How To Feed Your Sourdough Starter For Successful Baking

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!

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 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. 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.

 

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

 

 

100% Hydration Sourdough Starter
Prep Time
5 mins
 

Feed your sourdough starter for success!

Cuisine: American, Traditional
Keyword: Fermented, Sourdough, Starter
Author: Butter For All
Ingredients
  • 200 Grams Organic All Purpose Flour
  • 200 Grams Filtered Water
  • 140 Grams 100% Hydration Starter
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

 

 

8 Comments

  1. First of all thanks for all this instruction….I have been feeding the old sourdough and it just keeps multiplying while the effectiveness seems to drop. So I see by your “hydration” instructions I have been doing this wrong.
    I am trying to get more fiber into my breads, biscuits, hamburgers because of diabetes. Thinking about using ground flax seed, oat bran, gamut, sprouted spelt. What percentage would you use so the bread doesn’t come out super heavy like a brick?
    Also what sourdough biscuit recipe do you use? Thanks so much!

  2. Rachelle

    I bought a frozen starter from an organic farmer near me. I gave it 3 days to wake up and then I started adding water and flour daily. I didn’t remove any starter, and although there are bubbles, it doesn’t seem to be rising. What am I doing wrong? What’s my daily feeding? I’m a bit confused about the difference between starting a starter and maintaining the starter… thanks for your help!!

    • Hi Rachelle,

      It sounds like you need to be discarding 1/2 and feeding the starter everyday until you get it really active and healthy! Take out half your starter and replace it with 50% flour and 50% water by weight. Do this for three days. Then do it twice a day for three days. That should help you get it ready for baking. Reach out if you have any other questions, I’m happy to help! Also a side note, I’m surprised your farmer sells frozen starter. Lots of strains of wild yeast will not survive freezing. The preferred method is to gently dry the starter for preservation. So you may actually be starting your own starter from scratch. Read through this post for more info on sourdough!

      -Courtney

    • Hi Diane,

      Good question. Usually a starter in refrigeration won’t need to breathe. I personally use a locking lid jar with out the rubber ring. That allows a little room for expansion of gas but won’t let the starter dry out or take on odors. I know a lot of people who use mason jars with the ring tightened down. No problem. But when you take the starter from the fridge and it starts fermenting and producing gas again you need to have that breathing room for expansion. Otherwise, POP! That’s why I love the locking lid jar. From fridge to counter it works well!

      Hope this helps,

      Courtney

  3. Breanna

    I’m just a little confused, so you have a starter that you continually feed then take some of that starter and feed it to have enough to use for a recipe, so most of that will be used and you continue to feed your original starter? I’m assuming that the portion that you discard daily can be used to do this but does this mean if you don’t bake every day that you will be throwing away part of your starter every day? Due to health issues, I can’t have grain very often and when I do it must be organic sourdough but I don’t believe my time between baking to be enough to require putting my starter to sleep in the fridge.

    • Hi Breanna!
      That is not how I do it, I have a starter that I feed before and after making bread. Here is the system that works best for me. The way I manage my starter is to use, feed, use, feed, sleep, repeat.

      #1 USE. So I start by using some fully fermented starter (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 me to use that starter instead of discarding it.

      #2 FEED. Then I feed the starter back up to original weight to get it primed for baking bread. Let it peak at room temp. (so if you used 500gr for pancakes for instance feed with 250gr each again).

      #3 USE. Use the starter to make bread.

      #4 FEED. Feed the remaining starter back up with amount you took out. Let it get started fermenting for a few hours at room temp before putting in the fridge for storage. I’ve learned to never put a starter away hungry!

      #5 SLEEP. Put the starter to bed in the fridge. 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 prime, use it for bread, feed it again, and then put it back to sleep!

      I will be updating this post with more clear instructions, thank you for the feedback! Until then I hope this helps!

      Courtney

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