The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter maintenance and volume

Juergen's picture

Starter maintenance and volume

I've been searching the forums but I'm still confused about what amount of starter to keep in the fridge in between baking.

Let's just say I keep 100 grams of starter in my fridge (which I call my 'mother starter'). A few days before I want to bake, I pour off 50 grams in another container (which by doing so, becomes my 'working starter'). I then refresh the 50 grams of 'mother starter' which is left at a 1:1 ratio, and put the latter back in the fridge.

The 50 grams of 'working starter' is then build up over the course of several days at room temperature by refreshing it every 12 hours until on baking day, I have the exact amount of starter the recipe calls for. 

Would this be a valid method? The problem is that I don't have a lot of space in my fridge so I can't keep hundreds of grams of starter in a large container in my fridge.

heidiwilliams's picture

I only keep about 50 grams in the refrigerator.  I also don't like the idea of keeping old starter in the fridge. After you pour off your portion that you want to build for your recipe, do keep the additional 50 grams in the fridge and then build your starter to a little over what you need for the recipe.  Then when you measure out your starter for the recipe, the excess starter from the recipe you then feed at 1:1:1 and let set out for a couple of hours to give it a head start, then put that in the fridge and only then discard the old starter (the 50g in your fridge).  If you do forget and throw out the excess from the recipe, then take the 50g from the fridge and feed it 1:1:1.  Make sense? I just finished writing a 15-page paper for my class, so I am a bit brain fried at the moment.   

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Some believe that the low temperatures of a home refrigerator can destroy the yeasts and bacteria of a sourdough culture.

According to Professor Raymond Calvel, "To maintain the viability of the culture, it is necessary to ensure that the temperature of the refrigeration chamber says between 8 and 10 degrees C (46.4 and 50 degrees) whenever the chef is retarded for periods of 48 hours or more.  At lower temperatures, part of the flora of the culture may be destroyed....Master Montreal baker James MacGuire adds, "Below 8 degrees C, it is usual for wild yeasts in the culture to be destoryed, while the acetic acid bacteria will continue to thrive. -Hamelman p. 355

I'm not sure so sure I'm convinced.

I keep my refrigerator at 39 F and can't say I've ever noticed a problem. (Or maybe I'm just so used to the flavour and quality of sourdough breads created from a 'lopsided' culture that I don't think anything's wrong.)

To balance this maybe/maybe not issue of potential flora destruction at temps below 8 C / 46.4 F, I keep a lot of starter, easily 500 g and sometimes more.

But for all I know, that might be no better than keeping 1/10 that amount.

(I'd like to keep my refrigerator at 50 F, but what am I to do with the other stuff in the refrigerator?)