes, once you have a 500g of starter you will need to halve it so the 'feed' you are adding is enough to feed it. You can use the starter you don't use to make crackers or pancakes. There's a guide below. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ideas-using-sourdough-starter Lulu


Gary Roussak's picture
Gary Roussak
20th Jun, 2020
The instructions for the starter don't appear to say anything about the smell. I'm pretty sure this happens with most starter making, despite your water or the exact type of flour you use, but my starter at day 4 smelt like a piece of camembert that someone had been sick on (sorry for the graphic description....). It was tempting to think that it had all gone wrong and should be thrown away. Don't. At about this stage, there's a bacteria which predominates called Leuconostoc which is supposed to be responsible for the stink. It's a natural process. Keep feeding the starter and you'll find the bad odour reduces and changes, probably at about day 6; becomes more like a .... not sure how best to describe .... a fruity, more yeasty aroma. Hope this helps. Happy starter making!