The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter has taken off, do I keep seed starter or just mother sponge?

Hank Gurdjieff's picture
Hank Gurdjieff

Starter has taken off, do I keep seed starter or just mother sponge?

I just got my first wild yeast starter going, using the pineapple approach found here and outlined in Reinhart's Artisian Breads Every Day. It had me make a mother sponge with a portion of the seed starter, which it says remains viable for some 5 days in the fridge before needing to refresh it. I just pulled my first loaves made with it from the oven. They puffed up wonderfully.

I'm confused, though: do I keep the seed culture going, only to spawn off mother sponges as needed, and then take a portion of the mother sponge to make dough with each time? Or do I just toss the seed culture and keep feeding the mother sponge every few days to a week to keep it going?

In either case, won't it take a long time to reach the better flavors if it is kept in the refrigerator? It is only about 6 days old. Should I keep the seed culture at room temperature,  feeding it as it doubles, until a few weeks have passed and flavor develops?


cranbo's picture

Yes, keep the seed culture at room temp for 2-3 weeks until it's finally very strong and flavors are fully developed. 

I don't recall Reinhart's approach (seed culture vs mother sponge) so can't comment; however, as long as neither mother sponge or seed starter have any commercial yeast in them, you're probably fine with feeding and refreshing either as your primary culture. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

you can spawn off the mother just as easily as the seed culture.   They are the same only the one that is kept refreshed is the one to use.  

In the fridge or out of the fridge, do what you think is best.  If you bake a lot, keeping it out makes for a healthy hungry starter.  You will have to feed it regularly.  Depending on your temperature, about twice a day.  

If you find yourself drowning in starter, reduce the amount that you keep and maintain and/or store in the refrigerator.  Up to you.  Do what fits your life and baking style.  I also suggest that you dry some of the starter.  Spread out thin on a sheet of parchment and let it get crispy.  Break up and jar.  or...

Take a few tablespoons of mature seed or mother starter, add equal amount of water and enough flour to make slightly moist crumbs or a very thick thick dough.  Roll or press into a ball, roll generously into some flour and bag it.  Label well and place into long term storage in the refrigerator.  Try not to crush ev. placing into a small glass jar with lid.  This will keep easily for months should you ever need a back up starter.  When needed, trim off the outside layer and use the inside center.  Drop in water to rehydrate and add a few spoons of flour.  It is a good idea to make "back ups"  every 6 months using a healthy starter.  

Hank Gurdjieff's picture
Hank Gurdjieff

Thanks for the helpful responses. I'll keep it out for now and keep feeding it since I can. After reading your responses I looked around and found posts about frugal starter management. That makes a lot more sense, especially if I've stored away some backup. I'll try both dry and refrigerated backups since I can. The first loaves already had a surprisingly good sourdough taste, though the crust was a little more like a softer submarine sandwich roll than a good crackly loaf. So... we big sandwiches with it, of course. Already tastes much better than the Goldrush brand ever did in my previous sourdough attempt a few years ago.