Creating your own healthy sourdough starter can be a frustration. There are so many factors: flour – type, freshness, grain variety. Then there is water – filtered? Non-filtered? Temperature, humidity and that thing that’s unique to every kitchen – whatever’s happening in the air.
Buy your own sourdough starter is the easiest, mot sure-fire way to get up and running with a healthy sourdough culture. All the same factors still count!! Flour, water, temperature and your unique kitchen environment but you are super-charging the process with the most critical ingredient – wild yeasts that have been captured, fed and cultivated by someone else on your behalf. It’s not cheating. It’s actually quite smart! You are purchasing someone else’s experiment because it has already worked to leaven bread.
Benefits of buying a sourdough starter
You know it will work
The sourdough culture has already proven to be strong enough to raise a loaf of sourdough bread.
Provided you follow the instructions that the seller provides with the product, your sourdough culture is guaranteed to be off to a good start. Embued with live cultures, it’s not relying totally on your flour, water and air quality to produce healthy bacteria. Instead, you are starting with all the key elements and bringing them back to life, or continuing their life.
Different varieties available
Every sourdough starter is one of a kind. Sourdough starters have are just like human beings, each has its own unique blend of common and not-so common characteristics, giving them their own personality.
Flours have their own, and varied, bacteria, which is why freshness matters. Your kitchen has it’s own air quality and your water is unique to your area. All this combined creates unique flavours, scents and air structures in a sourdough starter.
If you make your own sourdough culture from scratch it will 100% have it’s own personality.
Buying a sourdough starter gives you access to a wide range of flavours and styles, even from kitchens around the world, that couldn’t be produced in your kitchen.
If you buy a sourdough starter, it will morph over time to reflect your unique ingredients and environment. It will maintain some some of its original characteristics and blend them with some new ones. Your sourdough culture, at the end of any day, will always be one of a kind.
Notes on buying internationally
Every nation has it’s own rules on what is allowed to enter their country. New Zealand is one of the strictest in the world, Thailand is one of the most lenient. If you are buying sourdough culture from overseas, you should check with your country’s Customs Office to see if fermented, dehydrated products are allowed. Alternatively, check with the Seller to see if they have successfully sent their sourdough starter to your country before.
2 Types of sourdough starter you can buy
While the personalities of sourdough starters is endless, there are only two forms in which you can purchase it. Sourdough starter is a living, breathing thing that needs to be transported from the Seller, to you, without dying, so you’ll find Sellers provide one of two options:
Active – dough form
Dehydrated – dust or shard form.
Active sourdough starter
This will only be offered by local sellers. The culture is wet, recently fed and will have a short life-span once in transit. Because it’s in dough form, it will come in a sealed bag or container, such as Tupperware or a jar.
The benefits to buying an active sourdough starter is that you won’t have to activate it. Once you receive it, you will need to feed it once or twice and then you’ll be ready to go on to making sourdough bread.
The con to buying an active sourdough culture is that you can’t put it on the shelf for when you’re ready to deal with it. It’s like owning a pet. Once it’s in your home it’s your responsibility to keep it alive. And just like a pet, it will require food and water from day 1. Learn how to feed your sourdough starter here.
Dehydrated sourdough starter
This form of sourdough starter has had all the moisture removed and it will last for a long time in this format. It’s light and easy to transport, making it suitable for sending across the country and even across the globe.
Because the sourdough culture is hibernating, without being woken by by having access to water, unlike an active sourdough starter you don’t have to feed it once it arrives. Dehydrated sourdough culture will store, in a cool dry place, ready to use, when you want to.
The downside is that you will have to activate it and depending on the Seller’s method, it may be a simple or reasonably complex process. Some dehydrated sourdough starters require particular temperatures, feeding regimes etc to become active. Another downside is time. It can take up to 2 weeks before the sourdough started is active and strong enough to use for bread making.
Once your sourdough starter is active, just like buying an active sourdough starter, you are now responsible for its livelihood! You will need to feed it daily or weekly to keep it active and alive. Learn how to feed your sourdough starter here.
There are some commercial brands selling sourdough kits but if you read the ingredients, you will notice they contain bakers yeast. Some are sourdough tasting but include no sourdough. If you are after authentic sourdough, stick with handmade sourdough starters made by people who are using them to make bread themselves.
How does it work?
Buying sourdough starter skips the initial stages of creating your own, where you work hard for several weeks to capture wild yeasts from the air and once captured, you feed and cultivate them. Buy a starter skips all this to kick-start the process and potentially, spare a lot of frustration and disappointment for as many as this process works for, there are those it didn’t.
Why are packets of sourdough starter so small?
Sourdough culture multiplies. You only need a little to make a LOT. And as you continue on your sourdough journey you will no-doubt become very familiar with the terms discard, bakers ratios and the exponential growth of sourdough starter.
Most sellers, send you more sourdough starter than you need to get going. The reality is, you only need a gram to start. It would take longer to grow, but it is all you need. So the 10g, 30g or 100g that is on offer is more than enough to make an endless supply of sourdough starter for years to come. Remember, this is something that gets passed down through generations.
It also makes economical sense to deliver small, light packages. It’s saving you money and keeping a lighter footprint.
Where to buy?
Esty is probably the best place to buy a sourdough starter. You’ll be able to browse thousands of options, local and international.
The other marketplace I would recommend would be eBay in your country.
On both marketplaces, search for sourdough starter. If you have a preference for an active or dehydrated version, add that search term to your search.
What if I don’t want to forever feed my sourdough starter…?
Yes. This is possible. Not everyone wants to make sourdough bread every week nor maintain their sourdough culture in between. That’s why I created sourdough flakes. Just like the dehydrated starters you can buy, they are made from my 13-year-old starter and can be kept in your pantry or on your kitchen shelf to use when you want to bake anything sourdough. The difference is, the culture is so strong that you can make dough within 3 days of activating it rather than activating taking a few weeks. Three days is the max turn around time in cool kitchens, it’s faster in warm kitchens. There is no added yeast, it’s 100% sourdough that lives on your shelf for baking when you want, with a few days forward planning. NO upkeep in between bakes.
Just like every other sourdough starter, it’s suitable for making pizza and anything sourdough. The process is also simplified – no kneading, no equipment and no experience. The step-by-step process teaches you everything you need to know.
It won’t be for everyone. If you want to bake sourdough more than once a week, it will be a cumbersome way of making sourdough bread. Such frequent sourdough baking will benefit from buying and active or dehydrated sourdough starter and then maintaining it.
However, it may be for you if you are time-poor, beginner, have tried to make sourdough starter (or bread) and it’s proving difficult. It may also be for you if you want to bake once a week or less and don’t want to have to feed or maintain a sourdough starter in between just to be able to make your own beautiful sourdough. For more information, browse Maintenance-Free Sourdough in the Sourdough menu above and check out our unique Sourdough Flakes on Etsy.
This is all about Beautiful Living Made Easy.