The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cn I use my starter straight out of the fridge - unfed

avatrx1's picture

Cn I use my starter straight out of the fridge - unfed

I have had good success with the 1-2-3 sourdough recipe and plan to experiment by adding some flax seeds to it and perhaps using a little of rye flour but my question again is with the starter.

I have a 100% hydration starter that I feed and then put in the fridge.  I've been taking it out the night before and using it in the morning, but can it be used straight out of the fridge. cold and typically not recently fed?  That part always seem to stump me when I get ready to bake.  I seem to forget to take it out and then wonder what would happen if I used it cold, mixed the dough and then refrigerated the loaf until I was ready to bake it.  Would all the cold stuff impair the process?



rainwater's picture

It will make everything take longer to do because it make a cool dough.  Reinhart always suggests to take the starter out an hour before to come to room temperature.  He also suggests that it's best if the starter has been fed at least 3 days or less before using.  Hope this helps.

avatrx1's picture

Thanks for the info.  All of this is useful to me.  sometimes I feed it and put it directly into the fridge. it does seem to put it into a type of hibernation mode.

other times I feed it and leave it out for a bit.

Perhaps I don't understand what is peak and what is "past peak".  I thought I read that peak is right before it collapses, but if I"m not here to see that then how would I tell?  After the collapse, I'm guessing that means it has used up all of it's "oomph" to be able to raise dough?

I'd love to attend a hands on class, but living out here in the sticks they don't have anything close and I'm the only one around here that I know of that plays around with sourdough.

Is a low hydration starter easier to maintain?  not that mine is difficult, but my schedule is often a mess and I never know when I"m going to be here and often when I am here - I forget.  especially when someone moves the starter to the back of the fridge....

....speaking of feeding the starter.................


Janknitz's picture

I think it depends on what point you put it in the fridge. 

I typically feed my starter and put it directly in the fridge.  Although a little bit of metabolism goes on in the fridge, for the most part I think of it as holding the starter in the stage I put it in (sort of suspended animation).  So my starter comes out of the fridge as if it has been freshly fed and the yeastie beasties have not had a chance to consume the new flour and water and multiply to the stage where they are ready to raise dough. 

In other words, I'm not ready to discard yet.  They need to warm up, wake up, and have a nice little meal.  So I know my starter will not be ready to use for 8 or more hours.

MOST people, however, feed their starter, let it start working on the counter for at least an hour (or more) before refrigerating it.  So their starter might be ready much sooner than mine coming out of the fridge. 

I suppose you could manipulate it by leaving the starter on the counter longer when you feed it, before refrigerating--then you can use it sooner when you take it out.  But the danger there is that there may not be enough food  left over to sustain the yeastie beasties during their refrigeration (where they still eat, just verrrrrrrry sssllllllllooooooooowwwlllllllllyyyyyyy).  If you leave it in the fridge too long, you might starve your starter. 

Hopefully others will weigh in with more knowlegeable responses. 

marc's picture

then I place it into the fridge. It generally takes about 4 hours to almost double and then I pop it in. Sometimes if it seems a bit sluggish doubling, I'll take it out and do a short knead. Before using for bread, as previously posted, it's best to set it out for about an hour. I've had luck with my up to 3 days. Beyond that the flavor tends to get a bit "off"


dmsnyder's picture

I believe Reinhart's statement that you can use a starter if it has been fed within 3 days applies to his "barm," which is moderately firm. A liquid starter will eat up its food much faster. My inclination would be to use it within 12 hours of the last feeding. But then I do keep my starter firm and only make a liquid levain in preparation for mixing a bread that specifically calls for it, so I anticipate my need and mix the levain so it will be at peak activity just when I will want to mix it in the dough.


rainwater's picture

I keep my starter at %100 because it makes it easier to use and feed and keep.  I feed, rise till double, then refrigerate a la BBA instructions.

I am totally intrigued with feeding and refrigerating immediately and then takin from the refrigerater at the appropriate time to make bread whether it's 8 hours before or whatever.....I wonder how long a starter would stay fresh and usuable with this technique. 

...and as when the starter is at it's peak for baking; I'm just taking the people who write the books word on this......just before or after the starter exhales, or collapses.......would this be the moment the 'yeasties' have used up the food in the starter and are at full population strength to start feeding on the new dough??????

I also think Reinhart's and Hammelman's approach to sourdough is intrigueing.  Both are bread champions.  Starters are similar, at least to my interpretation.  Reinhart is %100 hydration, and Hammelman is %125 hydration.  I use %100 hydration because it's very easy to calculate flour and water in leftover starter when using 'throwaway' starter in a yeasted recipe. 

Reinhart, on one hand, use a fairly high percentage of starter to make bread, and Hammelman uses very low percentages of starter to make formulas.  It's very interesting.....I've made some good sourdough breads, but nothing champion yet....I'm still working on it.

Janknitz's picture

is that the starter stays fresh a little longer if it's put immediately in the fridge after feeding.  However, I have not tested this theory--no scientific basis.

My theory is that the starter will have plenty of food to consume as it metabolizes very slowly in the fridge.  There is less danger of it running out of food.  So I can leave it longer if necessary.  I generally take my starter out of the fridge weekly for use and feeding, but when the weather was exceptionally hot I let it go a bit longer than two weeks since I wasn't baking in the oven.  It was a bit grey looking and had a little hooch, but perked up nicely with a countertop warmup and feeding.  It worked and tasted fine.  That's the longest I've left it, and I think it was a bit too long.  I'm not sure it would have done so well if I'd let it metabolize more before refrigerating. 


arzajac's picture

From what I gather, lactobacilli cannot move around and go and get to adjacent areas where new sources of food are found.  If they run out of food (staying in the same spot), they will start to look for new ways to get nutrients.  One way for them to do that is to break down proteins. 

So even though there may be food available to them, they can't get to it and the presence of proteolytic enzymes in your starter will increase over time - even in the fridge.  By feeding your starter, not only are you providing readily-available food for the lactobacilli so that they don't have to resort to proteolysis, but you are washing out the enzymes that will continue to chew up your proteins and break down your bread.

So I reckon than using a stored starter will work, but giving it a feeding just before use is better since you are getting rid of enzymes that can break down your dough and leave you flat.


breadbakingbassplayer's picture

You can, but I'd spike your final dough with some active dry yeast if you are baking on the same day, or instant yeast if you are planning to retard your dough in the fridge...

My typical doses for yeast are 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast, or 3/16 tsp of instant yeast per 500g of flour.  These should give you about a 3 hour bulk fermentation...