A Sourdough Starter…

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I have wanted to make ‘artisan’ baked goods for a long time now. The staple of any decent Artisan bakery being the sourdough bread, in my opinion.

I first experimented with a sourdough starter back in the summer. To be honest, I probably tried to achieve too much at once – embarking on two different types of starter at the same time (thinking I would achieve a time economy in the ‘feeding’ process). However, I only yielded one rye loaf which did not rise as much as I had hoped. I think this was a result of lack of ‘feeding’ and nurturing. That said, it was intensely flavoursome.

Anyway, a sourdough starter serves three purposes – it acts as a raising agent, prolongs the shelf life and enhances the flavour and texture of the bake.

The flavour will depend on the starter ‘aid’ and the age, or maturity of the sourdough starter. Therefore, is it fair to say that no two sourdough loaves will taste the same.

So in my early experimentation I used raisins as a starter aid in one batch, and organic rye flour in the other batch. Both offer the nutrients, wild yeast and bacteria required for a successful starter. However, I personally have had more success with this Paul Hollywood sourdough starter recipe which uses organic apples as the starter aid.

Followed stage by stage, you can achieve a fool proof sourdough starter. I tentatively left mine in the fridge for 12 days whilst I went away on holiday. After a ‘feed’ and a further day wait, my starter was in great shape so I was eager to put it to good use.

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Maybe you are not as excited as I am by these fermented bubbles (you are probably a normal person) but they open up a whole new baking dimension for me. There are so many glorious recipes which include a sourdough starter that I am eager to try. Totally worth a little nurturing. Watch this space…

Paul Hollywood's Sourdough Starter


  • 1kg strong white bread flour
  • 1 organic apple, grated with skin
  • 360ml tepid water


    Day 1
  1. Mix 500g of the strong white flour with the grated apple and water. Tip this mixture into a large airtight container. Cover and leave to ferment for 3 days.
  2. Day 4
  3. The mixture should now have a sweet smell, have grown in in size and will have some bubbles. Discard half of the mixture and 'feed' the starter by adding 250g of flour and 170ml of water. Mix thoroughly, cover again and leave for a further 2 days.
  4. Day 6
  5. If the starter is full of small bubbles, it is active. Discard half the quantity and 'feed' it again by adding the remaining 250g of flour and enough water to return the starter to a wet, sloppy consistency. Leave for a further 24 hours. If it becomes thick and bubbly, it is ready to use.
  6. Generally
  7. Store your starter at room temperature if you are using it regularly, feeding it every 3 days.
  8. Store in the fridge if you are using less frequently and feed the starter a day before using. Allow the starter to come up to room temperature prior to using.

Source: From Paul Hollywood’s ‘How To Bake’ & paulhollywood.com


  1. This is fascinating! Those fermented bubbles never fail to amaze me. I adore sourdough bread as much as the next gal and I’ve read about it and been amazed by how the starter could be passed down for ages but the thought of making my own has been, well, a non-starter for me. It is a daunting idea but the fact that you did it is so interesting and encouraging. Great job!

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Thanks Monica, I gal after my own heart! Yes, the concept of the starter is amazing. I even read a newspaper article recently about starter ‘hotels’ where you can take your starter for feeding whilst on vacation!! Somewhat extreme – I say put it in the fridge and hope for the best. I digress, yes, the starter is amazing and it does mean that every loaf is unique. I urge you to give it a try my friend 🙂

      • The ‘hotel’ thing is rather extreme but if I had some hundred-year-old starter passed down from generations, I might consider it! You really got me craving sourdough bread and every time I have some at restaurants now, I’m thinking of this…

  2. I’m a bit late to this post but I just wanted to share my experience with sourdough as I make mine different from yours.

    I have a rye sourdough starter in my fridge that’s been going for over a year now. I started it, and always start my sourdough starters, with only organic rye flour and water. Every kitchen is different but in my kitchen that works like magic. The flour has to be organic since it contains more “bits” and bacteria than conventional flour and that creates a better environment for the fermentation process. I think that using organic flour means you don’t need any fruit or yogurt since the flour contains all you need to start the fermentation.

    If I want to make a wheat sourdough starter I use a bit of the rye sourdough and mix with wheat flour and water and then the same process. It usually kicks in and starts bubbling in just a few hours. My rye sourdough is very strong! 😀

    I also make a much smaller sourdougstarter than you. I only mix about 1 heaped table spoon of flour and 2 tbs of water in the jar and feed is about 1 and 1 of each every 2-3 days and keep it in the fridge when I don’t use it. I think this is because I have an extra step when I make the bread, see below 🙂

    When I want to make bread I only take about 30 grams (for two loaves) and mix with 200 grams strong wheat flour and about 100 grams of water and mix in to a loose dough and leave in a Tupperware overnight in a warm place. The next morning it has the consistency of chocolate mousse and I mix in about 600 grams of wheat flour (depends on the flour), water and whatever else I want in it. And the usual, knead, prove and so on. 🙂

    I never have to discard any sourdough starter since I don’t have that much in the jar so I think it’s more economical. The downside is that I have to plan a bit more and make sure I remember to make that first mix the night before.

    A few other things I’ve learnt from sourdough:
    Organic flour is a must!
    Stone milled flour is better, gives better sourdough and better proving.
    It’s very hard to kill a sourdoughstarter…. Just feed it and leave it in room temperature and it will start again.
    If it doesn’t prove in a few hours, just leave it for another couple of hours. Sourdough needs time.
    If making a traditional levain with wheat sourdough you’ll get better proving if you add about 25 grams of rye flour to the dough per loaf (rye is magic, it just helps the process along!)

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Hi Jo,

      A somewhat belated response but thank you for your detailed comments. Indeed, I have taken on board some of your comments and now have a ‘hearty’ starter – from organic rye – which I keep in the fridge and revive every so often! I very much appreciate your contribution. Thank you!


    • Nicola Heynes says:

      Hi Jo do you keep yours in an airtight container or just put a cloth over it? I’m opening a resume to week and I’m very keen to bake our own sourdough bread.

      • thecontentedbaker says:


        I always use a lidded/sealed container for the starter but I let my bread prove under a cloth, or tea towel.
        Hope that helps.

  3. Jayne Phillips says:

    my starter has doubled in size in one day. Do I still wait to day 4 or shall I remove 50% now and feed?

    • thecontentedbaker says:

      Your starter sounds very active! Remove 50% now and use, and feed the remainder.
      Good luck! Hope you get a lovely loaf!


  1. […] own, sourdough bread (and other bakes) can be regular bakes in my kitchen henceforth. Check out my A Sourdough Starter post to get your starter going. Both the starter and this (quantity adapted) recipe come from […]

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