A Mother of a Recipe (aka The Starter)

January 17, 2017 | posted in

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We really enjoy the fresh sourdough and olive bread each time we come to the Union Market in Washington DC. We always get some fresh vegetables, an assortment of interesting cheeses, and a condiment or two (don't give us that look... mayo is a good thing!) and we're set for lunch all week!


Great bread and great prices! I've been buying their bread for years and have never been disappointed. I prefer to buy in Union Market because I believe it's fresher, but I have also purchased from Glen's Market in Shaw. Sometimes the selection is slim later in the day on weekends so get there early if you need something specific.


Below is a simple recipe for making your own Sourdough Starter at home:


To begin your starter

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cool non-chlorinated water

To feed your starter

  • 1 cup plain, unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm), or lukewarm water (if your house is cool)


Day 1:

Combine the whole wheat flour with the cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass works very well. Mix gently but thoroughly. Cover loosely and let it sit at room temperature (on or around 70F) for 24 hours. This is incubating your starter.

Day 2:

So you may see no change at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a little bit of growth and/or some bubbles. Either way, discard half of the mixture (approx. 1 cup).
Mix 1 cup of unbleached flour with 1/2 cup water and add this to the container. You are feeding your starter.

Mix well, cover and let the mixture rest at room temperature for a further 24 hours. Light a candle or say a prayer. Just kidding, let science do its thing.

Day 3:

By the third day, you’ll probably see a bit of activity — some bubbling, a fruity aroma, and maybe even some evidence of growth in regards to the amount.

Get ready – it’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows. For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous 1/2 cup, once it’s thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter.

Mix 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, then add this to the starter. Now cover loosely and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating a second feeding of the day.

Day 4:

Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat feeding as before.

Day 5:

Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat feeding as before. By the end of day #5, the starter should have at least doubled in volume. You’ll see lots of bubbles and the starter should have a tangy aroma – somewhat acidic, but not enough to make your eyes water.

Now, fear not if your starter hasn’t risen much and isn’t showing lots of bubbles… Repeat the discarding and feeding every 12 hours on day 6, and day 7, if necessary — as long as it takes to create a starter that has risen and provided bubbles. Like children, no starter develops the same way or in the same timeframe.  

Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Discard all but 4 ounces. Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours. It should be vigorously active, with bubbles breaking the surface. Resist the temptation to whisk it!

Remove however much starter you need for your recipe and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in for the long-term. Feed the reserved starter with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, and let it rest at room temperature for several hours, to get going, before refrigerating it.

House this starter (that is now the mainstay, the origin, the Mother) in the refrigerator, and discard/feed it regularly. We recommend feeding it with 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water once a week.

Happy Baking, friends!