Christine's Sourdough Starter Guide

Maintaining Your Starter

If you received a sourdough starter kit from me, then it will have been fed within the 24 hours prior to delivery. How you store your starter and how frequently you feed it will depend on how often you plan on using the starter. Unless you plan on using the starter or feeding it again soon, be sure to refrigerate immediately!

How Often to Feed Starter

If you plan on baking often:

You may choose to store your starter at room temperature, probably in your pantry, and will want to feed the starter 1-2 times a day. The higher the temperature it is stored in, the more active the culture will be, and the faster it will "eat" and therefore the more often it will need to be fed.

If you plan on baking infrequently:

You will want to store your starter in the refrigerator, under "hibernation". With this method, you will only need to feed the starter about once a week. The starter is quite resilient, so if you miss a feeding by a few days, it should still be okay.

How to Feed Your Starter

To feed your starter, you need two things:

  1. Flour: I highly recommend you use a high quality, organic, high protein flour like the King Arthur Organic Bread Flour included in your kit (marked "for feeding").
  2. Water: this should be room temperature water - not cold, and definitely not too hot - heat can kill the yeast in your sourdough culture. The amount of water varies according to the hydration level you'd like to maintain your starter at. The instructions below will help you maintain a starter at 100% hydration - which balances ease of maintenance with flavor (see the section "Hydration Levels of Sourdough Starter" in this article). However, if you wish to keep your starter at a different hydration level, just adjust the amount accordingly.

Process:

  1. On your first feeding, I recommend you start with a clean container, weigh out the amount of starter you are starting with (50g is a good base amount if you regularly plan to bake 1 loaf; 75g if you regularly plan to bake 2 loaves). Then add equal amount (by weight) of flour, and equal amount (by weight) of room temperature water.
  2. On subsequent feedings, you will find you have more starter than you might need. You will need to get rid of some of the starter before you feed it. It might feel like a waste, but if you don't discard, your starter will just continue to triple in size at every feeding, which means tripling the amount of flour you need to use at the next feeding. However, if you still feel as badly as I do about throwing away good food, you can find plenty of ideas around the internet on other meals to make with sourdough discard.
  3. You could use a stand mixer to mix everything together, but I find it easier to just mix everything directly inside the container. Make sure to mix well!
  4. If you store your starter in the pantry, you can return it to the pantry at this point. If you are storing in the fridge, then you will want to leave your starter out at about room temperature to allow it to activate. This takes anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on the temperature of your room. Once it has at least doubled in size, you can put it back in the fridge until the next feeding.

How to Know if Sourdough Starter is Active

One of the most reliable ways to test if your starter is ready for baking is the Float Test. All this test consists of is taking a bit of your starter and throwing it into a glass of room temperature water. If the starter floats, then it is ready for baking!