The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


SallyBR's picture


Next month I'll celebrate the third anniversary of my first starter, Dan  (in honor of Dan Lepard).  For two years I've carefully measured the flour and the water at each feeding, carefully adjusted the hydration level called for in each bread recipe.

But, confession is good for the soul....  I must say that I don't weigh or measure the amounts of flour and water to refresh it anymore.  Even when I need a "firm starter" versus a "liquid starter",  I now do it by the way it looks and "feels" once I mix the flour and the water.   Haven't had a problem with any recipe since I started doing this over a year ago...


am I going to burn in Baker's Hell for eternity?  Or do I have partners in crime here?    ;-)

dmsnyder's picture

How's your bread, Sally?

That's what matters.


Kitchen Barbarian's picture
Kitchen Barbarian

I could never do it . . .

That doesn't mean I don't wish I COULD!  LOL!

flournwater's picture

Congratulations, Sally.  I suspect that the ratio you use is intuitively the same, or nearly the same, each time.  When you've done something repeatedly for a long time that tends to be a skill that develops without your being concious of it.  But to know that you have developed the skill, whether intuitively or by deliberate practice, is something to be proud of.  It's how many "old timers" did it in the back woods  ... eons ago.

Mebake's picture

No worries, Sally! You should see me eyeballing everyting! Not Starter only.. In desperate times, I have been eyeballing the whole baking ingredients, and what do you Know? It was the best dough and bread i have made, no recipe!

cranbo's picture

When you can eyeball things that way and have them be successful, it means you have acquired a skill and you have expertise. 

Congratulations! May your sourdough live a long long time! 

possum-liz's picture

Most of my bread baking used to be dump in the flour, dump in the water! I started baking for a farmer's market and needed to be a bit more organized and have become quite scale dependent. Then I went to visit my mum in Missouri--no scales, different flour, different oven ( she was paranoid about the idea of steam in an electric oven)--somehow I managed to bake bread that they're still talking about! Once you've got the feel, you can wing it.

wally's picture

Hand raised, Sally! (I suspect your 'feel' for the proper hydration is nearly spot on).


odinraider's picture

I do not ever measure for my starter anymore. I manipulate it to serve my needs, not the other way around. I think measuring ingredients or not is one way to distinguish a baker's attitude toward bread.


kygin's picture

This thread takes me back mumbly-mumble years to the time I asked my mother-in-law how she made such mouth watering, tender biscuits.  "Well, you take some flour."  "How much?"  "As much as you need, then you add some lard"  "How much?"  "As much as you need for the flour, and then you add some buttermilk."  "How much?"  "Well, 'til it feels right."  I finally figured it out after many, many failures.  Now when someone asks me how I make my biscuits, I say "Well, you take some flour..."  I'm thankful for those here who share exact measurements for breads because it allows me to get the feel for the bread without undue fumbling, but like those above who have confessed, once I have that feel....  Experience is the best teacher, but it sure makes it hard to share recipes.

MadAboutB8's picture

First of all, happy anniversary, Sally.

I think cooking/baking is about intuition and you've proved that.

As an Asian, we don't measure things when we cooked, especially when doing stir-fry and all. We just add a little bit of oyster sauce, bit more of soy sauce, some sugar, some pepper, bit of sesame oil, ....and it always works out well.

But I'm very pedantic when it comes to feeding starter and baking. But hey, I'm only a newbie. My Asian cooking DNA might kick in when I got into year 2 as well:)


varda's picture

is communicating with other people.    My sister wanted to know how to make the Tzitzel bread that I have been making.    I hadn't written down the measurements for creating the rye sour, so I had to say things like make it into a pastelike consistency that is wet enough that if you stepped on it, you would slip.   It would have been a bit easier and more reliable to just tell her how many grams to add when.   Also, I have a tendency to change what I do over time which is fine.   But then I forget what I did earlier that might have worked great and that I might want to do again some time in the future.   So for me and my sieve-like memory, measuring and writing down is the best defense against oblivion.   Other than that?   It's just for eating, and whatever works. -Varda

proth5's picture

that people name their starters.  The cat came with a name and my precious koi are called "This fish" or "That fish over there..." - must be something I lack.

After ten plus years of maintaining my starter, I could probably eyeball it pretty well - but I won't.  It isn't who I am.

But starter maintenance (and breadmaking) went on for centuries without standard measures or digital scales.  You carry on a fine tradition.

SallyBR's picture

Good to know I am not alone....   :-)


it is true, if the bread tastes good, the crumb is the way I expect it to be, I guess Dan must be doing well...


I don't measure much in "regular" cooking  -  anything that calls for teaspoons or tablespoons goes into my eyeballing method, right in the palm of my hand...   but, the rare occasions in which I bake a cake i turn into a maniac.  Ironically, my cakes are never that good.  One wonders... ;-)

dmsnyder's picture

"I don't want to go to heaven. None of my friends are there." 
— Oscar Wilde


SallyBR's picture

So true...      ;-)