Making sour dough starter couldn’t be easier. I dont know why people complicate it! Simply mix any sort of flour with water together in a bowl. Every day put a little more flour and a little more water in the bowl. Mix it up, let it sit. You can cover the bowl with a wet towel or slip it into a plastic bag if you want, or leave it uncovered – it really doesnt matter. You want the sour dough starter to be about the consistency of pancake batter. It should be easy to mix with a wisk or spoon.
One important thing: Smell the starter every day. At first it’ll smell like flour, not surprisingly! But within a couple days you will start to smell the slight acidity, or sourness, developing. You will probably also see a brownish liquid rising to the surface of the starter. Just stir the liquid back into the starter when you add your daily flour and water.
After a few days – 3 to 7 depending on how warm your kitchen is – you’ll see bubbles rising to the surface of the sour dough starter – evidence that the natural yeasts are starting to multiply. Its not ready yet though. The yeast is turning the starter into an environment it can thrive in. So be patient; add about 1/2 cup of flour and maybe a 1/4 cup of water every day for another week or so. The brown liquid will stop rising to the surface and the smell will become less acrid. Soon the sour dough starter will mellow out to a pleasant smelling and appealing pet that lives in a bowl in the corner of your kitchen.
We dont throw any starter away. Some instructions tell you to pour off some of the starter before feeding it. I dont see any reason to do this. We use starter for sour dough pancakes, sour dough pizza crust as well as sour dough breads. So build it up through the week then have sour dough pizza Saturday and sour dough pancakes Sunday morning!
Note that some will try to sell you some special sour dough starter, or tell you about some special yeasts harvested from grapes grown in some special place. Rest assured this is unneccessary hooey. Even if there was such a thing as special yeast it would quickly be overwhelmed by whatever yeast you happen to have in your kitchen! Basically, yeast is yeast – as least as far as sour dough bread is concerned.
Here is how we make sour dough bread: