Making a starter at home today is relatively easy when using active dry yeast. Plan to prepare your starter a few days before you wish to bake so that it has ample time to develop. As you will see,starters can be made with white, whole wheat, and even rye flour, each imparting its own distinct characteristics to the finished bread.
See a blog post featuring this recipe by Jen at My Kitchen Addiction: http://www.mykitchenaddiction.com/2012/01/make-your-own-sourdough-starter/
This recipe makes 1 starter
|Bread Flour||3+1/2 cup|
|Active Dry Yeast||2+1/4 tsp|
In a 4-quart nonmetallic container, dissolve yeast in warm water (110º to 115º F); let stand 5 minutes. Add flour and sugar. Stir by hand until blended. The mixture will be thick; any remaining lumps will dissolve during the fermentation process. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand in warm place for 5 days, stirring 2 to 3 times each day. The starter will rise and fall during the fermentation period; it becomes thinner as it stands. A temperature of 80º to 85º F is best for developing the sour flavor. When the starter is developed, it is bubbly and may have a yellow liquid layer on top; stir starter before using. The starter can be used for baking or placed in the refrigerator for later use.
To use the starter, measure out desired amounts as specified in the recipe. Let refrigerated starter come to room temperature before using; this will take about 4 hours.
After using the a portion of the starter for a recipe, replenish remaining starter with 3 parts flour to 2 parts water (example: if you use 1 cup starter, add back 1 cup flour and 2/3 cup water) and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir until blended; some lumps may remain. Cover loosely and let stand in warm place for 10 to 12 hours or overnight. The starter will rise and become bubbly. Stir and store in refrigerator. If the starter is not used every week, stir in 1 teaspoon sugar to keep it active.
Visit our Lessons in Yeast & Baking for more information on baking.