In recent years, the sourdough loaf has become a very fashionable bread, and for good reason: it has a fuller flavour and, in my opinion, a far superior texture to its quick-rise yeast counterpart. However, I feel a sense of mystery still surrounds how it's made, and believe that it's high time budding bakers were rid of their sourdough-making self-doubt.

In order to make sourdough, you have to produce a "Starter": this is made from a mixture of flour and water that is left to sit for a few days, receiving a little TLC every 24 hours. The process allows the natural yeast in flour to develop. Once bubbly, this can be used to make a sourdough loaf. 

Rye flour is used in this recipe because it has been found to contain the highest levels of natural yeast and microbes, therefore, it's most likely to form a successful starter.

Your starter can be used to make all sorts of leavened goods - from rye bread, to pizza bases, to the humble crumpet - the possibilities and endless.

Rye Sourdough Starter

  • Prep Time:7 days
  • Cook Time:7 days
  • Total Time:14 days
  • Servings:0
  • Medium


  • Overall:
  • 210g rye flour
  • 210ml water at about 20°C/68°F
  • Each day you will use:
  • 30g rye flour
  • 30g water
Phoebe Baker
  • Step 1

    Measure and place 30g rye flour and 30ml water into a plastic container and stir.

    Phoebe Baker
  • Step 2

    Leave the container with the lid on for 24 hours at room temperature (about 20°C).

    Phoebe Baker
  • Step 3

    Over the next 6 days, at 24 hour intervals, repeat steps 1 and 2, adding your portions of flour and water to the same container and stirring.

    Phoebe Baker
  • Step 4

    On about day 6, you will hopefully see bubbles in your starter, and it will smell yeasty. This means your starter is active and can be used in Sourdough recipes to bake whatever your heart desires.

    If you can't see any bubbles, don't lose faith! Just keep repeating steps 1 and 2 for a few more days.

    Phoebe Baker

Sourdough loaves vary massively. From rye bread to a sourdough pizza base - the baking possibilities are endless!

Once you've made the starter, it can be placed in the fridge for future use. Mine can be kept in the fridge for a month or so before it starts to kick up a fuss. All you have to do when you want to use it is take it out of the fridge the day before and add another dose of flour and water in equal quantities, leaving it covered at room temperature.

Don't be alarmed if liquid forms on the top of the starter - it can either be mixed back in, or, if it smells alcoholic, drained off (as high levels of alcohol can kill off the yeast).

Now that you've made your starter, you can use it to make a variety of baked goods. If you're interested in learning more about Sourdough and other "Slow Doughs", I recommend buying Chris Young's book "Slow Dough: Real Bread". As well as containing many recipes, it teaches you the ins and outs of slow rise bread in a very comprehensible way, explaining all the science behind the dough and why it tastes so good.