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The Bread Bakers Forum



If you are new to sourdough it is recommended that you obtain a proven culture and work with it for a while before attempting to make up your own starter. Here is why:

Successfully starting up a new starter is pretty much a throw of the dice. It is a matter of good luck as you just cannot control what organisms your mix will attract. It depends on what organisms are naturally prevalent in your environment. Home-grown starters are notoriously unstable and unreliable and are often the cause of more frustration than rewards for the new sourdough baker.

If you obtain a proven culture, then the starter can help teach you about the behaviors and characteristics of starters. You will be rewarded with good bread much earlier in the process than by working with your own home-grown starter. While it's lots of fun to "catch wild yeast and lactobacilli" and make up your own starter, you will likely have more fun and less uncertainty and frustration doing so when you know a little more about working with starters.

Here are some of the ways people have obtained proven cultures: A friend or neighbor who has one and would be willing to share with you (many folks are quite happy to share their starters).

Many local bakeries are run by friendly bakers who will share some of their starter.

Mail-order sources (information below).
Some of these are commercial and charge for the starters. There are also some individuals who, for the price of a SASE, will send you some of their dried starter.

Natural foods or gourmet kitchen stores - sometimes they carry packets of dried starter.

Here are some Sources for Starters over the internet.

That said, there may come a time, either now or later, when you want to start up your own starter. There are several procedures below outlining methods for starting up new starters. It is a simple procedure to start up a new starter but it will take you about one to two weeks to get a starter stabile enough and mature enough to be ready for baking.  (Some instructions say that a starter can be used after 3 or 5 days.  Try it if you wish but you will have much better results if you give the starter more time).   A good starter should give you good bread to begin with and will continue to improve over time. In my experience it takes six to eight weeks of regular working and baking with a new starter for its flavor to develop well.

Rye Flour  Starter
Grape Starter
White Flour Starter
Potato Flake Starter

Lastly, I have noticed that many, many sourdough starter recipes that you will see (on this site, on other sites and in recipe books, including sourdough recipe books) call for starting the starter with commercial bakers' yeast. It is my opinion that you do yourself no favors by using yeast to start up a starter. Here is why: a successful starter is a symbiotic relationship between so-called "wild" yeast and lactobacilli. Together they create an acid environment that protects whichever strains become dominant in your culture, warding off intruding microorganisms. Commercial bakers' yeast cannot survive in such an environment and does not assist you in attracting the organisms you need to build a good starter. However, until they completely die off they compete for food with the microorganisms that you DO want in your starter, thereby delaying the maturing of a starter into a strong, healthy state. I know that many, many famous and expert cookbook authors recommend starting starters with commercial baker's yeast - however it is not necessary and, in my opinion, results in an inferior starter.


Now that you have gotten your starter up and going, it is time to explore more sourdough information!

See Starter Maintenance if your starter is ailing or you need more information on maintaining your starter, .

See Sourdough Recipes for some recipes and tips on finding other great sourdough recipes.

See Sourdough Definitions for help in understanding some sourdough technical terms.

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