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Sourdough Starter recipe

Vanessa Kimbell's Sourdough Starter Recipe

A sourdough starter is a cultivation of wild yeast, that is most commonly used in making sourdough, or ‘leavened’ bread.

Wild yeast lives everywhere, and is present in all flours. Sourdough starter is the means of cultivate the wild yeast in a form that can be used for baking. In contrast to  commercial yeasts, it takes much longer to bake with, but produces deliciously complex flavours and textures.

This starter recipe comes from sourdough specialist, award-winning author, and founder of the Sourdough School - Vanessa Kimbell. She explains: “it’s not difficult to create a starter. You just need two basic ingredients: flour and water, to capture wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. Then, it’s about creating an environment they can both thrive in…

...Good sourdough starts with good flour, which comes from a natural environment with a full range of microbial diversity. The lactic acid bacteria and wild yeast that live in your sourdough starter thrive in an environment where there is diversity. So, the making of great sourdough has a deeply symbiotic relationship with organic farming”.

To find out more about Vanessa’s reasons for choosing organic flour, read her article on glyphosate herbicide use, and it’s impact on bread baking.

All photos taken by Vanessa Kimbell.

vanessa kimbell making sourdough starter


  • A measuring jug
  • A thermometer
  • 2 clean jam jars with loose-fitting lids
  • A spoon


  • warm water at 28°C (82°F)
  • organic, stoneground wholegrain flour or rye flour



Day 1

In a clean jar, combine 120g warm water with 100g stoneground wholegrain flour. Mix well; this adds oxygen, which yeast thrives on. Cover with a loose-fitting lid. Allow the mixture to sit in a warm place for 12–24 hours. Between the 12- and 24-hour mark, you might see a few bubbles.


Day 2, 8am

Discard 120g of the mixture and replace it with 60g stoneground wholegrain flour and 60g warm water. This is called a refreshment. Stir vigorously, cover, and wait another 12– 24 hours.

Day 2, 8pm

Repeat the refreshment.

Days 3–6

For the next 3–4 days, you will need to repeat the above refreshment twice a day.

If it is warm and your flour is microbially active, you will see activity quickly, after about 3 – 4 days. When it’s ready to use, the sourdough starter should be bubbly and have enough yeasts and bacteria to be active enough to bake with.



How Do I Know When My Starter Is Ready?

Your starter is ready to use when it doubles in size within about 5 hours of feeding. It is now time to stop the creation process and move on to maintaining and refreshing your starter. Once you’re ready to bake, check out The Sourdough School’s recipe for a basic sourdough tin loaf .

Top Tip: You can use up the non-active discard in pancakes or waffles.

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