If you’re ready to dip your toe into sourdough baking, you’ll need to make a starter. Here’s a super easy, no-fail way to start your starter (sometimes called a “lazy” starter), and it takes less than 10 minutes. The trick is to use commercial yeast to kick off the fermentation process.
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After a few rounds of feeding, your starter will take on a life of its own and continue to thrive with the sugars in the flour and wild yeasts in the air. You’ll be able to make traditional sourdough bread loaves, or if you want to do some Amish Friendship Bread baking, you can convert a portion of your starter to make an Amish Friendship Bread starter.
Test (or Proof) Your Yeast
If you’re not sure if your yeast is fresh, check out this quick tutorial on how to see if your starter is any good. If it’s good, you can add this yeast mixture directly to the bowl, adjusting the amount of warm water to only 1½ cups since you used ½ cup to test the yeast.
Day 1: Make Your Sourdough Starter
Choose a large mixing bowl or jar that will allow your starter to at least double in size. Some experts recommend triple or even quadruple the size. In other words, make sure there is room for your starter to grow, or you’ll have a mess on your hands!
If you know your yeast is fresh, combine 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast (instant or rapid-rise yeast will also work), 2 cups of warm water, and 2 cups of flour. Stir well until all lumps are removed. This is your Day 1.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm area of your kitchen. You’ll see a lot of activity for the first few hours–your starter should almost double in size and then collapse on itself.
I didn’t use a large enough bowl (obviously!) but since I was nearby, I kept an eye on it. Stir your starter occasionally to make sure everything is well incorporated.
When you stir your starter on this first day, it should be spongy and springy, and reluctant to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
If using a jar or upright container, you can mark or place a rubber band around the level of your starter to help you gauge how much it grows when you’re not looking.
For the next 5 days, stir your starter regularly. If your kitchen is really warm, the yeasts in your starter might eat up all the sugars and need to be fed a day or two earlier. Sourdough baking is a science, and you’ll need to pay attention to your starter to see what it needs. Stay flexible, as everyone’s kitchen environment is a little bit different.
If you notice any hooch in your starter before you hit Day 6, you need to feed your starter sooner rather than later. This will happen if the temperature in your kitchen is warm, or if you have a really hungry starter, LOL. If this is the case, you’ll jump ahead to Day 6.
My kitchen is always 75-85° F year-round, so starters need to be fed really frequently in my kitchen. I’m more the exception than the rule, but here’s what I did: on Day 3, I had a light amount of hooch. Because I want to make sure this starter is hearty, I decided to feed it (you could just stir it back in). I reduced my starter to 1 cup and fed it 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. It got happy and bubbly within the hour. Then on Day 5, hooch again. This time, I just stirred it back in as I’m going to wait until tomorrow (my Day 6) to reduce it to 1 cup, give it a good feed, then stick it in the fridge. This is what I mean about playing it by ear and going with your gut — it’ll take some time to get to know your starter (and your kitchen), but once you do, you’ll be able to make adjustments as necessary.
For more information on how to keep your starter happy, these two posts may come in handy (the same principles apply to traditional sourdough and Amish Friendship Bread starters):
- Maintaining a Healthy Amish Friendship Bread Starter
- How to Get a Bubbly, Active Amish Friendship Bread Starter
Day 6: Stir, Divide, Bake/Discard, Feed, Store
On Day 6, stir your sourdough starter and remove one cup. Place it in a new bowl or container the same size or larger (I recommend a large glass storage jar with a latch lid. Here’s the one we use.). Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Stir well.
Discard or bake with the remaining starter. Most of the cakes, cookies, pancakes/waffles, scones, and sweet bread recipes in my Recipe Box can be made with 1 cup of your discard, though you may want to tinker with the sugar as the recipes work mainly with Amish Friendship Bread starter, which is a sweet sourdough starter. Don’t try a recipe that requires any kind of rise as your discard doesn’t have enough oomph to help with that.
Let the starter sit on your counter overnight. In the morning, stir well and place in the refrigerator. Never seal a starter, it needs to breathe! Cover loosely or latch the cover but don’t seal it tight.
You don’t need to stir your starter daily, though I recommend it if you can. It’s always a good idea to check in with your starter and make sure everything is going well.
Repeat the above steps once a week, allowing the starter to come to room temperature before removing one cup to bake with (or discard), and then leave your starter at room temperature after feeding before returning it to the fridge.
Take a Break From Your Sourdough Starter
If you need to take a break from your starter, you can freeze it after you feed it. Here’s the tutorial for freezing your starter.
Easy Sourdough Starter (Made with Yeast)
- In a mixing bowl large enough to let your starter double or triple in size, combine all ingredients. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap. This is your Day 1. You should see a lot of activity this first day.
- If you prefer to store your starter in a glass jar, make sure there is enough room for the starter to double or triple in size. Do not seal, but leave room for air to come in and out.
- Place in a warm area of your kitchen.
- For Days 2-6, stir daily, scraping down the sides.
- On Day 6, stir well. Discard or bake with 1 cup. Feed the remaining starter 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Stir well and let it sit on the counter overnight.
- Stir and place in the refrigerator. You don't need to stir it daily, though I recommend it. Repeat the above step once a week, allowing the starter to come to room temperature before feeding and removing one cup to bake with.
- If you need to take a break from your starter, freeze it after you feed it. Read more about that here: https://www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com/tutorial-storing-amish-friendship-bread-starter-for-future-use/
- Make sure your yeast is fresh. To proof or test your yeast, combine the yeast with ½ teaspoon sugar and ½ cup of the warm water. Combine and wait 10-15 minutes. It should get bubbly. If you don’t see any bubbles, your yeast is old and shouldn’t be used.
- If your yeast is good, you can use this mixture in place of the yeast in the recipe, and add only 1½ cups warm water in the recipe since you’ve already used ½ a cup in the yeast mixture.
- You can also use instant yeast (also known as rapid rise yeast).
- Use this starter to make any of the traditional sourdough recipes in the Recipe Box.
- Understand how to take care of your starter (the same principles apply to AFB starters and regular starters): Maintaining a Healthy Amish Friendship Bread Starter and How to Get a Bubbly, Active Amish Friendship Bread Starter
- If you notice any hooch in your starter before you hit Day 6, you need to feed your starter sooner rather than later. This will happen if the temperature in your kitchen is warm, or if you have a really hungry starter, LOL. If this is the case, jump ahead to Day 6.
>> Have you tried this? Give the recipe some stars and leave a comment below to let me know how it worked for you!