The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A sometimes lurker needs advice please want to do Sour dough but not home to feed it.

rockboy2001's picture

A sometimes lurker needs advice please want to do Sour dough but not home to feed it.

Hi all,

OK, I admit I am a lurker and don't often get the chance to read, much less bake.    :(  Bummer for me!  (Thank you all for the great info and reading material)

I travel a LOT for work and think a lucky weekend is if I get to bake a couple of loaves of basic bread.

I am wondering if there is any chance of me doing a sour dough starter if I can only deal with it on the weekend? 

No, I mean I am gone all week, home Saturday and Sunday.  I know the few loaves I make would be much better if I could have a starter but I am happy if I get to do a 12 Hour bigga or whatever you want to call it.

Thanks in advance for any advice even if it is FORGET IT, Rockboy

BobS's picture

I did that for a while. Helps if you are home late Friday night though. See

dabrownman's picture

I rarely refresh my starter in less than two weeks but it will last 3 weeks or longer :-)

Take some of your existing starter and get it to 66% hydration by weight and full strength by taking some of it and feeding it flour to get it to 66% - it doesn't have to be perfect.  I don't know what your current starter hydration  is so I can't help you do that.

Once it is at full strength,  take 10 g of it (there are 6 g of flour and 4 g of water in the total 10 g) and feed it 10 g of flour and 8 g of water and let it double -  6 hours or less if your starter was at full strength.  This will make the starter 75% hydration with 16 g of flour and 12 g of water for a total of 28 g.   Then feed it 20 g each of flour and water and let it double again.  This will give you an 88 % hydration starter that has 36 g of flour and 32 g of water for a total of  68 g.   Once doubled then feed it 12 g of flour only and let it sit on the counter for 1 hour before refrigerating it.  You now have a 66% hydration starter with 48 g of flour and 32 g of water.

This will last 2 weeks, no problems, if you are baking a loaf of bread a week using 20 g of starter for each bake.  After 2 weeks you will have 40 g to bake another bread on week 3 and leave 20 g to build the new starter back to 80 g by using half or using the whole 20 g and making 90 g ofr the fridge instead if 80g.

When you want to make a bread that requires 240 g of full strength starter at 100 hydration as example, just build it like you do your starter. Do (3) 4 hour builds or (2) 6 hour ones or (1) 12 of hours ,  You want to sure to increase the flour and water for each build. if doing more than one build.

Using 20 g of starter for the levain seed it would have be 12 g of flour and 8 g of water.    For a (3) stage build  the first build would be say 25 g of flour and 20 g of water giving you 70 g total at 75.7% hydration.  4 hours later feed it 35 g of flour and 35 g  of water giving you 135 g total at 87.5 % hydration.  The 3rd feeding 4 hours later would be 48 g of flour and 57 g of water for 240 g total of 100% hydration levain - half each of flour and water at 120 g each.   After 4 hours, or no more than 6 hours, the levain should have doubled and be ready to use at the proper hydration and amount for the recipe - no waste.

You can do (2) 6 hour builds by taking the 3rd build amounts above and adding half of it to builds 1 and 2.  You cn also do one 12 hour build too.  I have done all of them and they all work fine.

Hope this helps and happy baking.


Dragonbones's picture

Yeah, it's doable. Briefly: Pull it out of the fridge the moment you get home, and feed it, then feed it again every time it peaks, all bubbly (perhaps 6 hours -- depends on how vigorous it is, and the ambient temperature). If you can do that, say, thrice on Saturday and again on getting up Sunday morning but building the volume up the last two times, then by noon or 1 pm Sunday you should have an adequately active and large starter ready for use.  That's roughly what I do every week and it works well. I don't measure anything, btw -- I just feed it water then flour, roughly equal amounts to get a certain feel, then put the lid on. Of course, until you have enough experience to bake by feel, or if you want to guarantee consistency from batch to batch, it's better to follow more precise instructions from others.

Sadassa_Ulna's picture

I too am a lurker. I have been making sourdough baguettes every 3-8 days for the past six months or so (and really no other bread types). I keep a stiff levain type starter (I started with 70% hydration and now I keep 80%). I have been experimenting with streamlining the process mostly because I don't like the clean-up involved. I keep my starter in the fridge except when I want it to grow.

I can pull out my starter from the fridge on Saturday and feed it once, let it ripen that day, and bake bread on Sunday. I believe a stiff starter could be adjusted (by adding additional water when feeding) to get to the hydration needed for various recipes. I have read that stiff levains do not get sour as quickly; not sure if there is any science behind that but my sourdough baguettes are not at all sour. If you could feed your starter Friday night then I bet you could have bread for Saturday dinner.

If interested this is my method for baguettes but the general idea could probably apply to other sourdough based recipes:

Good luck Rockboy! -Sadassa



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Try this wagon train style...  Make a medium stiff dough ball (lets go for golf ball size) using unsweetened pineapple or orange juice and unbleached flour (ok, not exactly a wagon train.)  Roll it in flour...  then put it in a paper bag with half a cup flour under it and half a cup flour over it.  Then crimp the top of the bag, set it on a plate in a sheltered spot and come back in a week.  

The following weekend  remove the starter carefully from the bag and see what you got.  Cut it open and take the goey inside to a jar or dish and feed it equal amounts of water.  Stir well and add enough flour to make a soft dough.  Now watch it the rest of Saturday and see what it does.  Don't forget to mark the jar to see how much it rises.  :)

dabrownman's picture

I'm going to do this just to see  what happens - what a hoot!  Amazing what retirement allows one to do in their spare time  :-)

50 g of unbleached white flour and 31 g of orange juice just picked from the back yard - 62% hydration.  Wednesday 8 PM

pmccool's picture

From a long ago post about Tom Jaine's method for launching a starter.


dabrownman's picture

the whole experiment Paul.  Thankfully, I used unbleached white flour and not whole wheat so the verdict is still inconclusive.   This dough ball might still end up to be the cure for retirement boredom after all and, if it turns out not to be, I will have always thought could have been.......Alas, there is still hope....or maybe not :-) 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

 :)     Thanks Paul!   I got my head in ancient American history.  Fascinating!  So much to learn about!