The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie: First Levain bake this weekend? Fridge stored starter

cheekygeek's picture

Newbie: First Levain bake this weekend? Fridge stored starter

Hello everyone. This forum is great with people who are willing to share knowledge (and probably answer the same questions over and over). I wish I had seen the thread on wasteful flour amounts in starter EARLIER, because I went through Forkish's 5 day starter and went through a LOT of home milled wheat berries. At the end of Day 5 I put my levain bucket in the fridge.

This morning I took it out, hoping to use it this weekend. (Probably should have taken it out a day earlier? Still learning the schedule...). Weighed the bucket and subtracted the empty bucket weight and I've got 295 grams of starter (prior to any feedings).

TFL handbook now says:

Maintaining Sourdough Starter in the Refrigerator

If you only bake once every week or two, you’ll be happier storing your starter in the fridge in a covered container. 

Once a week, take it out, and feed it.

For a wet starter, retain only 1/4 cup of starter and then feed it 1/2 cup flour and 4 Tbs water.

For a stiff starter, retain a marble-sized piece and add 15 grams (1 Tbs) of water. Mush it up until it's soft and the water has turned somewhat milky in color. Then add 25 grams (2 heaping Tbs or 1 Tbs + 1 tsp) of flour.

Keep it out for an hour or four, and then pop it back into the fridge.

If you’re going to bake with it, make sure to take it out a day before and feed it twice, with at least 8 hours in between each feeding.

My question: This last sentence could be expanded upon a bit for a newbie like me. Specifically, I'd like to know how much of the "out of the fridge" starter to take out and feed and how much to discard so I'm not wasting a bunch of flour going forward.

I suppose it depends upon the recipe I'm going to try. It looks like all of Forkish's hybrid leavening dough recipes (Chapter 9) call for:
100 gr. of Mature, active levain (is that my refrigerated levain AFTER THE 2 FEEDINGS recommended in the handbook? ) I guess what confuses me is that Forkish's Levain recipes sound like a feeding. So would his recipe...

Mature, active levain...100gr
White flour...................400gr
Whole wheat flour.......100gr
Water..........................400gr (85-90gr)

...actually be the 2nd of the two feedings needed before baking with the refrigerated starter?

Thanks in advance for clearing that up for me!

KathyF's picture

In my opinion, I would say that Forkish's levain build would be your second feeding. If your starter seems sluggish, then I might make it the third feeding, though I have never had to do that myself.

Also, I believe that if you follow his recipe that you will end up with a lot of extra levain. I would calculate back your build to come up with the amount you actually need.

For instance, to come up with 360g of levain at 80% hydration, I would start with:

starter: 36 grams
Flour: 47 grams
Water 37 grams
Total: 120 grams

Then for the final build:

levain: 120 grams 
Flour: 133 grams
Water: 106 grams
Total: 360 grams

drogon's picture

Personally for a single loaf I would (and did) use the starter directly from the fridge. You have 300g of starter - my typical large loaf will use 150g starter and 500g flour + 300g water & 8g salt, so if I were making it, I'd take 150g starter from the fridge, use that in the dough mix, top-up the starter and put it back in the fridge ready for next week. I waste nothing.

Your recipe is calling for 100g starter - just use it from the fridge and top-up the stuff in the fridge with 50g flour and 50g water.

However there's more than one way to do it.


Arjon's picture

is basically what drogon said. I seldom bake more than one loaf at a time, so I keep enough starter in the fridge for that one loaf plus somewhat more to feed in order to replenish the starter after taking out the amount used in the dough. 

So, if you normally use 100 gm of starter, have a little more; 125 to 150 gm is plenty. When you take out the 100 gm of starter and feed the remainder with 50 gm water and 50 gm flour (btw, a bit more or less than 50 is fine as long as the weight of each is the same), you can return the just-fed starter to the fridge any time before it peaks; i.e. don't worry about having to do so after a specific time. I usually leave mine on the counter for anywhere from 2-4 hours, but that's just my particular routine / habit. 

If you want to bake two or more loaves, it just means an additional step to build enough levain, All you have to do is take out the usual 100 gms and feed it enough flour and water to have the total amount of levain you'll need. In this case, you'll probably want to leave it out rather than refrigerating it. Or, if you know in advance that you'll need, for example, 200 gm of starter, you can simply feed your remnant 100 gm each of water and flour instead of 50 gm each. 

Hope this helps but as noted, there are many viable ways. Don't be afraid to experiment a bit. It won't be long before you find a "system" that works for you. 

cheekygeek's picture

Thanks to all for the replies. I'm doing my "final build" using the method KathyF recommended, in about a half-hour. But I want to try the alternative (straight from the fridge method) as well - probably next weekend. The recipe I'm trying makes two 1-1/2 lb loaves and I have two dutch ovens (a Lodge 5 qt and a Chantal enamelled) so that is what I will be baking them in early tomorrow afternoon (after an overnight & morning fridge proof).

I'll report on the results!

KathyF's picture

I want to hear how it turned out. Pictures too!