Monday, June 10, 2013

How To Make A Starter From Scratch

At last, a post I owe so much to many people. Do you know that I'm writing this while eating a piece of great bread made with no commercial yeast? 

If you love bread, enjoy having a love affair though only now and then with science, and or feel like you should be going on a grand adventure along with Gandalf and you feel like you should be living in medieval times with all its magic and glory, then read on.

Before we make The Starter, we have to make sure that we are committed enough, at least for 7 days, to finish the process or it will only be a waste of ingredients.

Things you need to prepare:
-A glass jar big enough to contain up to 4 cups of liquid
-Whole wheat/rye flour
-All purpose flour
-Mineral water

Optional but handy:
-A marker, not the permanent one, to mark the growth of your starter.

Important: Sterilize your utensils!

Shall we start?

DAY #1
Mix 120gr whole wheat flour/rye flour with 1/2 cup water. Stir. Cover with plastic. Let it sit for 24 hours. Bacteria will easily grow in a warm environment, so placing it above the fridge or near the rice cooker is a good idea.

DAY #2
Stir the starter. Leave only 1/2 cup in the glass jar and throw the rest. Add 120gr of all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of water to the remaining concoction in the jar. Cover with plastic. Let it sit for 24 hours.

#DAY 3,4,5,6
Get ready okay, we’re gonna enter the 12 hour cycle.

Go on… Smell your starter, if you’re doing exactly as I wrote above, it’ll smell so sweet; like fermented fruit, mulled wine. You’d be surprise. In a good way.
In these four days, every 12 hours aka two times a day, all you have to do is leave 1/2 cup of the starter in the glass jar and throw the rest. Add 120gr of all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of water.

Do this till the 6th day. Remember, twice a day with 12 hours interval.
5, 6, or 7 o’clock in the morning and evening would be a bearable time so you can still go to the office and hopefully you’d be back around those times as well.
FAQ: What happens if I forget to do it at the precised time?
It’s ok. Just don’t let it be more than 2 hours late. You’d risk repeating the whole process from the beginning because at this stage, your pet bacteria need to be constantly stimulated.

DAY #7
If you stick to the schedule, your starter should be ripe, alive, and kicking.
How do you know that your starter is ripe, alive, and kicking?
Just 3 hours after you feed it, it would grow double or triple in size in size.

What to do after you’re sure your starter is good..
Feed the starter one more time. As usual, keep only 1/2 cup of starter in the jar, throw the rest, in with the 120gr of all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of water, then simply leave it for 6 hours. After 6 hours you should transfer it into a glass jar or a simple mason jar. Be sure that it isn’t airtight and it’s sterilized.
Keep your starter in your fridge.
There you go.. You have a pet bacteria in your fridge. Yay!

There are so many ways to make a starter, or madre, that involve fruit juices, raisins, grapes, or adding some sugar. Those would definitely work. But will the starter last years? Yes. With Zeus by your side.
With the heat and humidity here, a starter made by including sugary substances in form of fructose, no matter how natural it is, will make the bacteria drunk on sugar and eventually die. Sweet death that ain’t so sweet after all. So be confident with just flour and water.

Caring for your starter aka feeding:
Feed it at least a week for the first month or two. After that, when you guys have known each other better, you’d notice that your starter can go on like two or even three weeks without being fed.

If you happen to see a brown, rather murky liquid on your starter because you have left it for too long, don’t worry. It’s called hooch and it smells like alcohol simply because it is alcohol.
Just throw the hooch by pouring it and feed your starter.

How should I feed my starter? 
Pour 120 gr of flour and 1/2 cup of water, stir it, and then leave it for 6 hours in room temperature.
After that you can take what you need to be used in your bread making and keep the rest back in the fridge. If you’re not gonna bake, throw and leave at least 1/2 cup of starter in your jar.

I personally keep at least a cup because I bake often. So it's up to you actually to keep as many or as little as you want.

If you feel bad at throwing your starter, you can definitely give it to someone. It’ll make an awesome and inspiring gift considering the person you’re giving it to appreciates artistry and would willingly go the distance to have decent bread on the table.

If you can't even find a person to give it to and still feel bad about throwing or discarding your starter, you can use it in these recipes:

Tasty Tip:
Do you know that your starter can have a different flavor every now and then?
I sometimes feed it with only rye, sometimes a mix of rye and all purpose flour. The starter evolves and it has personality. To think that the smallest life form on earth can do that is just amazing. The bread you bake today will never taste the same like the bread you bake next week or some other times. 

I hope this post helps and not freaking you out in starting your ‘real’ bread journey.

If ever you have a question, you know how to contact me. I’d be glad to answer your questions and feed your curiosity.


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  1. Mbak Amy, how do we use this? As replacement for yeast? What about the measurement?

  2. Yup. As a replacement for commercial yeast. It can actually be applied to many recipes, mostly bread with slow rising time. Do check my recipe page for sourdough bread.

  3. Hai tante amy, kalo misalkan ketika masuk fase 12 jam sekali feedingnya trus ga ngembang berarti gagal ya tan? 😟

    1. Halo.. maaf ya baru balas.
      Iya kalau tidak mengfembang terpaksa mulai dari awal lagi. jangan menyerah ya :)

  4. Baru bikin. Bismillah! Mohon doanya yah. Amien.

  5. Mb Amy, saya coba buat juga nih, baru hari pertama, menggunakan rye flour juga, tapi kok sepertinya kering sekali ya campurannya, tidak seperti bubur .. Apakah saya sudah benar??
    Terimakasih sebelumnya :)

    1. Sori banget baru balas ya..
      Coba tambah 1-2 tbs air