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How to Maintain Your Sourdough Starter

February 26, 2015

Maintaining your Sourdough Starter

If, like me,  you’ve decided to start baking Sourdough Bread the FIRST thing you must know is how to maintain your sourdough starter. And there are certain rules, that probably, if you are like me, you will have a problem with… Namely throwing away some at each feeding… If you don’t learn this one thing, you will need to rent the neighbor’s pool the day after you fill yours… approximately 12 days from now. I’m not kidding…

You have a choice. You may either keep  your starter in the refrigerator and give it weekly feedings. Which is what I highly recommend.  Or, you may choose to keep it on your counter top and feed it every 12 hours. That’s ok, too. I do both, actually. The reason you may want it on your countertop is that you don’t have to ‘wait’ to cook with it.

If  it is in your refrigerator you need to bring it to room temperature, 24 hours prior to when you’d like to bake bread and feed it a couple of times, at 12 hour intervals. Then you may proceed to bake.

This post is to show you what happens after a mere 4 feedings of sourdough starter, if you decide NOT to throw any away… My goal is to help you, from day ONE, not to become so attached to this precious starter that you find yourself up to our elbows in this fragrant, yeasty, doughy substance. Oh, it will happen!

We will begin with a small amount of very, very happy starter.  It grows and flourishes happily in it’s little container. BTW, you will need a container that will hold about 3 times the amount of starter you have. I like glass jars because I can see what’s happening….

Do you see this? It’s barely 1/4 cup of starter.

fourth cup starter

This is what every single loaf of Sourdough Bread begins with. Starter. It’s alive and thriving with natural yeasts and will continue to grow and thrive. That is exactly why you must throw some of it away at every feeding. Or bake with it or give it to a neighbor.

This post however I am not going to do any of these things just to make a point….just so you can see with your own two eyes what will happen if  you get too sentimental over your starter. Now I agree it is a precious thing….but we must be disciplined…..;)

How to Feed Your Starter

add water to fourth cup

add flour

To Feed your starter the first thing you do is  measure an equal amount of water to the starter you have. So in this case, I have 1/ 4 cup starter,  so I add 1/4 cup of water and stir vigorously until well blended. If there are a few stringy pieces, thats ok.

Then you add 1/2 cup of flour….which is twice the amount of starter you have.

So the rule:  1 part starter/ 1 part water/ 2 parts flour.

Always. Just remember that. And when you decide to bake, you must reserve some of the starter and save it for your next baking project.

day one fed starter

After it is fed, it will look like a ball of dough…because it is. All of it together now measures about 1/2 cup. Cover lightly with saran wrap or a paper towel or a coffee filter. The only thing you need to know is this: Never cover the sourdough tightly because the gases inside will build up and explode the jar. #funfactforyou

day one plus 12

In 12 hours this is what you will find.   It has bubbled and rose to the top of the jar almost.  Time to feed her again. Same process. Always stir down the starter then measure the sourdough starter. You don’t want to measure bubbles! Probably 1/2 cup now. Add 1/2 cup water and 1 cup of flour!

day one second feed

I transferred to a larger container.

larger container day one

Covered lightly and wait another 12 hours….. I like to mark my container so I can see and make sure it is indeed rising properly… This is critical when you first begin and are making sure your starter is working as it should.

The next morning you should see this:

24 hours later

Yes, ma’am,  it’s working properly. Once this is stirred down it is probably enough for a recipe, but I’m doing a little experiment here, just for you…..

So once again, I stirred down the bubbles and measured the starter in this jar and added an equal amount of water and a double amount of flour and once again we will wait 12 hours….

larger conatiner 2nd morning

Now,  12 hours later I have this! WOW! Yesterday morning I began with 1/4 cup starter.


after third rising

I’m doing this to make a point. You can’t get sentimental about starter. It will dominate your life.

I’m going to feed this one more time….it’s only day 2 and it’s my second feeding. I’ll have to divide it between two containers because when it rises this time it will over flow this a gallon+ jar.

starter fed day2 2nd fed

This is my largest mixing bowl. Now, I’ll let it rise 12 more hours……hold your breath.

starter day 2 second feeding

Let me remind you how we began… We started with the 1/4 cup on the right and ended up with the large container on the left… Now after one more feeding and 12 hours…….. (I had to divide the starter)

sourdough starter comparison jars

I woke up to this 12 hours later….. Day 3

3rd day

Wow! I placed my canner behind these containers because that’s what I’d have to use next…and in a day or two I’d need my bathtub. My point is this…when making sourdough bread it is important to throw away or use or give away some at each feeding.

We went from 1/4 cup on the right…to the large container on the left in 3 feedings….

sourdough starter comparison jars

If you keep your starter at room temperature it must or needs to be fed every 12 hours. And as you can see from this post, it grows very fast, if you are not baking with it everyday or giving it away. …or throwing it away.

Just remember to save back a small portion of your starter for your seed starter for next time.  I try to keep 1/2 cup in the refrigerator. If you keep it refrigerated you only need to feed it once a week or so.

Now, I’m in the process of giving away starter…;) Anybody need starter?  It’s really vibrant and active… 😉

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  • Julia Timmons

    I am interested in how you started your starter. This recipe begins with starter you already have. I am starting from scratch.

    April 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm Reply
    • admin

      Julia, I’m sorry I didn’t do a post of starting a starter….I should have, because it was fairly easy. Nothing but flour and water and time….I couldn’t believe how simple it was to do. I wish you well in your sourdough venture and maybe one day I will do it again and document the whole thing in a post!

      July 15, 2015 at 8:44 pm Reply

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