Not Your Mama's Whole Wheat Bread - Part 1, Sourdough Starter

Super Easy Sourdough Starter

make your own sourdough starter

I remember my first taste of homemade whole wheat bread. I was staying with family friends who liked to eat healthy. The wife was so proud to unveil the loaf she made, just for us. It looked a bit like this...

But at least it tasted like this...

No really. I don't think she even added any salt.


Fortunately,  artisan bread makers have shared their secrets with us. So making light, tasty whole grain bread is something ANYONE can do. The work is really very minimal. Good bread is mostly about patience. Time and yeast will do most of the work for you.

Start with Starter. I know. It seems intimidating. But really, if you made flour "paste" as a kid, you got this.

Get a large cereal bowl or a small mixing bowl, Make sure it's clean.

Bob's Red Mill Dark Rye Flour

Add in 1/2 cup of rye flour (even if you're not making rye bread, rye flour is a favorite place for natural yeast to hang out). I like using stone ground whole grains. They are more nutritious than refined grains. But they go bad more quickly - as is the case with all real food. So check the expiration dates. And give your grains a sniff before using. When grains go off, they smell a bit rancid.

Add about 3/4 cup of filtered or bottled water. Yeast is not a fan of chlorinated water. Stir it up. It should be about as thick as pancake batter. Don't worry about getting it perfect. Put a dishtowel over the bowl and let it sit on your counter. I actually like using a 100% cotton cloth diaper. They allow air to circulate but protect the starter from kitchen ick like grease or dust. And they wash well, unlike cheese cloth.

Gerber 3 ply cotton diapers
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The next day, add another quarter cup of rye flour and a third cup of water. Stir, cover and let it be.
Do this again daily for 4-6 more days. If you have too much starter for the bowl, use it in your favorite pancake or muffin recipe, give it to a friend, add it to your compost, or toss it out. Don't put it down the sink. That's an expensive visit from roto-rooter. Not that I would know personally or anything.

As the days pass, you will see little bubbles start to appear on the surface of your starter. The yeast is alive, eating, and well, having gas. This is a good thing. It's what will make your bread airy and light instead of a horrible brick. 

I made this short (under 2 min.) video just to show you what to look for...

Grain of Truth by Stephen YafaThe natural yeast, allowed to predigest your bread dough, will make it easier to digest and lower the glycemic index (see Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa).

Once your starter has come to life, it will smell a bit alcoholish. You can store it in the fridge where it will "hybernate." I make bread about twice a week. When I do, I use about 1/2 the starter in the fridge. I feed the other half with water and flour and put it back. If you don't bake with it as regularly, be sure to feed it weekly. Set an alarm on your phone if you're middle aged and prone to forgetting - not that this has ever happened to me. And if your starter dies, oh well. It's flour and water. Just make more. 

In my next post, I will make a multigrain bread using wheat, einkorn, and spelt flours. My secret ingredient is the "whey" I drain off of my homemade soy yogurt. You should make that too. No really. It's amaze-balls. 


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