The Care and Feeding of Your Sourdough Starter

Now that you’ve started your sourdough adventure it’s time to learn all about the care and feeding of your starter.  Or do you even have a starter yet?  If not, it’s pretty easy to make one.
Sourdough starter is just flour and water. And patience.  The process will take about 5 days.

Making Sourdough Starter

1. Mix together 4 oz. (¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons) of the flour of your choice with 4 oz. (1/2 cup) of filtered water in a medium glass bowl.  Stir vigorously and cover (I like to use a shower cap) and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours.

2. On day two you may start to see some tiny bubbles.  This is good news.  This means that the wild yeast is starting to form.  It is eating up the sugars in the flour and releasing carbon dioxide (those bubbles) and alcohol. The mixture is also becoming more acidic which is good because it will be able to fend off any bad bacteria.  It should start to smell fresh and yeasty, even a little bit sweet.

Don’t worry if there are no bubbles yet.  There is still time.  At this point you can add the same amount of flour and water that you added yesterday.  Stir vigorously and stir down the sides.  Cover and let it sit on the counter for another 24 hours.

3. On day three you should see lots of bubbles and your starter should be growing.  It should feel thick when you stir it and it should start smelling a little bit sour and musty.  Feed it again the same way you did on day two.

4. On day four you will notice lots of bubbles and it will be double in size.  Feed it again the same way you did on the second and third days and let it sit on the counter for 24 more hours.

5. By day five your starter should be ready to use.  It should be very bubbly, even frothy. It should have a sour smell and if you were to taste it, it should taste sour and vinegary.  If it doesn’t seem like it’s ready you can repeat the feeding process for another day.  Otherwise you can use it.  Or you can store it in the refrigerator and follow the care and feeding directions as explained below.

Caring for Sourdough Starter

Your sourdough starter is living so it requires food, water, oxygen, exercise, and the proper environment if it is to thrive.

It will eat flour.  You can use white or wheat or rye or spelt or einkorn.  It just depends on your preference.  I have fed my starter different flours during its lifetime and it hasn’t seemed to do it any harm.  I like to feed it about every three days and I try to feed it the day before I’m going to use it.
It’s important to wait to use it for at least 8 hours (overnight is best) after it’s fed.

Your starter likes to drink non-chlorinated water.  Well water, filtered water, or spring water are good choices.  Please, no chlorine. Since chlorine is anti-bacterial, it will kill your starter.

To help it breathe make sure to give it a good vigorous stir every time you feed it.  This also will help to redistribute the different yeasts and bacteria so they will not crowd each other out.

Your starter gets exercised every time you use it.  So you need to use it regularly.  If you are not going to bake with it at least once a week you should probably put it to sleep by freezing it or drying it.

You can keep your starter either on the sink or in the fridge.  Keeping it on the sink can prove to be labor intensive as it will have to be fed every day.  I keep mine in the refrigerator because it slows down its consumption of flour and doesn’t have to be fed as often.  It’s best to use your starter within 3 days of its last feeding.  And I like to feed mine the day before I use it.

Sometimes you will notice an orange/brown liquid on the top of your starter.  This is a hooch and it means that your starter is very hungry.  At this point you can pour off the hooch and feed the starter once a day for the next 2 days.

It works well to have 2 cups of starter at any given time.  With this you will be able to bake 2 loaves of bread per week.  If you only want to make one loaf of bread you will have to find other uses for it.  The possibilities are as limitless as your mind will take you.  Just think crumpets, pasta, crackers, biscuits, pancakes…really just about anything you can think of.

I hope I have inspired you to make your own sourdough starter and that you will soon begin your journey of making your own sourdough bread.  I think you will be very happy with your results!


Angie Schneider said...

Just fed my sourdough :-) We eat quite a bit of sourdough pancakes because I always have lots of starter left and going to make another batch this weekend.

Getting Real in Your Kitchen said...

Oh, I love sourdough pancakes! I also like to make crumpets with my extra starter.