Sourdough starter

How sourdough is made: The magic of wild fermentation.

Share The BakingSourdough bread has taken the world by storm in recent years, especially during the lockdowns of 2020 when many discovered the joy of baking it at home. If you’ve ever wondered what sourdough is, you’re in luck! As a professional sourdough baker, I’m here to share all the secrets and techniques behind this…

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Sourdough bread has taken the world by storm in recent years, especially during the lockdowns of 2020 when many discovered the joy of baking it at home. If you’ve ever wondered what sourdough is, you’re in luck! As a professional sourdough baker, I’m here to share all the secrets and techniques behind this beloved bread. Let’s uncover the mysteries of sourdough together!

Sourdough vs White bread.

Ever pondered the difference between sourdough and standard white bread? While the latter is a childhood staple for many, the former boasts a more intricate composition. A genuine sourdough loaf is crafted from just four essential ingredients: water, flour, salt, and starter. However, store-bought white bread is often loaded with additives and preservatives. This simple comparison underscores the purity and craftsmanship inherent in sourdough baking, offering a glimpse into the authentic world of artisanal bread-making.

The magic of wild fermentation.

The allure of sourdough extends beyond its simplicity; it harnesses the magic of wild fermentation. Unlike commercial breads laden with additives, sourdough undergoes a slow fermentation process, unlocking a host of benefits. This gradual transformation breaks down gluten proteins and natural sugars in the flour, resulting in a more easily digestible loaf. Moreover, sourdough bread serves as a prebiotic, enriching the gut with essential fibre that nourishes beneficial bacteria, promoting digestive health. You can read more about the health benefits of sourdough on webMD’s blog post.

How does a sourdough starter work? 

At first glance, the ingredients for sourdough; flour, water, and salt seem straightforward, yielding a basic dough when combined. However, the true magic lies within the sourdough starter, or rather, the intricate biology it harbours. Sourdough starters are living ecosystems composed of flour, water, and a diverse community of microbes. Among these microbes are wild yeasts, which thrive on simple sugars called monosaccharides. As these yeasts consume the sugars, they release carbon dioxide, which becomes trapped within the gluten structure of the dough. This process results in the formation of large air bubbles and the characteristic lightness that distinguishes a sourdough loaf.

The intricacies of sourdough fermentation offer a captivating journey into the world of breadmaking. Flour, the primary ingredient, contains complex sugars known as disaccharides. These sugars are initially too large for yeast to digest, prompting them to engage in fermentation, breaking down disaccharides into simpler sugars called monosaccharides. With this source of nourishment available, yeast begins its transformative work, producing carbon dioxide that contributes to the airy texture of the final loaf. 

Additionally, fermentation yields another key by-product: lactic acid. As the fermentation process progresses, the pH level of the dough decreases, imparting the signature sour flavour to sourdough bread. 

The benefits of sourdough extend beyond taste. Once the dough reaches an optimal pH level of around 4.5, the gluten within begins to break down. This phenomenon has shown promise in alleviating symptoms for individuals with gluten intolerances, making sourdough not only a culinary delight but also a potential solution for dietary sensitivities.

Where can I get a sourdough starter?

For aspiring home bakers eager to delve into the world of sourdough, obtaining a starter can be as simple as reaching out to fellow enthusiasts. Many home bakers maintain their own sourdough starters and are often willing to share a small portion upon request. Additionally, local artisan bakeries may offer starters for sale. Alternatively, online communities dedicated to home baking provide platforms for enthusiasts to trade starters, fostering a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals. However, if acquiring a starter proves elusive, fear not—creating one at home is entirely feasible with a bit of time and attention to detail.

Creating your own sourdough starter at home is a rewarding journey that requires just three simple ingredients: flour, water, and a large sterilised jar. Follow these steps to cultivate a vibrant starter bursting with life.

Day 1: Combine 100g (3.5oz) of flour and 100g (3.5oz) of water in the sterilised jar. Cover with a breathable cloth secured with a rubber band to allow airflow while keeping pests out. Place the jar in a cool, dark location for 24 hours.

Day 2: Discard half of the starter, then add another 100g (3.5oz) of flour and 100g (3.5oz) of water to the jar. Mix well and let it rest for another 24 hours.

Day 3: Repeat the process from Day 2, observing for small bubbles forming in the starter, indicating microbial growth.

Day 4 and onward: Continue the daily routine of discarding half of the starter and feeding it with 100g (3.5oz) of flour and 100g (3.5oz) of water. Your starter should become more vigorous with larger bubbles. Remember to feed your starter daily to maintain its vitality, it is rather similar to caring for a pet. By Day 5, your starter should be ready for bread-making, but reserve some starter to avoid having to restart this process.

1 month: After a month of daily feedings, your starter will have fully developed, resulting in a more consistent performance. If your initial loaves didn’t meet expectations, don’t fret—your dough will exhibit increased vitality and flavour from this point onward.

Bakers tips on sourdough starters:

While there are numerous resources available online for creating sourdough starters, as a professional baker, I’m pleased to share some additional insights. Though sourdough starter is inherently simple, optimising each ingredient can significantly enhance its performance.


For optimal results, use filtered water to help foster a thriving sourdough culture. Tap water may contain chemicals and contaminants that could inhibit growth. Filtered water ensures a clean environment for your starter to flourish.


I highly recommend utilising stone-milled flour sourced locally. Unlike bleached or processed alternatives, locally grown and milled flour retains its natural microbiology, providing a substantial boost to your sourdough starter. This approach not only fosters a unique flavour profile specific to your region but also enriches the starter’s vitality similar to fertiliser nurturing a house plant.

Furthermore opt for un-sifted flours as these flours contain the whole grain not just the wheat germ. Not only is this healthier for you it is also healthier for all your new microbiological friends.  


Temperature plays a crucial role in the development of your sourdough starter. Similar to humans, sourdough cultures thrive in specific conditions. Monitor your own comfort level as a guide; if you feel too hot, it’s best to relocate your starter to a cooler spot, while feeling cold warrants a warmer environment. Avoid direct sunlight, as intense exposure can be detrimental to the starter’s health.

For best results maintain a temperature range of 20-25°C (68-77°F). Remember, excessively high temperatures can accelerate fermentation, depleting the starter’s food supply prematurely, while colder temperatures may result in sluggish growth. Striking the right balance is key to cultivating a robust and active sourdough culture


In conclusion, sourdough baking is not only a culinary endeavour but also a journey of discovery and craftsmanship. From its humble beginnings of flour, water, and wild yeast, sourdough embodies the art of simplicity and the science of fermentation. By understanding the fundamentals of sourdough starters, ingredients, and temperature control, home bakers can embark on a rewarding path toward creating delicious, artisanal bread with unique flavours and textures. So, whether you’re a seasoned baker or a novice in the kitchen, let the magic of wild fermentation inspire you to elevate your baking skills and savour the joys of homemade bread.

For more information about bread and starters, be sure to watch out for my upcoming E-book which will go even more in depth and will be overflowing with more tips and tricks. Also make sure to watch my blog page as I aim to be wright a post weekly.
Happy baking.


Web MD: Is sourdough bread good for you

MDPI: Sourdough Fermentation as a Tool to Improve the Nutritional and Health-Promoting Properties of Its Derived-Products

Breadtopia: pH guided dough development and baking decisions.

ScienceDirect: Monosaccharides

Jacob Dekker: My career

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