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How To Feed Your Sourdough Starter For Successful Baking

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The key to really great sourdough bread and other baked goods is a lively and active sourdough starter. Learn how to properly feed your starter for the most successful bread baking. #fermented #naturallyleavened #masamadre #motherdough #sourdough #leaven #slowfood #realfood #nourishingtraditions #wisetraditions
Having a vigorous and healthy sourdough starter is the first step to baking great sourdough breads, rolls, muffins and more.

In this short post I will walk you through the steps of feeding your sourdough starter in preparation of baking. I will also give you a visual guide of a “peaked” starter perfect for baking with.

Sourdough starter benefits from being consistently used. I bake or cook with my starter at least twice a week. So my starter is constantly being refreshed with fresh flour. The fresh flour is an ideal food source for the happy yeast and bacteria within the starter.

If you are just getting started with sourdough I recommend you read my comprehensive guide on sourdough fundamentals. This guide will give you an in-depth look at the complex bacterial systems working inside sourdough starter. It will arm you with all the important terminology. It will explain what sourdough is and why it is better for you. And it will delve into the history of sourdough and its controversial usurper, rapid rise yeast.

Find my free guide here ↓

Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better For You – And How To Start One
Sourdough starter that is active and fresh makes wonderful artisan bread!

A Sourdough Schedule 

The way I manage my starter is to use, feed, use, feed, sleep, repeat. This is the best technique I have found for keeping a healthy, active starter that is always ready to be used!

#1 USE – Start by using some of your fully fermented starter or discard (that is starter that has been fed, allowed to rise, and put in the fridge until needed) for a project like pancakes or crackers, this allows you to use that fully fermented, easy to digest starter instead of discarding it.

#2 FEED – Then feed the starter back up to original weight you started with to get it primed for baking bread. Let it ferment and peak at room temperature. If you used 500g for pancakes for instance feed with 250g of each flour and water again.

#3 USE – Once the starter has peaked use the starter to make bread.

#4 FEED – Feed the remaining starter back up to the original weight again. Let it get started fermenting for a few hours at room temperature.  I’ve learned to never put a starter away hungry!

#5 SLEEP – Put the starter to bed in the refrigerator. The cold keeps the yeast slow but they are still working. A starter can be kept in refrigerator for a long time but it will eventually eat up all the sugars in the flour and get really really sour. I would try to bake at least once a week to maintain a vibrant culture! 

Note: if you have a gray liquid (called hootch) floating above your starter then it is very hungry and needs to be fed – probably several times to get it going again!

#6 REPEAT – When you want to bake bread again you will remove the starter the morning before, use some for a project that calls for discard, feed it and allow it to peak, use it for bread, feed it again, and then put it back to sleep!

Most of the sourdough recipes here on Butter For All call for a generous amount of sourdough starter. So the instructions that follow will yield at least 400+ grams of sourdough starter, plenty for baking breads and more.

How To Feed Your Sourdough Starter

Weighing your ingredients is a very important step in creating an easy to use, vigorous and super happy sourdough starter. To do this you will need a scale. The following instructions outline how to feed a 100% hydration starter. I keep my starter at 100% hydration (equal weights flour and water) for consistency in recipe writing and baking! To learn how to convert your starter to 100% hydration use my guide, Demystifying Sourdough – Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Sourdough Starter – Why It’s Better For You – And How To Start One.

 

Preparing a bowl for weighed ingredients.

Place a bowl or jar on the scale and set the weight to grams. I used a bowl in this photo series for illustration purposes. I typically feed my stater right in the jar I keep it in.

Make sure to zero out the scale before adding any ingredients.

 

Adding 200 grams of flour to the bowl.

Add 200 (or more) grams of organic flour to the bowl or jar. There is no hard and strict rule about what kind of flour to use. For starter feeding purposes I use an organic All Purpose flour and save my nice, expensive, local, organic wheat and other heirloom and ancient grains for my bread. You can also adjust the quantity of starter by using more or less flour. Just make sure to take a note of how much flour you use because you will want to use the same amount of water.

 

Adding the water to your starter.

Zero out the scale and add 200 grams of water. Always use the same weight as the flour you added in the step above. Using a filtered water is the best practice. I recommend this filter, it is the top-of-the-line, has a great filter life and it is portable. If you don’t have access to filtered water you can use tap water that has been allowed to off-gas for at least 24 hours. Chlorine and other water additives can have a negative effect on sourdough microorganisms. Please do not use water bottled in single use plastic. Single use plastic is incredibly unsustainable and terrible for the environment!

 

Adding sourdough starter to the feeding process.

Zero the scale and add some of your previous 100% hydration sourdough starter. I used 140 grams in this feeding but the amount is very flexible. The only real rule of thumb for feeding is to keep your starter addition at less than 50% of the total weight.

200g flour + 200 grams water + 140 grams starter = 540 grams of starter.  140 grams ÷ 540 grams = 25.9%

The more starter you add the faster the new sugars will be consumed. The less starter you add the slower the time till the peak fermentation. I tend to opt for around 20-30% starter for a consistent and balanced feeding.

 

Mixing the sourdough starter.

Use a spoon or dough whisk to mix the starter until all the dry flour is incorporated and the mixture is fairly smooth.

 

Storing And Fermenting Your Starter 

 

Adding the starter to a glass jar for storage.

Place the starter in a storage container like this locking lid glass jar. I keep my starter in this large size so it has plenty of room to expand. Make sure to remove the rubber sealing ring from the jar, this will allow the starter to breathe.

 

The starter has doubled in the storage jar.

Let your starter ferment at room temperature. In this picture the starter has doubled in size but it has not yet peaked. If you are going to store you starter in the refrigerator put it away now.

 

The starter has peaked and is ready for baking.

In this photo the starter has “peaked”. This means it has reached its peak fermentation, it has used much of the sugar in the flour, and it is at its most active. You can see by the residue on the glass that the starter is starting to fall back down. Ideally you would use the starter before it falls any further.

At this point your starter is ready to be incorporated into recipes. Make sure to stir your starter down before measuring it. This will give you the most consistent volume. Of course, using recipes with ingredient weights will ultimately provide the best results!

Great Recipes For Using Your Fed And Active Starter

 

This artisan sourdough boule fits perfectly into a Dutch Oven for baking!

How To bake The Perfect Sourdough Boule In Your Dutch Oven

 

 

A perfectly peaked sourdough starter makes baking successful. #realfood #sourdough #Starter #masamadre #Fermentedfoods #properlypreparedgrains #nourishingtraditions #wisetraditions

100% Hydration Sourdough Starter

Yield: 1 sourdough starter
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Feed your sourdough starter for success!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place a bowl or jar on the scale and set the weight to grams. 
  2. Make sure to zero out the scale before adding any ingredients.
  3. Add 200 grams of organic flour to the bowl or jar.
  4. Zero your scale.
  5. Add 200 grams of filtered water.
  6. Add your previous 100% hydration sourdough
  7. Use a spoon or dough whisk to mix the starter until all the dry flour is incorporated and the mixture is fairly smooth.
  8. Place the starter in a storage container. 
  9. Allow the starter to ferment at room temperature until it has peaked.
  10. Use the starer in a baking project!

The key to really great sourdough bread and other baked goods is a lively and active sourdough starter. Learn how to properly feed your starter for the most successful bread baking. #fermented #naturallyleavened #masamadre #motherdough #sourdough #leaven #slowfood #realfood #nourishingtraditions #wisetraditions

 

 

These refined-sugar free, tart and buttery Cranberry And Sourdough Pastry Pinwheels are sure to become a holiday favorite!
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Val

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Hi there,iam just loving watching your videos ,,you make it so easy to follow,just wondering when you take your starter out of the fridge the morning you want to bake you would first feed your starter then discard ,just not sure if recipe calls for more starter how do I make more starter to get what recipe calls for as I try to keep a smaller amount in fridge like 112 grams of starter ,and when do I start to bake when the starter is doubled or wait a bit longer maybe when it’s tripled Thanks so much Val

Belinda

Monday 29th of June 2020

Hi Courtney, thanks for all this wonderful information. I started a starter about one month ago and it grew very well the first week. I used some for baking, and continued to feed and use it, but it has never since then doubled in size. I have tried to be consistent with feedings. I have tried changing the ratio of starter to flour and water keeping it at 100% hydration, I've read and researched as to why it won't grow any more. It gets nice bubbles, but no rise. Any suggestions? Should I just start over?

Butter For All

Tuesday 30th of June 2020

Hi Belinda!

You don't need to start over, just keep your starter small (100g) and discard (50g) and feed it (25/25) every 12 hours! It just takes time for the yeast and bacteria to balance out, that's why people keep starters so long, once they are happy they stay happy! have you watched my videos on YouTube? The Saturday Morning Sourdough episode one would be helpful!

Let me know how it goes!

Courtney

Carol Warner

Monday 11th of May 2020

Hi Courtney Thank you for your reply. It was most helpful. I re-read your instructions, and now it makes perfect sense (to my 60 year old fuddled brain) ?

Melody

Wednesday 27th of May 2020

Hi

Newbie to sourdough but excited for the journey. I’m on day 4 and going to start 2x every 12 hours feedings for my new starter. I’m using 50-50 AP/WW flours so my feeding is 75g starter, 100g flour, 100g water. What’s the ratio or hydration for this routine? I still don’t understand baker’s math.

TIA

Melody

Carol Warner

Saturday 9th of May 2020

Hi Courtney, Is it okay to maintain a starter using a 1-1-1 ratio? (Typically, I use 150g each of starter, flour and water) Should I be using less starter? Carol.

Butter For All

Sunday 10th of May 2020

Hi Carol,

I personally try not to use over 50% starter, I like to give my starter lots of food to keep it really active. But if it's working for you, and your starter isn't running out of food or getting overly sour, then it should be fine. Hope that helps!

Courtney

Sandee

Thursday 30th of April 2020

I recently started some dry "San Francisco Sourdough culture" received via Amazon. Are there any truly discernable flavor differences between sourdough yeast from different parts of the world? I read that unless you have a very controlled situation the sourdough made at home will always get contaminated by your local yeast so there is no point in trying other starters. ??? What have you learned? Sandee in Maryland

Butter For All

Sunday 3rd of May 2020

Hi Sandee,

I think it's great to start your starter from a culture of strong yeast, it may change over time, it's hard to say if it will or won't. My personal experience is that my starter has changed, but I believe it's from the yeast on the flour not from the environment. With a strong culture, it is less likely to happen. Hope you have great success with your starter!

Courtney

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