Sourdough Bread Starter

Sourdough breads need a starter. Starters are variously known as sponge, poolish, or biga in different countries/languages. The concept is the same even if the starters differ in texture. Basically it is a flour and water mix, with optional yeast added, which is allow to ferment for a time before being used to make bread. This is the starter I used for my French Pain de Campagne then for my Italian Ciabatta. I’ve been growing my starter in the fridge consistently since July 2006.

Sourdough Bread Starter

Steven Thomas


Ingredients to kick off

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 325 ml water 1/3 boiling water and 2/3 cold tap water
  • 350 grams strong white flour

Ingredients to replenish the starter

  • 125 grams strong white flour
  • 125 ml 1/2 cup water


Instructions to kick off

  • Sprinkle the yeast into the water in a large glass jar (or medium sized glass bowl). Leave for 5 min to dissolve.
  • Stir flour into the yeasty water.
  • Cover. Leave to ferment for 2-3 days at room temperature, stirring once per day.
  • The mixture will become bubbly and sour smelling.
  • Store covered in the refrigerator until needed.

Instructions to replenish the starter

  • Stir into the remaining starter
  • Leave to ferment for 1 day at room temperature.
  • The mixture will be bubbly and sour smelling.
  • Store covered in the refrigerator until needed stirring occasionally.


First you need to kick off the starter. Purists don't add yeast, and instead allow the natural yeast in the flour to develop. I was in a rush, and it was my first sour dough, so I didn't try that.
Replenish the starter when you use any (to get the bulk back up to what you need, or once a week regardless to keep the yeast alive. Always replenish the starter with an equal amount of flour and water. And use enough flour and water to replace the quantity of starter you took out for the recipe. My recipes all use 250 grams of starter, and these are the quantities to replenish. I usually make a loaf each weekend, so I replenish the starter then. The starter will survive a couple of weeks without food, as I discovered when going on holiday.

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