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Properly Feeding Sourdough Starter for Baking Success

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Once you create a sourdough starter it’s important to learn how to maintain it. Properly Feeding sourdough starter for baking bread will give you the best baking results.

Sourdough recipes with starter need a properly balanced mature starter to give best rise and fermentation.

Read our post on how to make a sourdough starter to learn how to build your own sourdough starter. Read on to learn how to take care of it.

As you can see in our sourdough bread recipe tutorial. A lot of time is invested in a delicious loaf of sourdough. They are easy to make but can take days of fermenting.

Sourdough starters with flour and rye
a rye starter-rear and a wheat flour starter-front

Two ingredients are essential for a successful sourdough bread. A good high protein flour and an active well balanced starter.

Good Sourdough Bakes:

Visit our Sourdough Section to see all our delicious sourdough breads, English Muffins, cinnamon rolls, bagels, pretzels, are only a few. And don’t miss all our sourdough discard recipes.

The breads pictured above are all made with balanced sourdough starter. The recipe method is the no knead stretch and fold method baked in a dutch oven.

For the best oven spring and fermentation you need a good recipe and a good starter.

This is an aged sourdough starter that has passed the float test and is ready to bake.
This is a mature sourdough starter that is active has passed the float test.

Attaining a Good Starter:

Starting a sourdough starter is a lengthy process outside the scope of this post.

Our Baker Friend Sasha Hunter occasionally contributes sourdough bread recipes to this blog for us.

If you are wanting to buy your sourdough starter rather than make it from scratch (which can takes weeks). Message Sasha. She sells her starter all over the country.

How Often to feed Sourdough Starter:

In this post We explore maintaining and preparing your MATURE starter for the best results in sourdough bread baking.

Making sourdough bread from starter begins by properly maintaining your sourdough starter. An active balanced starter is essential to a good bake.

sourdough starter
A recently fed starter (fed a week previous) from the fridge. Ready to feed for bread baking.

I store my starter in the refrigerator in a wide mouth glass jar covered in plastic.

I feed it once a week. This is a common feeding schedule to keep starter in the recently fed state. This is the most versatile state.

It is easy to balance or feed the starter for baking or use it straight from the fridge when it is recently fed and that’s what the recipe needs.

If you keep your starter out on the counter at warm temperatures you will need to feed it every day or so to keep it recently fed.

  • The starter will ‘eat’ or digest and ferment at a faster rate if it is at room temperature.
  • Refrigerator temperatures will slow down the fermentation process. That’s why I do the fridge store.
  • You can feed your starter any way you like if you are just trying to keep it alive.
  • I mix my starter into a thick paste and store my sourdough starter jar (I use a mason jar with plastic wrap on top so it can breathe) in the fridge.
  • Starter is a mix of flour and water. Once it ferments it becomes its own independent ingredient. Sourdough starter.
  • Sourdough starter is a dynamic living ingredient in your sourdough recipes. You can do so much with your sourdough starter depending on well fed it is.
sourdough starter with flour and water
Three ingredients needed to feed a starter.

How fed is fed?

Sourdough starter can be described as in all these states at various times:

  • active and ready to bake once balanced as we are working toward here.
  • Starved-hasn’t been fed in months (it’s not dead you can most likely save it)
  • Recently fed– within the last week. Many recipe use starter in this state.
  • unfed-hasn’t been feed in more than a week. You may see hooch starting to form on top.

When you feed your sourdough starter for a recipe you will have some left. The remaining starter is called sourdough discard.

Sourdough recipes call for starter in various states of feeding. The recipe will usually state what stage of feeding is required.

You can either throw out (discard) the excess starter or you can make an endless amount of delicious recipes with that leftover fed, recently fed or unfed discard.

Maintaining and feeding your sourdough starter-pin image
Once you create a sourdough starter it’s important to learn how to maintain and feed it for baking bread and other sourdough recipes.

What is Hooch?

  • If I starve my starter (leave it alone for several weeks) I’ll eventually see my sourdough starter separating. A grey liquid forms on top called sourdough starter hooch.
  • Hooch is not bad for you. It does make sourdough starter smell like alcohol. Hooch provides a more sour flavor in your sourdough loaves.
  • I occasionally starve and stir in the hooch for a more rustic flavored loaf. The alcohol smell will bake off and digest as you feed the starter in balance.
  • Black or PINK are not good colors for your starter. This is NOT hooch. If you see these colors you have bacteria you don’t want growing in there.
  • If it is only a small amount you may be able to scoop out a small bit of good starter under the top layer of icky.
  • Then feed the reserved starter in a new clean jar. Throw out the contaminated starter. OR just throw it all out. Up to you.

When is your starter well and truly dead? Only you can determine that. We have revived a starter recently that had been stuck in the back of Kayti’s fridge for eight MONTHS.

She fed it twice and made a lovely loaf of bread the next day. There was still live sourdough in that jar and it came roaring back as soon as it was fed.

Active Starter
Use an active starter. Make a line so you can tell if it is doubling.

How to balance your Sourdough starter for baking bread:

Once you want to bake bread your starter MUST be in balance. What do I mean by that?

Your starter will digest optimally and ferment well when it is in a ratio of 1:1:1 flour, warm water and starter.

Use a digital scale to weigh the ingredients. Volume measurements will NOT give you proper results.

feeding starter for baking
Use a digital scale to make sure your ingredients are equal in WEIGHT.

Now stir your ingredients together into a paste. in 8 to 12 hours the starter should double in size and float in water. Ready to bake!

There are exceptions but as a general rule this simple ratio is all you need to balance your starter and prepare it for bread baking.

Flours for feeding sourdough starter:

various whole grain flours

You can keep sourdough starter alive with almost any flour with gluten and enzymes in it. Here are some to take note of.

  • Rye-has amylase and rich nutrients that will boost your starter and get it active more quickly. However, This is a low gluten flour. Use a mix of rye and wheat for best rise and balance.
  • Whole wheat flours- also full of enzymatic action. Feed your starter with whole wheat for a quick boost of a lazy starter.
  • bread flours– very good choice for feeding a starter.
  • Unbleached all purpose flour-will feed your starter. But don’t bake breads with low protein flours.

There are many more grain flours that can be used in your starter recipe. These are just the most common.

What flours do you use in your baking? Which flours do you use to feed your sourdough starter?

Your Printable Recipe Card:

If you print the recipe out the pictures will not print. This is to save you paper and ink.

Below the recipe notes is a video demonstrating the recipe. Please let us know if you have further questions. We are here to help.

Sourdough starters with flour and rye
Yield: 300 grams starter

Feeding Sourdough Starter for Baking Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes

Sourdough recipes with starter need a properly balanced starter to give best rise and fermentation. Here is how you prepare a balanced starter for baking bread.

Ingredients

  • 100 grams sourdough starter-fed in the past week
  • 100 grams flour
  • 100 grams warm water

Instructions

  1. For quickest results your ingredients should be at room temperature.
  2. Set a medium bowl or quart container on a digital scale
  3. Pour in the water, starter and flour.feeding starter for baking
  4. Mix into a paste.mix flour, water and starter into a paste
  5. Let sit covered until it is doubled in size. This will take 8 to 12 hourscover and let rise 8 to 12 hours-room temperature
  6. Do the float test.starter float test Ready to bake when it floats.
  7. If you do the feeding and it does not float feed the starter again and wait a few hours.

Notes

This is a tried and true recipe for balancing your starter for bread baking.

However, The important thing is NOT the absolute numbers of grams for each ingredient. The important thing is the RATIO of 1:1:1. You can halve this recipe or double it. but keep all the ingredients in proportion to each other for best results.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 23Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 0mgCarbohydrates 5gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 1g

This amount of sourdough starter is used to make two 1000 gram loaves of bread. About 24 slices of bread.

Did you make this recipe?

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How to feed and maintain your sourdough starter-pin image
Once you create a sourdough starter it’s important to learn how to maintain and feed it for baking bread and other sourdough recipes.
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