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Nancy Silverton's Sourdough Bread Starter

A community recipe by

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For the bread obsessed forummers, this is a delicious sourdough starter creator by the queen of American bread - Nancy Silverton. I first made this starter when it was featured on Julia Child's Cooking with Master Chef's television program many years ago.


Serves: 4-6

  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 5½ cups tepid water
  • 8 ounces red grapes


Nancy Silverton's Sourdough Bread Starter is a community recipe submitted by DawnFairchild and has not been tested by so we are not able to answer questions regarding this recipe.

You will need 1 yard of washed and rinsed cheesecloth.

The initial starter mixture - approx. 6 days

  • Stir the flour and water together in a 2-quart glass or plastic container, mixing well - but do not worry about a few lumps, they will disintegrate later.
  • Lay the grapes on a double layer of the washed cheesecloth and tie opposite corners together to form a bag. Lightly crush the grapes with a rolling pin, then swish the bag through the flour/water mixture and submerge. Cover tightly with a lid or with plastic wrap and a rubber band.
  • Leave at room temperature for six days, stirring it up once a day. The bag of grapes will gradually appear inflated, and liquid will begin to separate from the flour base. The mixture will begin to taste and smell slightly fruity and the color will be strange. That is as it should be.
  • By the sixth day, the bag of grapes will have deflated, the color will be yellow, and the taste pleasantly sour: the fermentation is complete. The starter is living but weak, and it needs to be fed.

Feeding the Starter

  • 3 days: Lift out the bag of grapes and squeeze their juices back into the starter, then discard the grapes.
  • Stir up the starter thoroughly, transfer it into a clean container. (Although you can use it after just one feeding, the starter will be stronger and healthier with the full treatment.)
  • Three days before you plan to use it, stir 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water into the container, blending well. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until it bubbles up - 3 or 4 hours - then cover and refrigerate.
  • Repeat the feeding the second day, and again on the third, and your starter is ready to use. Storing the Starter.
  • Store the starter tightly covered in the refrigerator, where it will keep perfectly for 4 to 6 months - after which it is a good idea to pour off all but 2 cups and give it another feeding.
  • Before using the stored starter for bread, however, give it the full 3 day feeding schedule once again to strengthen it and to tone down excess sourness. It is then ready to use. Note: Always bring the starter to room temperature before using.

Additional Information

You will feel like a bit of a mad scientist as the starter brews - it changes colors, bubbles and separates during the fermentation process. Don't worry about the science experiment appearance - it will lead to delicious bread!

Tell us what you think

What 1 Other has said

  • I live in the desert so the temperature is ~80F in the house, the starter is now only 4 days old and the liquid part is 50% of the starter. Rechecking the Julia Child video it looks like only a small portion was used to make the final starter (after this 6 day one), how much was used and should the liquid be discarded. I understand that the liquid portion is responsible for most of the sour taste.

    Posted by XbakerZ on 25th May 2014
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