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Organic Wholegrain Spelt Sourdough Starter Recipe - How to make sourdough starter from scratch

Spelt Sourdough Starter Recipe

James
Scrumptiously Sour, Nourishing, Traditional Spelt Sourdough Starter for Baking, Pastries, and More! (Learn How to Make Sourdough Starter from Scratch).
Prep Time 25 mins
Resting Time (Fermentation) 5 d
Total Time 5 d
Course Ingredients
Cuisine International
Servings 250 g
Calories 424 kcal

Equipment

  • Mason Jar (Or Substitute - See Notes)
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Whisk
  • Weighing Scales
  • Measuring Jug

Ingredients
  

  • 250 g Spelt Flour Organic, Wholegrain (I Use 'Doves Farm' Brand here in the UK)
  • 250 g Tepid Water Dechlorinated (See Notes)

Instructions
 

Day 1:

  • First, measure out 25 g of flour into a measuring jug on your weighing scales, and add this into your container. Do the same with 25g of water (25ml) and stir until the mixture has reached an even consistency. Seal the lid or cover and set aside for the next day, preferably somewhere warm.

Day 2:

  • After 24-hours have passed, repeat the exact same process. By now you should have 100g immature starter in the jar.

Days 3-5:

  • After another 24-hours, do the same. If conditions are optimal, fermentation may have started already and you will begin and notice bubbles forming in the starter, gasses being released, and a distinct smell.
    At all stages hereon, we will be checking the smell and appearance each day. See the recipe notes below for safety advice and tips on recognising "good smells" vs "bad smells" and spotting mould.
  • Continue this process until day 5, which will provide you with a total of 250g starter.
    This is plenty for many recipes and uses, with enough leftover to keep the batch going. But, should you require more, now start to add 100g water and 100g flour each day for a couple of days or so until you're happy with the amount.
    Organic Wholegrain Spelt Sourdough Starter Recipe image 2 - How to make sourdough starter from scratch

Maturing:

  • A starter is "mature" when the microorganisms and enzymes are established and active enough for us to use in recipes. This is evident from what is called the "rise" after feeding, described in step 3. below.
  • Each day, discard half of your starter, and replace it with fresh flour and (dechlorinated) water. For 250g, that means taking out 125g and adding 62(.5)g of each ingredient.
    You could dilute the sourdough discard and pour it down the drain or compost it, but it isn't ready for use yet.
  • Discard and feed like this until you notice the starter bubbling and rising within 8-24h after feeding - it should approximately double in size, and will flatten out afterwards or if handled. (The red rubber band in the recipe image shows the starter level before rising, after feeding).
    Once this happens, it is officially mature!
    Organic Wholegrain Spelt Sourdough Starter Recipe image 3 - How to make sourdough starter from scratch
  • Now you can use the starter in recipes, and can even use the discard each day (a lot of people use discard for pancakes, flatbreads, or crackers)!
    A bubbly, freshly risen - and therefore highly active - starter is often called for in most other sourdough recipes like breads, doughs, and pastries for optimal results.

Maintaining:

  • To maintain the starter at room temperature: Discard and feed every 12-24h, depending on how active it is.
  • To maintain the starter in the refrigerator: Place in the fridge soon after any feeding. Discard and feed once a week to maintain strength (or up to 2 weeks at most).
  • To "revive" a refrigerated starter: As described in the post above, remove from the fridge, let it warm at least close to room temperature, and feed. Use it after it rises.

Notes

To dechlorinate water:

You can use a Water Filter (See Recommendations) or simply boil the water to remove the chlorine.
Make sure you let it cool to a lukewarm temperature before you use it, otherwise the heat will kill the beneficial bacteria, yeasts, and denature the phytase.

For the container:

A mason jar is absolutely recommended (Find One Online Here). It allows easy monitoring of the sourdough, control of airflow, and cleaning.
But should a mason jar be unavailable and you must improvise, a large leftover glass pickle / jam jar is a great alternative. For other containers, use only ceramic, china, stainless steel 316, glass, or Polycarbonate, PP, HDPE, or LDPE Plastic containers only. A china bowl covered tightly with cheesecloth may also work, for example.
Other plastics and metals will react with the acidity and interfere with the natural processes of fermentation. Plus, they may leech harmful chemicals. For example, non-steel metal containers will rust, and many plastics release BPA and other chemicals.

SAFETY FIRST - Monitoring the smell and keeping an eye out for mould:

The smell is different for every starter, and can often be:
  • Sour
  • Yeasty
  • Slightly vinegary
  • Or even resemble "slightly old socks"...
This is subjective, but always monitor for any particularly unpleasant odours that might suggest unwelcome bacteria (like a sulphuric, pungent, or highly displeasing smell). Personally, almost every starter I have made smells like a yeasty, soured dough with a vinegary undertone.
You should also keep and eye out for any mould from day 1 - there should be no colourful, white, black, fluffy, or otherwise mould-descriptive growths. If there are any, or if the smell is noticeably unpleasant, you will need to start the process again.
The exception here is something called 'kahm yeast'. Kahm yeast is a filmy, slimy yeast naturally present in the air, and can inhabit lacto-fermented foods. It is not toxic like mould, and can safely just be removed. It isn't encouraged, however, as it may be suboptimal for fermentation and have an undesirable affect on taste.
For reference images and more information, Fermenting for Foodies has a wonderful article that dives into the details.
Keyword Fermentation, Fermented, Probiotic, Sourdough, Traditional, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wholegrain