Skip to content
Open menu Close menu

Feed your appetite for cooking with Penguin’s expert authors

penguin logo

Sourdough Starter – Aka Mother

by Justin Gellatly from Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding

Looking for a sourdough starter recipe? This step-by-step guide from Justin Gellatly takes you through the stages of the perfect sourdough bread beginnings.

From the book


I started my sourdough starter fourteen years ago with rhubarb from my garden. I still have it today, and many of my friends and family keep little jars of it for me just in case something happens to it, like someone throwing it away (you know who you are!). I have divided it many times to give to friends and chefs to bake with, so my mother’s family is still growing. Don’t be scared to try this – I know it’s more work than just popping some yeast in, but the results are well worth it, and you can divide your starter and get your friends baking as well.

Read more Read less


30g rhubarb, finely sliced
Strong white bread flour
Wholegrain rye flour
Strong wholemeal bread flour


Day 1

Place the rhubarb in a bowl (the rhubarb acts as a catalyst to start the fermentation). Pour on 100g of water; then mix in 50g of strong white bread flour and 50g of wholegrain rye flour to make a thick paste. Leave somewhere warm for 24 hours, loosely covered with clingfilm.

Day 2

At around the same time the following day mix in 50g of water; 25g of strong white bread flour and 25g of wholegrain rye flour; and leave somewhere warm, again loosely covered. If there is a skin on top, just mix it in.

Day 3

Same as day 2.

Day 4

You should start seeing the beginning of the active fermentation. Same as day 3.

Day 5

The mother should be bubbling away and smell tangy. Stir; then pour 30g of the mother into a larger bowl and pick out any bits of rhubarb. Discard these, as the rhubarb has done its job, though it should have all broken down by now. Whisk in I25g of water; then stir in 80g of strong white bread flour; 30g of wholegrain rye flour; and 30g of strong wholemeal flour until well incorporated. Cover loosely and leave in a warm place. Discard the leftover starter – there is a fair bit but it’s the price to pay to get it up and running.

Day 6

Same as for day 5 (apart from picking out the rhubarb).

Day 7

MAKE BREAD! Once you have made your sourdough you can re-feed the mother and bake more, or store it in the fridge without feeding, but it will take a few days to re-start it by feeding it again as for day 5. The mother will keep happy for many months before it needs feeding again.

Use this sourdough starter recipe to make Justin’s Rye and Malt Sourdough.

More Baking Recipes

View all

More Justin Gellatly recipes

View all

Bread Ahead Handsome White Loaf

by Matthew Jones, Justin Gellatly, Louise Gellatly from Baking School

Bread Ahead Rye Sourdough

by Matthew Jones, Justin Gellatly, Louise Gellatly from Baking School


Subscribe to The Happy Foodie email newsletter

Get our latest recipes, features, book news and ebook deals straight to your inbox every week