I have not been one to use white flour in a very long time. In fact, I can't recall the last time I honestly bought a bag of it from the store. I think it was about 5 years ago to make some recipe that "required" it. The white flour sat around for so long, that it turned into a block of white concrete in the New Jersey humidity! I ended up making the recipe that "required" it with whole wheat flour and it must have turned out okay because no one seems to recall a failed flour recipe!
Sourdough starter is one of those recipes that I will never make with white flour. Although some people may claim that you can't make the starter without it, white flour has not been around nearly as long as sourdough has. In fact, sourdough is closest to the biblical recipe as one can get these days. At least until someone discovers a recipe card in the mid-eastern deserts, that is!
It has been shown repeatedly that whole grains tend to have a better and often higher natural yeast content than any pre-ground, processed flour. This has also been my personal experience over the years. The starter I have created from whole wheat, faro or einkorn has been much more active, and healthier than anything I attempted "back in the day" with white flour. Because of this evidence, I much prefer to create our starter from the simple, old fashioned freshly ground whole grains.
Here is the recipe that I have gotten accustomed to using. It is very simple to create because it uses two ingredients that many people will have on hand in their food storage: Water and grains ground into flour.
Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter
NOTE: Use this recipe for our Traditional Whole Wheat Sourdough
To begin your starter:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup room temperature, filtered water (about 70 degrees)
A glass jar, crock or bowl that can be easily, yet loosely covered. I like to use a glass quart size canning jar, a metal ring and a coffee filter. Place the flour and water into the jar and stir until very well combined, making sure that there is no dry flour left. Cover with the coffee filter and place the metal ring on. Let the mixture sit at room temperature (about 68-75 degrees is optimal) for 24 hours.
Day 2: There may or may not be activity showing as yet - activity would be little bubbles in the mix or there appearing to be more mix than the day before. It may just look like what you started with on day one. Either way, take 1/2 of the mixture, set it aside in a bowl (See below for ideas to do with the discarded starter so that you do not waste). To the mix remaining in the jar, add 1/2 cup of room temperature, filtered water and 1 scant Cup of whole grain flour. Mix well, recover, and let mixture rest at room temperature for another 24 hours.
Day 3: By day 3 you should be seeing some activity - bubbles, evidence of expanding dough. This is the day you will start feeding the dough 2 times per day. Try to feed it as evenly spaced apart as possible - 12 hours.
For each feeding, stir down the dough, then take a generous 1/2 cup of starter and mix it with 1 scant cup of whole wheat flour with 1/2 cup room temperature, filtered water. Stir thoroughly, cover, and set aside for approx 12 hours. Remember to use your discarded starter for something, or set it aside to use later with additional discarded starter.
Day 4: Repeat steps for Day 3.
Day 5: Repeat steps for Day 3. By the end of Day 5, you may start to see that the starter is “doubling" You should also see lots of bubbles, and it should have a tangy, tart, or “sour” but pleasant aroma. If it is not this active as yet, you may need to continue the feeding process for days 6 and 7. (On rare occasions, or in colder weather, it may take a bit longer to develop fully)
-- When the starter has reached the point described on Day 5, you will want to give it one final feeding before storing in the refrigerator. Feed as usual, mix well, let the starter rest for 4-8 hours to see a generous amount of bubbles breaking the surface of the starter. Now you may place it in the refrigerator for “permanent” storage.
Make sure to feed your starter at least once per week with 1 Scant cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup water, just as you have fed it during the process. By removing all but 1/2 cup from the permanent container, setting aside the removed portion to make a loaf of bread, rolls, or other recipe. To the remaining 1/2 cup add your water and flour. I like to leave it out on the counter for about an hour to rest before putting it back into the refrigerator, just to give it a little time to start its process.
Now you can enjoy fresh sourdough bread products any time you would like to!
NOTE: If I allow the starter to set in the fridge for a week, I often see a brown or dark liquid on top of the starter. This is a sign that your starter is HUNGRY! Feed it! It is best that you not allow it to get to that point, though, so that you do not starve it to the point of inactivity. This liquid is commonly known as "hooch" and is a naturally occurring alcohol. YES, this should be pour off and discarded before feeding your starter. I find that if "hooch" happens more often, it means I need to feed it more often.
More troubleshooting tips can be found here:
I am always a fan of waste-not-want-not, so I do not dispose of our sourdough starter when we are starting a new batch every spring. When the recipe says to discard it, I always discard it right into a bowl and make pretzels, bagels, or muffins from it. BUT my favorite is to make whole wheat crackers and have them with some cheese. Here's my favorite recipe for a tasty snack:
Judith has over 20 years experience in food storage, herbs, essential oils, and prepping. She was a captain in the USAF-AUX, FEMA trained, Community Emergency Response Team member and NRA marksmanship award recipient. She shares her experiences with her readers offering tips and recipes.
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