Sourdough starter made from scratch – a flop, an old favourite and a new career

Well, at least now I have a new career fallback plan if ever I need one…

I’ve baked quite a few loaves of bread over the years, both in a bread machine and in the oven, and I have the best teachers around (my mom and dad)! Recently I decided to make a loaf of rye bread, so I stocked up on rye flour and cracked rye at the Horn of Plenty in Dundas, and then set about looking for a suitable recipe. I found one online that said the secret to getting a loaf that doesn’t end up dense and heavy is to use a sourdough starter, and to rise the bread overnight. The recipe looked good, so I decided to try it.

Sourdough Starter

First though, I had to make a sourdough starter from scratch, because the one I used to have from my dad dried out long ago. Thus began the 5-day process to make the starter! In essence, wild yeast present in the flour becomes active and starts to multiply – the bubbles that appear on top of the liquid is evidence of this activity.

Day 1: 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + 1/2 cup water

I put the flour/water mix in a big bowl, covered it loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit on top of the fridge overnight.


All purpose flour + water

Day 2: Add 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + 1/2 cup water

A couple of bubbles were evident on top of the liquid (see one at end of spoon).


Addition of flour and water to Day 1 flour/water mix.

Day 3: Add 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + 1/2 cup water

Lots of bubbles today!


Bubbles galore!

Day 4: Add 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + 1/2 cup water

Each day, the smell in the house got more and power noticeable! One day when we came home I was asked, “WHAT is that smell?”

Day 5: Add 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour + 1/2 cup water

Every day, the volume of the starter increased. Compare the amount in my 1 cup pyrex dish on Day 1 to the volume here on Day 5, with the starter ready to use.


Rapidly expanding volume

Whole wheat rye sourdough bread

I set aside about 1 cup of the starter (for future use) and added 2 cups of rye flour, 2 cups of whole wheat flour, and 2 1/4 cups water to the remaining sourdough starter. I covered it and left it on top of the fridge overnight.

The next day I added 1 1/2 cups cracked rye, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup water to the bowl, mixed well, and divided it into 2 bread pans (no higher than 1 inch from the top of the pan). It was very liquidy – much more than any bread dough I’ve ever worked with before.


Too runny

I put it in the oven with a tea towel on it and just the oven light on for heat. It was supposed to take 2-3 hours to rise. After that time, it had not risen one tiny bit. I left it overnight because someone locked their keys in their car and needed me to rescue them (not naming names) and I ran out of time to be able to bake it. The next morning it still had not risen. I added another 1 cup whole wheat flour to each bread pan, mixed it well, and attempted to bake it (this was a no knead, no yeast recipe). It smelled delicious as it baked. “Is THAT what smells so good?” Unfortunately, when it was “done” it looked like this!! (It didn’t rise while baking, either.)


All “done”


No rise bread!

The flavour was good, but the loaf was very dense, heavy, and kind of wet. What a disappointment after all that work after actually deciding to make rye bread!

I decided to try to salvage the bread and make it into croutons! So I cut it up into small pieces, and baked it for another 30 minutes. Then I added a hot olive oil/garlic/thyme/salt/pepper mix to it and baked it again. The croutons were good, but unsurprisingly – heavy and dense! I will use them, but the kids weren’t impressed.



However, I didn’t stop there! I wanted to try another sourdough rye recipe (I was sure that my starter was fine!), and decided to go with my mom and dad’s trusty recipe!

Neil’s sourdough recipe

I modified the original recipe (the kids love it when I say, “I followed the recipe EXACTLY except for….”) , which called for all purpose flour and whole wheat flour, to include only whole wheat flour and rye flour (with an all-purpose flour starter). There are lots of goodies in this recipe – oats, hemp seeds, chia seeds, ground flax, and wheat germ.


All the yummy goodies added to the sourdough starter and flour.

This recipe uses yeast, and requires kneading of the dough. Here’s what it looked like when it was ready to go into the pans.


In the pans before rising.


Room left for rising

And after rising (it actually rose!).


Beautifully risen

And, the fully baked loaves.


Nice golden brown!

This bread was delicious!



The kids loved it so much that they encouraged me to open a bakery. In fact, I was told that I could keep my day job and do the bakery before and after work!Image-1

No thanks… but I will gladly pack a slice of this bread in school lunches instead of store bought bread!

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2 Responses to Sourdough starter made from scratch – a flop, an old favourite and a new career

  1. The Baker's baker says:

    It’s all in the genes , that’s all you knead to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sugarandsam says:

    I absolutely love sourdough! Thanks for sharing =)

    Liked by 1 person

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