Sourdough Starter and Basic 3 (or 4) Ingredient Sourdough Bread Recipe - Practical Stewardship (2024)

Sourdough starter and sourdough bread is amazing to work with. It is very versatile, and the basic sourdough dough can be used to be crafted into sourdough cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, waffles, rolls, and more.

I haven’t bought bread for a really long time. In the last two years or so, I think I’ve bought one loaf. We are not anti-bread, but we have gotten along well without it. JSarr used to take dinner leftovers for lunch, and we eat things like fruit and yogurt, scrambled eggs, tuna lettuce wraps, quesadillas, and nacho salads for lunch.

Then a couple of months ago I started reading about sourdough, and how good it is for you to eat and is easier to digest. You can go to Kitchen Stewardshipfor more information. Then I read it is only three ingredients (4 if you count the start, but the start is made from two of the basic ingredients). I had to try! The sourdough start recipe is inspired by Living Water Health and Wellness (defunct website now). This sourdough bread recipe is adapted from Cheeseslave.

I have read many different instructions about starting sourdough. Some say to feed it every 8 hours or 12 hours. My recipe calls for feeding it every 24 hours. I try to find the most efficient way to do things, so I will be more inclined to repeat the process. The following has worked for me. Also, some say to throw away part of the start. I just don’t understand this, as it seems like a waste, and you could at least give it away. I have NEVER thrown any of it out.

Sourdough Starter Recipe


  • -whole wheat flour (I have read white flour is good to start with until you get the hang of it. I used a blend of white and whole wheat to start. I heard rye and spelt works, too.)
  • -filtered water or water that has been boiled and cooled (if using tap water, you can let it sit out over night so the chlorine evaporates out of the water. I have made this several times, and I have used water right from the tap sometimes, and I haven’t had any problems)
  • -glass or mason jar
  • -cheesecloth or coffee filter (will crust and tear if you get the dough on it, so I recommend cheesecloth) to cover the glass jar
  • -wooden spoon


  1. Combine 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water in the glass container and cover it with the cheesecloth.
  2. Leave it on your counter top for 24 hours.
  3. There will be a separation of liquid on top (called the hooch or alcohol) that is darker than the start, and you can pour it off if you want, but you can just mix it back in. I mix it in.
  4. Stir, and feed your start with another 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water, and stir again. You can use a fresh container each day.
  5. Repeat this process for 7 days, and you have your sourdough start! When you see the bubbles, you have captured wild yeast. Isn’t that crazy? The start should have a sourdough smell.
  6. If you won’t use the start right away, you can put it in your refrigerator with a lid on it, and feed it equal parts water and flour once a week. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of months.

Sourdough Starter and Basic 3 (or 4) Ingredient Sourdough Bread Recipe - Practical Stewardship (4)

5 from 1 vote


4 Ingredient Sourdough Bread


  • 1/4cupsourdough startwhich is the flour and water together: read above
  • two cups of flour + more for the well-floured surface
  • 1 1/2cupsof water
  • 1tsaltupdate 10/30/12** I now use 2 t salt


  1. Combine 1/4 cup of your sourdough start with two cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

  2. Leave in a glass bowl on your counter (if it’s a cold winter’s night, you may want to leave it close to a heat source) for 16-17 hours covered with plastic wrap. I have used the dough after about 12 hours, and I really don’t notice a difference, but may be it’s less sour. It will look similar to a sponge, like the picture below, with all of those nice bubbles after the massive hours. It may feel really wet to the touch.

  3. Place dough on a well-floured surface, and turn a few times. You don’t need to aggressively knead it. The dough can also stay a bit sticky in the middle, but the outside of the dough shouldn’t be sticky. I have had to add a cup of flour before at this point because the outside of the dough kept absorbing the flour. I sometimes use a spatula in one hand, and my free hand to mix it all in. This helps my hands to be cleaner. Make sure the bread looks like the bread dough pictured in the corningwear below or the bread dough pictured in the crock-pot below. It is relatively dry to the touch.

  4. Put the dough in a colander (I like that colander has holes that allows the dough to breathe and can make a nice little pattern on your bread) or some kind of bowl lined with a cloth and cover completely.

  5. Leave the covered dough for 1 hour and let rise (by a warm heat source is best).

  6. Put an empty Dutch oven or some kind of corningware with a lid in the oven (or cook it in the crock-pot) .

  7. After an hour, turn on the oven to 500 degrees with the empty Dutch oven inside the oven so the Dutch oven gets nice and hot, and preheat for 30 minutes. This gives the dough a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes to rise.

  8. Carefully take out the hot Dutch oven placing the dough inside (I actually plop the dough in because it’s so hot), and put the lid over the dough. Often times my dough sizzles when it hits the Dutch oven.

  9. Put your Dutch oven back in the oven, and bake the bread at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes (I sometimes bake it at 400).

  10. Take off the lid, and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown the bread if needed.

  11. Cool, slice, and enjoy!

Below the recipes are pictures of what the dough and bread should look like in different stages.

The start separating here below: totally normal

Sourdough Starter and Basic 3 (or 4) Ingredient Sourdough Bread Recipe - Practical Stewardship (6)

Pictured above is what the bubbles should look like after the dough has been on your counter all night. The dough is spongy and wet. The more whole wheat flour you use, the less wet and spongy it will be. Here is one more picture of the wet sponge overnight.

Below, the first picture is a picture of the dough right before turning onto the flour. The middle picture is taken after the dough has been turned onto a floured surface until the dough is “dry” to the touch.

**Update 10/10/12 I made one batch of sourdough bread out of wheat flour the other day and divided it into two equal parts right before the 1 1/2 hour rise. They rose in their own greased loaf pans, and it made 2 short loaves. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with nothing inside and forgot to turn it down. So I baked the two loaves together uncovered at 500 degrees for 18 or 20 minutes. Despite the mistake, they were beautiful and tasty as seen below.

Then today I made 1 loaf out of 1 batch of sourdough bread so the bread would be taller. It turned out great, too. I baked it uncovered for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. I was talking to my friend Merri about what I did, baking the bread so hot the previous day, and she commented that sourdough is forgiving. She is right!!!**

The Verdict: The first time I made this, JSarr said, “this is the most impressive thing you’ve ever made.” It seems like something you would buy in the store and it’s SOOOO easy. Its just takes some pre-thought. We love this and eat this ALL of the TIME!!

Update 1/7/13** I did the cost breakdown and figured it costs about $0.61/loaf to make for the ingredients. You can go here to see the actual cost breakdown.

Want another idea to make with your sourdough start?

How about Sourdough Doughnuts?

Try making sourdough pizza crust, calzones, or breadsticks with the same recipe.

Or want to try making the sourdough bread in the crock-pot? Go here to see how…

Sourdough Starter and Basic 3 (or 4) Ingredient Sourdough Bread Recipe - Practical Stewardship (2024)


What is the secret to a good sourdough starter? ›

There is no single best ratio, but I've found a ratio of 1:5:5 fed twice daily at 12-hour intervals to produce a sourdough starter that's strong and healthy. This ratio corresponds to 20% ripe starter carryover, 100% water, and 100% flour (a mix of whole grain rye and white flour) at each feeding.

What is the best ratio of sourdough starter to flour? ›

The most common feeding ratio is 1:1:1 (sourdough starter: flour: water). This is also known as a 100% hydration starter. For example, let's say you have 40 g of sourdough starter in a jar. To feed it, you'll add 40 g of flour + 40 g of water.

How can you produce a starter at home what 3 ingredients are involved? ›

It is actually quite easy to make your own sourdough starter! Follow this recipe to transform three simple ingredients – water, flour, and apple – into an active and bubbly sourdough starter. You'll be baking in no time!

What happens if you use more sourdough starter than the recipe calls for? ›

The more starter you use, the faster your dough will ferment - resulting in a less sour loaf. Of course the amount of starter is actually a ratio in relation to the flour - so 50g of starter to 500g of flour will ferment at a much slower rate than 200g of starter to 500g of flour.

Is 70 degrees too cold for sourdough starter? ›

By creating a sourdough starter, you are nurturing a colony of bacteria. Those bacteria have an ideal temperature to thrive in – that's between 20 and 24 Centrigrade, 70 and 75 Farenheit. The closer you can keep your sourdough starter to this temperature, the quicker and easier building it up will be.

Do you have to discard sourdough starter every time you feed it? ›

It would be best if you discarded some portion of your starter each time you feed it unless you want to continue to let it grow. Eventually, you need to discard the used “food” (flour and water) that's been used to sustain your starter during the last fermentation period.

Can you use too much starter in sourdough bread? ›

If you have too much starter compared to the additional flour and water you're adding, your hungry starter consumes all the nutrients and then it's not as bubbly.

How much starter should I use in my sourdough bread? ›

I keep 1 ounce of starter and feed it with 1 ounce of flour and 1 ounce of water because I rarely need a massive amount of starter on hand, but various other sourdough luminaries advise different amounts. If you don't have a scale, go for 1/4 cup starter to 1/2 cup of flour to 1/4 cup water.

How much of my starter should I use for a sourdough loaf? ›

As a general guideline, a common rule of thumb is to use around 20-30% of the total flour weight in the recipe as the amount of starter. For example, if your recipe calls for 500 grams of flour, you would use 100-150 grams of active starter. How much sour dough starter do you need for one loaf of sour dough bread?

Why is rye flour good for sourdough starter? ›

Rye Flour: Rye flour is another popular option for sourdough starters. Naturally rich in amylases, nutrients, and microbes, this cereal flour enables a starter to quickly convert sugars for faster, more efficient fermentation.

Can I start my sourdough starter with all-purpose flour? ›

If you do not have whole wheat flour, just use all purpose flour instead. The starter will be fine. I switch to all purpose flour for the feedings because it's reliable, inexpensive and practical for everyday baking (remember, a portion of your starter is removed, discarded, or used for something else).

What is the oldest sourdough starter? ›

The world's oldest sourdough starter is supposedly over 5,000 years old. The statistic states that there exists a sourdough starter, a mixture of flour and water used to ferment dough, which is believed to be over 5,000 years old, making it the oldest known sourdough starter in the world.

Why discard half of sourdough starter? ›

If you don't get rid of the excess, eventually you'll have more starter than your feedings can sustain. After a few days, your daily 1/4 cup flour and water won't be enough to sustain your entire jar of starter, and your starter will be slow and sluggish, not much better than discard itself.

Is it cheaper to buy or make sourdough? ›

Yes it's cheaper to make your own sourdough at home, as oppose to buying it from a bakery. When you consider that sourdough is literally just flour, water and salt (including the sourdough culture), then depending on the type of flour you use, you could bake a loaf for as little as $1.

What size jar is best for sourdough starter? ›

If using a mason jar, I recommend a 32-ounce or 1-liter Mason jar to hold your sourdough starter. This sized jar will give your starter plenty of space to rise without the risk of overflowing.

How to make 100% sourdough starter? ›

A 100% hydration sourdough starter is a culture which is kept and fed with water and flour at equal weights. Like for instance 5 oz water to 5 oz flour. A 166% hydration starter is fed with equal volume of flour and water, which most typically is one cup of water (8.3 oz) and one cup of flour (5 oz).

Why doesn t my sourdough starter double in size? ›

Try reducing the water in your next feeding and see if you have different results. Also, the type of flour you are using can impede the rise of your starter. All-Purpose flour, for example, will not rise as robustly as a blend of bread flour and whole wheat flour.

What flour makes the most sour sourdough starter? ›

Adding whole grain flour: Whole grain flour, particularly whole rye flour (pumpernickel), tends to promote more sour flavor in bread for two reasons. First, the type of sugars available in whole rye (or whole wheat) flour encourage a shift toward acetic acid production.

Does sourdough starter get better with age? ›

For most bakers, the answer is a clear no. Maurizio Leo, author of the award-winning bread cookbook The Perfect Loaf, still uses the first starter he ever made; it's now 12 years old. And while he's sentimental about that starter, he says its age doesn't really impact his bread.


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