The Fresh Loaf

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When is the best time to use your sourdough

hushsweetcharlot's picture

When is the best time to use your sourdough

I am new to sourdough.  I ordered a starter from, it is from New Zealand.  I think it is doing fine, it looks and smells good.  I keep it on the counter all the time instead of in the fridge so there is no getting back activated.  I feed it twice a day, at 6:30 in the morning and 6:30 in the evening.  a couple of hours after I feed it, it bubbles up a couple of inches just like it is supposed to.  My question is - when is the best time to use it?  before I feed it? after I feed it, if so, how long should I wait?   I made muffins yesterday, I used starter that was bubbling.  as soon as I added the flour to my bowl it went flat and the muffins were like little rocks.   I tried making cinnamon rolls the day before with some dough that I let set out and rise overnight - they were like rocks.  So what am I doing wrong?   I'm not feeding it the same amount of flour/water as the amount of starter I have (because the starter in the jar is probably about 8 cups) - I feed it about 2 cups of flour/water twice a day, throwing some out every few days when I see it starting to accumulate.

I'm starting to get frustrated, so any advice would be appreciated.

SourFlour's picture

One of the most important things to keep in mind is how much you are feeding your starter.  You mentioned that you had 8 cups of starter, and fed it 2 cups of flour/water.  Going by weight would be more exact, but we can estimate. 

8 cups of starter probably weighs close to 2000g.

2 cups of flour probably weighs close to 250g.

2 cups of water probably weighs close to 500g.

So it seems that you are feeding your starter in a ratio of around 40:5:10 (starter:flour:water), which is not very much food.  Many people feed theirs 2:1:1, which would double the amount of starter each time you feed. Notice that you are giving your starter 12.5% of its weight in flour, while 2:1:1 gives it 50%; that is a big difference in food.

You mentioned that your starter had gotten to big, which is why you don't want to feed it so much.  This is a common problem, and to solve it you really just need to through out the majority of your starter to get it back down to a much more managable size (or put it in the fridge to deal with when you know how to).  You also might want to start feeding only once a day or every other day so that you have more time to use up your starter.

As for when to use your starter, it will depend on the feeding schedule you gave it.  If you are doing a 2:1:1 twice a day, it is common to use the starter 4-8 hours after feeding, but it is really up to you.  Immediately after feeding the starter will be much more diluted (with the extra flour and water you just added), so not as active.  I have used starter that is 48 hours old that had been fed 2:1:1 consistently, and it was still somewhat active.

Hope this helps.

Danny - Sour Flour