Rye Sourdough starter is one of those things that sounds all mysterious and complicated, until you have done it once. And suddenly you wonder why you didn’t try it sooner. After all, it’s just flour and water and the natural yeasts in the air around us and on your flour, which create this delicious tangy base for all kinds of baked goods.
Sourdough the Easy Way
My rye sourdough starter has a name and lives mostly in my fridge, as I don’t use it every day. This means, after the starting period explained below, it will happily sleep for a week or two. I left mine once several months, as I just had no time to bake and after scraping off the slightly grey looking top and feeding it, it came back to bubbly life within 2 days. I wouldn’t necessarily advice this and give no guarantees for such a long time to be ok, but it shows how resilient it can be.
Right now, I feed mine about once a week, when I bake with it. It also got a sibling recently, stemming from the same rye sourdough starter, but fed over time with white flour, to have a base for lighter recipes such as my Sourdough Buttermilk Protein Waffles or Sourdough White Chocolate Black Garlic Cookies. The last sounds weird, doesn’t it. Go try them. 😉
How to store
For storage, as I’m clumsy by nature and can’t be trusted with pretty jars, I got 2 square and tall plastic containers, that fit perfectly into the lower back corner of my fridge and can just be grabbed and filled halfway with more water and flour the evening before I plan to bake. Sometimes the same morning, depending on what I’m making. Though you are seeing jars in the pictures, as they are plain pretty…apologies for the tiny bit of confusion.
Is it Dead, Jim?
You didn’t feed your starter for a while. To be exact, it was all the way in the back of the fridge and you nearly forgot it even existed? And now it has weird brown liquid on top, looks a bit sickly grey and smells like nail polish remover? Yep, I’ve been there. Especially when I didn’t bake at all within the first 2 months of my weight loss journey. Reading about all the low carb stuff I got scared. Thankfully I’m very much cured from that belief system!
But back to your sad looking starter: Don’t worry. Unless you see mould, at which point please start fresh, don’t throw it out. It’s just sleeping. Pour out the liquid on top. Maybe remove the top greyish layer and you’ll find perfectly healthy looking starter below. Feed as usual and it will be back to its happy and bubbly self within 2 days or so.
Lazy Feeding Routine
Feeding the rye sourdough starter, I don’t measure much anymore. I grab a tablespoon and just throw a few heaped spoons into the container, top with some filtered water and stir, aiming to roughly double the amount. Check the consistency and add more water or flour, depending on how it looks. It should have the consistency of thick pancake batter. Or warm peanut butter. Whichever makes more sense to you. It’s very forgiving, so don’t fret if it doesn’t turn out perfect right away.
The One Important Thing
The one thing to remember is: you can’t feed it too much, but you can feed it too little. The little yeasts and bacteria love a good feast, so they will ferment even a large amount of flour-water mix over night, but they are not keen on starving. I can relate. So make sure you always at least double the starting amount. Unless you feed it every day. In which case a tablespoon of flour with a bit of water is just fine. But if you let them starve for a bit: double.
What To Do With Discard?
If you have leftovers, because you had more than you’d need when aiming to double your starter, they can go into all kinds of fantastic sourdough discard recipes. Not everything needs an active bubbly starter. The waffles mentioned above for example are great made with discard. So are the cookies, as they don’t need to rise much. Bread on the other hand should be made with fed and active starter, so it does rise.
Oh, did I mention my Emergency Sourdough Pizza base? I pretty much always keep a few portions in my freezer, for those days when I’d otherwise order pizza. It’s much healthier, more flavourful, and indeed faster than an order would arrive, once you have your sourdough prepared. Which takes minutes of active work and then just time to sit and do its thing.
And you can top with anything you love. I had Peach Brie Serrano Ham Pizza recently.
And the active bubbly starter?
The possibilities are endless! Wholewheat Sourdough Pretzel Buns are just one option. Of course we can’t forget all the incredible types of bread this Rye Sourdough Starter makes. German Sourdough Rye Beer Dutch Oven Bread for example. Or how about an adventurous Black Garlic Sourdough Bread with Chocolate?
You only need to go through this process once. After that, you just feed it 2 days before you want to bake your bread once and it’ll be happy and bubbly.
Now I’d love to hear about your favourite bread! What would you love to see made with sourdough? Let me know in the comments!
Rye Sourdough Starter
- 100 g wholewheat rye flour
- 100 ml filtered water
- Day 1:
- In a clean glass jar or container, mix 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water until they look like thick pancake batter.
- Cover the jar loosely with either a lid or a kitchen towel. You want to let the healthy yeasts in, but keep other stuff out.
- Let the mixture sit at room temperature for a full day.
- Day 2:
- Today you might already see the first bubbles. That means it worked.
- Add another 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water to the jar and mix all together.
- Cover the jar again and let it sit at room temperature for another day.
- Day 3:
- Today you might start noting a slightly sour smell. That’s sourdough forming!
- Discard about half of the starter.
- Add another 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water to the jar and mix yet again. Leave it until the next day.
- Day 4 and after:
- Repeat the discarding and feeding process as in Day 3: discarding about half of the starter and adding 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water each day, mix, let it stand until the next day.
- Repeat this daily feeding routine for about a week or until your sourdough starter becomes active, bubbly, and has a pleasant sour smell. This can range from overripe bananas to having a slight nail polish remover hint. All of that is fine, as long as it bubbles.
- Note below is the standard advised process of sourdough starter maintenance. As I wrote above, I found I don’t necessarily need to feed it every week, as it lasts just fine without. But if you bake regularly, the below is a good schedule.
- Once your rye sourdough starter is active, you can transition to maintaining it at a smaller scale to avoid wastage.
- Discard all but 50 grams of the starter and feed it with 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water daily.
- You can also store the starter in the refrigerator and feed it once a week by discarding all but 50 grams and feeding it with 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water.
- Before using the starter in a recipe, make sure to refresh it by discarding all but 50 grams and feeding it with 50 grams of whole rye flour and 50 ml of filtered water. Allow it to sit at room temperature for a few hours until it becomes active.
- That's it! You now have a homemade rye sourdough starter that you can use to make delicious rye sourdough bread and other baked goods. Enjoy the process of nurturing and using your sourdough starter!