The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How much starter to use (Hamelman 2T recipe)

jkdufair's picture

How much starter to use (Hamelman 2T recipe)

Hi -

I've got my first starter going (125% hydration, built according to instructions in Hamelman's "Bread").  I have about 10 oz. in a crock in my fridge now.  When read Hamelman's recipe for Vermont Sourdough, it calls for building the starter with 2 T of my starter and then adding in however much flour and water.

My question is: what do I do with the 10 oz minus 2T left in my crock?  How do I feed it?  What do I do with the 2T I'm supposed to reserve from the recipe?

ktgp's picture

I'm working with the same recipes, and from what I understand you put the two tablespoons of "refreshed" starter back into your crock as a feeding of your starter.  That's why if you bake often enough you won't have to feed it separately necessarily.  Instead, it gets feed every time you bake.  If you don't bake every few days, then you'll have to feed your starter as you did when you were first developing it.

RobynNZ's picture

Hamelman's book is primarily for baker's working at commercial scale, who bake daily. Fortunately for those of us baking on a small scale at home bread formula are easily scaled and we can use the same formula. The baker making a 16.69kg final dough of the Vermont Sourdough, retains 0.3kg of the liquid levain build to perpetuate the culture and have it ready for the next bake (so the culture is getting feed twice a day, once as a refreshment and once as part of the levain build) . If you are baking each day you would remove the 2 Tbsp from the ripened levain build, feed it and then use 2Tbsp of that refreshed starter when it had ripened approx 12 hours later. The small amount of starter leftover at this point is put in the fridge in an 'old starter' jar and can be used to make pancakes, muffins etc. Do a search on this site and you will find a number of ideas of using up old starter. I like pancakes myself. I often give a container of old starter and the pancake recipe to friends. Some people make an old starter bread.


There is a wealth of material in the archives on this site and I would recommend you use the search box. Meantime you might find this useful to read:


Most home baker's are not using their sourdough starter on a daily basis to make bread, so we need to feed the starter to keep it in good condition. 

Most people who are only baking sourdough once a week or less put the refreshed starter in the fridge bringing it out a day or two before baking and feed it twice a day so that it is in a vigorous state, ready for use to build the levain prior to baking. Everytime the starter is fed a small amount is taken for feeding and the rest is discarded into the old starter jar. If no baking is done in the course of a week, then the starter in fridge needs a refreshment (take a small amount and discard the rest), best to leave it out on the counter for an hour or two after feeding and then return to the fridge.

 Others keep their starter on the counter all the time and feed it twice a day so that it is always ready to be used in a levain build when they want to make bread.

We all choose the amount of starter to maintain and at what hydration to keep it, depending on our preferences. If you search on this site you will find what others are doing. Currently I am keeping a 60% starter in a warm spot on the counter,  so twice a day I take 20g of starter (put the rest in the old starter jar) add 12g water stir and then add 20g flour. The day before baking I will adjust to make more starter or to alter hydration, depending on what I plan to make.

As it would seem you have "Bread" I suggest you read again page 146/147, the notes above the formula on page 153 and the appendix pages 351-357. 

You will develop a starter cycle which suits your circumstances.

Cheers, Robyn


LindyD's picture

Hamelman's book is primarily for baker's working at commercial scale, who bake daily.

All of Mr. Hamelman's formulas are geared to the home baker as well.  The weights are listed under the "home" column.

jkdufair's picture

Thank you all.  I have indeed read a bunch on this site and elsewhere on the net and have read Bread pretty much cover to cover.

What seems inexplicable to me is that if you only remove 2T from 10 oz. starter and replenish it with 2T of "fresh" starter, it seems that the fresh starter won't have much new food to eat.  The build and discard method makes more sense because you're feeding it new food regularly.

What am I missing with Hamelman's approach (yes, I'm using the "home" column)?

RobynNZ's picture

Hi again

While the appendix in Bread is titled Developing and Perpetuating a Sourdough, the information on perpetuation is scattered, and not clearly in one section. When I first started working with sourdoughs, finding concise information on starter maintenance was difficult for me, regardless of where I looked. Now I have come to realise that the amount of starter I keep and how I maintain it really depends on my circumstances.

I don't think you'll find anywhere that Mr Hamelman tells you to use the 2Tbsp of fresh starter to replenish the 10oz minus 2Tbsp starter which had been built up during the development phase. As he says on page 351 there are two distinct phases involved in sourdough. First developing the culture over 6 to 10 days, then perpetuating the culture so that it can be used for years. The starter you have developed is now ready to move on to the perpetuation phase.

You'll see on page 357 Mr Hamelman points out that at each feeding a portion of the prior feed is thrown away, otherwise he says a concrete mixer would soon be required.  I know he says this in reference to the starter development phase, but it applies whenever the starter is fed. On the same page he encourages during the starter development phase that a large amount of starter be kept, for the culture to get a vigorous start. He does not state anywhere how much to keep once regular baking is under way. For me it is the small amount I keep once the build is ripe which I then feed immediately. You will no longer be keeping 10oz that has done its job of development, you'll be keeping a smaller amount suited to the volume of your baking and perpetuating it - that is feeding a small portion and discarding the rest at each feed.

On page 355 he says that ideally sourdoughs should be refreshed (i.e. fed) daily and used to make bread daily. (That is fed twice a day) At the end of the paragraph he says the principle at the heart of sourdough production is : Once the culture has been built and is at the point of maturity, a small portion must be removed and saved for future use. He doesn't state how to do that. In my case because I don't bake daily, I refresh twice daily maintaining the hydration level I have chosen for my starter. On the day before baking one of those refreshments will be as part of the levain build.

As I said in my previous response, the book is primarily for commercial bakers baking daily, and while the formula have been scaled for the home baker, there is a certain assumption of knowledge, which some people new to bread baking may not have. However once the homebaker is familiar with  the basic principles and techniques of breadmaking this book is a marvellous resource, the formula make wonderful bread in a home situation. That said, for me Hamelman's method & explanation of shaping a boule was the one that clicked the best for me and all my boule bread went up a level once I adopted his shaping method.

I find myself re-reading sections of the book and picking up new points each time I do so, as my understanding develops. His turn of phrase and passion for bread make him good company I find.

Have fun experimenting and working out a starter maintenance routine that suits you.




jkdufair's picture

Thank you so much Robyn!  This is really informative.  So far it's been fun to play with sourdough and I'm making good bread!