How to Make a Yeast Starter

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Wild yeast lives in the air all around you, ready to begin feeding on flour so you can capture it for making bread. Starters are typically used for sourdough and other artisanal loaves because of the sour, pungent flavor they impart. A starter can survive for years if you make it properly and if you spend a few moments feeding it weekly.

How to Make a Yeast Starter
(Pamela Follett/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring cups
  • Kitchen scale
  • Glass bowl or jar
  • Flour
  • Distilled or unchlorinated water
  • Mixing spoon
  • Plastic wrap
Step 1

Fill a measuring cup with 1 cup of water and set it on the counter for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Alternatively, use distilled or unchlorinated bottled water.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 2

Mix together equal parts water and flour, for example, 4 ounces of water with 4 ounces of flour. Measure the flour with a kitchen scale to verify the weight, because the amount of flour in 4 ounces varies depending on whether you use white flour or whole-wheat. Stir the ingredients together in a large glass mixing cup or bowl until the mixture is smooth.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 3

Cover the container loosely with plastic wrap to keep dust out, but not so tightly that air doesn't circulate inside the container. Set the starter in a 70 to 75 degree Fahrenheit location for 24 hours.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 4

Remove half the starter and dispose of it. Mix in equal parts chlorine-free water and flour, using the same amount as you did initially, until smooth. This process is called feeding the starter. Replace the plastic wrap and set the starter back in a warm area.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 5

Feed the starter twice daily beginning on the third day, when bubbles usually begin appearing. Continue to feed the starter twice daily until it becomes bubbly and frothy, with the signature aroma of sourdough.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media
Step 6

Remove up to half the starter when making bread, and feed it promptly so it can replenish its yeast. Allow the starter to sit out for 24 hours after each feeding, and then store it in the fridge. Feed the starter once weekly even if you don't use it for baking.

Pamela Follett/Demand Media

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