The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

So my starter is looking nice.... now what?

malder's picture

So my starter is looking nice.... now what?

I followed the directions in the handbook and my starter is looking/smelling very good. I have been feeding it once a day for almost 2 weeks now. I'm a bit confused on what to do next. Here is the confusion:

Once your wild yeast is growing, the character and flavor will improve if you continue to give it daily feedings and keep it at room temperature for a couple of weeks longer.

After that time, it should be kept in the refrigerator between uses/feedings. Every week or so, take it out of the fridge, feed it by retaining only ¼ cup of starter and then feed it ¼ cup flour and 2 Tbs water.


This will mean that at any one time the most starter I will have is about a half cup. If a recipe calls for more than a half cup... it seems like I am missing something. Shouldn't I be just feeding the starter and retaining or using it?

Please help! I am chomping at the bit to make some sourdough!

breadforfun's picture

No real rules

breadforfun's picture

There is really no set way to do this - in other words, just about anything works.  When you are ready to bake with your starter, use it to "build" whatever amount you need for your recipe.  Make a bit extra, and that extra becomes your new starter.  As long as you feed it occasionally, it should last for a very long time.  I have been working with my starter for about 18 months, and have been experimenting with the frequency and the ratios for refreshing it (e.g., 1:1:1 or 2:1:1 starter:flour:water for a 100% starter).  I've also experimented with different flours to use, and there truly is a difference in consistency and strength of the starter depending on the flour.  Basically, find whatever works for you and take occasional tangent to try something new.  And keep good notes so that you can repeat something that you like.

Good luck and have some fun with your starter.


clazar123's picture

Baking flavorful bread (sourdough or straightthru using commercial yeast) can take a little planning ahead. If your sourdough recipe calls for a certain amount of starter, you may need to "build" that amount the week and days before the bake. However, using a pre-ferment can give your loaf great flavor and use less starter.

Here is my recipe using volume measurements: SImple White Bread

Pre-ferment (make this the evening before the bake)

1 c flour

1 c water

2 tbsp active starter  (starter that you have been feeding for 1-2 days and actively rises in its jar after a feeding)

Mix and let sit on counter overnight( as long as temp is 65-75F). Cover it as the fruit flies love this stuff!

Next morning it should look somewhat bubbly and smell like beer or yeast


Add all the preferment

2 c bread flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp instant yeast (optional-I like a fa

2 tbsp oil

2 tbsp water (optional to adjust dough consistency.ster rise due to time constraints.)

Mix well, knead (or stretch and fold)  and rise to double. I use a clear plastic container and mark the starting level  so I can tell when it has doubled.

Shape,proof and bake.

Keep notes on each bake. It really helps speed the learning process. Keep posting here with questions,observations and pics, if able.

Have delicious fun!


RobynNZ's picture

 Susan at WildYeast adapted Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough so that she could use her 100% hydration starter, and calls it Norwich Sourdough. She provides a good explanation of how to make the bread, with links to descriptions of various techniques. Her formula is for 2kg, but you may prefer to half everything and start off at 1kg. Many contributors to TFL have made this bread, if you do a search using the search box top left you will learn how others got on. 

Susan doesn't explain how to prepare the "360g of ripe 100% hydration sourdough starter" called for in her formula. 

To make a 1kg dough you'll need half the quantity of starter, ie 180 grams.  Following the method in the book  ('Bread' by Jeffrey Hamelman) from which Susan has adapted her formula and using a 100% starter, 12-16 hours before you plan to mix the dough, you need to take 18 grams (about 1 tablespoon) of your 100% starter, which has reached 'peak' and mix it with 90g of flour and 90g of water, and leave it covered at 21°C. The first time you make the levain it is a bit hard to decide when it is ready to use (i.e. 'ripe' in Susan's words), keep an eye out for the first signs of the tide going out, you'll also notice a kind of folding, in the centre. Next time you'll have a better idea. Use 180 grams of this mix, called levain, to make the bread dough. (Hamelman instructs to feed the rest as starter, but I find that I prefer to feed my storage starter at the same time as I make the levain and keep the storage starter on its own schedule, independent of the levain, and with no chance of accidently using it all in breadmaking.) 

You will note that a much bigger quantity of food (flour + water)  is given to a small amount of starter in this method of preparing the Levain, than is given to the starter when feeding it daily.

Other formulae do simply use the  starter fed as usual, when ripe . You might like to take a look at Flo Makanai's 123 formula (don't forget to add salt).

Another which has been popular on TFL is Susan from San Diego's Simple Small Sourdough, you'll find the formula in Susan's comment of 1 Oct 2009 in this thread which was set up as a challenge, so there is a lot to be learned from everyone's comments.

Your starter is very new and will take time to develop its full potential but having had the patience to wait for 14+ days  before using it, you should be set to do well with it. Patience itself is an important ingredient in sourdough baking! Don't hesitate to ask further questions, if you can't find answers in the archives (use the search box top left) or get puzzled by information overload.

Cheers, Robyn


Davidkatz's picture

This is what I needed also....

I am on the thread "looking for a great novice recipe"


I'm working towards the norwitch..


Last night I removed 1/2 of the starter and added a 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of rye.

This morning it was super liquidy and bubbly. The top even popped off (tuperware).

According to your 18g to 90g+90g I guess I got the ratios wrong. 

Ok - So today I will get the starter going as you reccomend and try to bake tomorrow morning.




malder's picture

Thanks everyone for all the input. I decided to 'build' some more starter and just go for it with the handbook recipe. I didn't have the full 1.25 cups of starter, so I just used what I had and we'll see what happens. I finished the dough and left it to rise at ~730AM. Hopefully it is warm enough that by the time I have to go to work it will have risen. Then I can shape and let it rise again to bake tonight. I'll post some photos of how it comes out. 

malder's picture

I've been too busy at work to even spare a thought for bread. much less a forum. Work has finally been slowing a tad, so here I am. The bread I tried to make in the previous post didn't come out. Mostly due to the fact that I fell asleep on the couch and my timer did not rouse me. Turns out that when bread is baked for an hour longer than intended it very much resembles concrete.

Moving on - I've comitted to bringing rolls to Christmas dinner, so I am going to give this ( recipe a try.

I got myself a digital scale, so I am going to build the requisite amount of starter tonight and make a test batch tomorrow if all goes well.