The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Friends of Carl we go!

bobchristenson's picture

Friends of Carl we go!

Whelp.  I've been baking bread for a couple years now and am just starting to get more serious about it.  After weeks of anticipation my 1847 "Friends of Carl" starter just arrived in the mail and, tomorrow is the big day.  Any gotchas or advice from anyone before I start?

I figured this momentous occasion was a good reason for my first post on the site.  Looking forward to having a real, living (hopefully!) starter in my fridge!

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

"Take good care of your ba-a-a-by

Please don't ever make her blu-u-u-ue (or pink for that matter)

Just remember to feed her

cover and refrigerate her

In all the bread-stuff you do-o-o-o"

But seiously, congrats and have fun with the starter.  The folks here can answer just about any question you'll have.  I'm a novice, but love making sourdough breads.

wayne on FLUKE's picture
wayne on FLUKE

Hi Bob,

I have been using this starter for a couple of years now. You should have no trouble reviving the dried starter.

I chose to keep a 100% (equal weight flour and water) starter. I keep it in the fridge and feed it (20 grams starter + 40 gr water + 40 gr flour) every week to 10 days if I don't happen to bake with it sooner.

I have been using Teresa's Northwest Sourdough Basic White Sourdough with 100% starter recipe and baking it in a Romertopf clay baker. Makes great sandwich bread.

The morning before baking I feed the starter as normal, but leave it out all day. Then in the evening I feed it again (100 gr starter + 100 gr water + 100 gr flour) which makes enough for the recipe (I make half a batch) and enough to feed and put in the fridge again. Leave that out overnight.

Next morning start making the bread.


bobchristenson's picture

Thanks for the advice on feeding, etc. 

I think my question at this point is:  what' sthe minimum you want to have at all times?  For example, if I'm going to use x-amount in the bread, I need that amount plus the minimum at it's last feeding, right?

I guess I'm looking for a baseline (or recommended) number never to go below.

gary.turner's picture

As little as is comfortable for you is the minimum. As much as you want to deal with is the maximum. A commercial baker or a home baker with a specific baking schedule will work out his own hard numbers.

No matter how much you keep, it will need to be fed and embellished before adding it to the dough, so even a little bit may be enough for your breads. Some breads call for a long preferment which would need less mother to inoculate the starter. Other breads may want a short preferment which would require a higher proportion of mother to get things bubbling happily.

I keep 150g of mother in the refrigerator. That works well for me because my primary bread uses 100g of mother plus 150g each of flour and water for a 400g starter to be pitched on a short ferment, as soon as it becomes noticeably active. After using the inoculant, I am left with 50g of the mother to refresh with 50g each of flour and water and allow to become active, then it goes back into the fridge. Obviously, this works well. If I were making a larger batch, it would be a less good solution.

Another bread that I make only occasionally uses only 210g of starter, and that starter has a long fermentation period, so the inoculant is proportionally less, only 10g to seed 100g each of flour and water. I could keep less if this were my usual bread.

I should point out that the above is a simplification. I would normally refresh the mother and let it ferment on the counter over night before building the starter for the bread dough. If I fed it three squares a day and let it rest on the counter, it would stay ready to go.

In other words, you'll have to find out for yourself. ;-)



Yumarama's picture

You can go down to 50g which would be 10g starter + 20g water and 20g flour with no problem. You can easily increase your discard/excess, in this case 40g, to at least 200g of starter for baking (40g:80g:80g) anytime you feed your mother. You can make, for example, 300g just as easily if that's what a recipe required, by using 40g:130g:130g - it would just take a little longer for that 40g to inoculate the larger amount.

It's much easier and economical to stay very small and expand as needed than keeping and feeding a larger amount that you may or may not end up using. Also, the size of the jar you then need to keep is easy to store in the fridge vs a 4 cup starter that needs an 8 cup or bigger jar.

Which way you go does depend in large part on what your regular "go to" recipe is and how often you end up making it. If you chose the Hamelman Vermont Sourdough, for example, you only need 30g so even that small Mother's excess/discard is 10 grams more than you need. Other recipes may need 120g or 340g in which case you can expand the excess accordingly. Just allow some prep time to get that excess up to the quantity you need beforehand.

But it really does all depend on what YOUR baking schedule needs and what your preferred bread requires; none of this is set in stone.

Happy baking,
Yumarama & MellowBakers

naschol's picture

Yes, I keep a very tiny amount of starter in the fridge - about a tablespoon or two.  I don't bake very often (about every 3-4 weeks) and don't feed my starter until just before I'm ready to bake.  A day before I am ready to bake, I take it out and start feeding until it is very active and I have the amount I need - usually about 3 feedings.  On the last feeding, I take out a little bit before it ferments, add more flour to make an almost dough-like consistency and put in the fridge immediately.  The extra flour gives the starter more to eat so I don't have to mess with feeding every week.

bobchristenson's picture

This site rocks!! Thanks so much for all the helpful responses. I'll learn as I go, it sounds like :)

I type this while waiting for my starter to bubble. So far so good :)

bobchristenson's picture

45 minutes and still just barely a bubble. How long is this first step (starter and 1tb of flour with water) of the revive supposed to take? With such a small amount of ingredients I was anticipating 10 minutes to just get a couple bubbles. I may suggest to them they should give approximate times in the revive instructions. (and I should learn that maybe starter takes longer than yeast would :)

Yumarama's picture

It will take a couple of days for the dried starter to get it's act back together and be doubling regularly. Compared to two or three weeks for starting from scratch plus possibly several more to get the starter's character going, a few days is still a major time saver.

Give it the time it needs and you'll have a nice sourdough starter that gives you great tasting bread.

Patience is a very large part of the sourdough process. This is a good place to get into the Slow Food groove.

bobchristenson's picture

For sure I need to learn patience that will come with sourdough. I just had a different concept of the timing, longer is fine, I was just afraid it wasn't active when I didn't see any action in such a small amount!

I'm afraid of killing my first try :)

bobchristenson's picture

Well after almost 24 hours I had just a handful of small bubbles breaking the surface and I figured maybe that was all I'd get eve though I expected something more akin to what I see after my 18 hour Lahey ferment (same thing I had after about 3 hours and they came back after I stirred)

I decided to move onto the next phase of adding more 1/4 cup flour and water. Hopefully we'll see some rise today!

paulwendy's picture

Just wanted to let you know that I've been using Carl's Starter forever.It's the best (I have experimented with many). It's always in my fridge. I use it about once a week for a 3lb. Lodge Cast Iron Oven bake. Just take it out of the fridge, let it get to room temp. and feed. It's ready to go in 4 to 6 hrs. Enjoy

bobchristenson's picture

Good to know!

I was a little worried until today that I may have killed it, but this morning it was smelling like sourdough goodness.

I'm at the second stage of waiting to add the 1/2 cup flour/water and I'm wondering when.  It said "when it rises up", and I'm not sure whether to take this literally (I marked the container and it really hasn't gotten any higher, but is nice and foamy).  Should I keep waiting or add this last stage of revival feeding?

paulwendy's picture

Add the flour and water. its ready. Not much rise because the amount is so small.

bobchristenson's picture

Added them! Thanks!

Yumarama's picture

Adding 1/2 cup of flour (2.25 oz by weight) and a 1/2 cup of water (4.1 oz by weight), you will have a very liquid starter approaching 175% hydration which will have trouble expanding since it is so loose, it won't be able to trap the bubbles. They'll just float to the top and pop.

To get close to a true 100% hydration (equal weight flour and water) while keeping to that 1/2 cup of flour, you'll want to cut the water back to a tad over 1/4 cup or 2.41 liquid ounces. This will give you a stiffer batter consistency which will be better able to trap those little bubbles and therefore expand.

Of course, the easiest way to make sure you're getting 100% hydration is to use a kitchen scale, preferably of the digital sort and one that will give you gram measures down to 1 gram units. Then it's just a matter of weighing equal amounts of water and flour. It is a worthwhile investment if you're getting into bread making. You can get a half decent scale for about $20-$25 in nearly any kitchenware section of any department store.


Happy baking,


bobchristenson's picture

Thanks for this reminder Paul.

I was following the "Carl's" instructions which call for a half cup of each and I wondered how this could be right. This morning I started refreshing with equal weight rather than equal measure.

Thomas Parr's picture
Thomas Parr

I would suggest that you follow the directions for drying and do so.  I have saved about twenty Tbsp stored in individual plastic snack bags of dried starter from the original in case I should ever goof up.  I can always start it again, and have sufficient to give to friends.


jangret's picture

I have sour dough starter.  Getting into making bread. There's one thing I'm confused about.  I've tried both ways and they worked.  But I'd like to know for sure which is correct. When I take starter out of the jar in the fridge to make bread, I take some out of the original jar, add half flour and half water to it and leave it out for about 8 hrs., then make the bread recipe with it. Then I feed the original jar that will go back into the fridge.  Where I'm a little confused is I'm not sure whether to put the original jar back into the fridge right away, or should I leave it out for about 8 hrs. also and THEN put it in the fridge.  

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

As you stated, both work.  Letting it get active before the fridge is done by many because they want to see signs of life before slowing it down in the fridge. 

For convenience, I feed and fridge immediately. Havent had any trouble but it is only 6 months old. I halve no idea how long it takes to double so have no idea how active it is or whether the activity level is changing. 

PetraR's picture

For me the best way is to use a Levain so I only need 1 Tbsp of Starter.

Since I do this I have only 60g of Starter that I feed with 60g flour and 80g of Water * 133% Hydration *

I could keep a much smaller amount but I also use ⅓ of a cup of my Starter to enhance my basik White Sandwich Bread.

johnaudie's picture

This sourdough has the kind of smell, a very good smell at that, that is not seen in any of the other starters that I have had. So, to keep this aside as insurance is to activate it and then scoop part of it and dry it out on a silicon baking sheet. That is your insurance if ever your cold starter gets the fever.

Happy Baking!

kenlklaser's picture

I just use a ceramic plate to dry it out, then once dry, freeze it in a chest freezer without any defrost cycle. A silicone mat is probably even better for drying. I brought it back to life after more than a 1 year in the freezer starting with 6 grams. Within 36 hours I had enough to satisfy a craving for sourdough pancakes. It worked so well, I'm going to dry then freeze a much larger amount of it, and see if I can reduce the incubation time to something on the order of 12 hours or less.